Mixed martial artists have a notoriously tough profession. They train hard, fight often, and get injured even more frequently. They also don’t make much money – unless you’re Conor McGregor.
Some fighters are able to live comfortably off their median base salary of $100k or so per year but most fighters barely scrape by on the meagre purses they earn for competing in these brutal contests.
In fact, many MMA fighters need part-time jobs to supplement their income while others rely on sponsorships from other companies just to stay in the game.
So how much do UFC fighters get paid?
On average, an experienced UFC fighter makes $84,044 per fight. The fights on the lowest grade of the fight card will usually earn a minimum of $10,000 just for appearance. Bigger names in the sport can earn upwards of $100,000 (main card fight) or $500,000 (title/headline fight) depending on their level.
In this article I’ll go into more detail by looking at the raw earnings data in the UFC to see how much fighters earn and how.
Earnings in the UFC
The UFC, the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion company, has generated approximately $1.5 billion dollars in revenue since its inception.
With a booming industry and the sport of MMA becoming ever more popular with fans all over the world, it is no wonder that fighters are making some serious dough.
I decided to compile some of the most recent publicly available data of UFC earnings to cover how much do MMA fighters make, put it together in a spreadsheet and see what interesting data there is:
To have been able to compile this research I need to give the guys over at MMASalaries.com all the credit for putting together earning reports for every fighter and event recently in the UFC.
I removed any of the cash value data that was zero so it didn’t mess with my formulas, but with some pretty basic formulas presents some interesting results on the average, median, minimum and maximum earnings data:
I’m going to break down this data and answer some of the common questions about earning potential in the UFC.
How much does a UFC fighter make per fight?
A fighter in the UFC makes on average base salary of $84,044 per fight. But if you remove some of the outliers at the bottom and top of earnings, the median base salary is $30,000 per fight. The minimum for competing in the UFC is $10,000 base salary per fight.
UFC fighters can earn more per fight based on other factors such as:
- Win bonuses
- Pay-Per-View payouts
- Performance bonuses
- Sponsorship earnings
Win bonuses usually average out at $51,950 additional for the fight. But the median is $24,000, which means that most fighters, when removing the outliers, who win in a UFC competitive fight will get $24K.
The win bonus is almost always double their base salary for attending the fight. There are some outliers, though.
The minimum win bonus is $10,000 in the UFC and the maximum from my research is $750,000. Any ideas who that was?
Answer: Jan Blachowicz was paid $750,000 for his appearance against Israel Adesanya at UFC 259, but also pocketed an additional $750,000 bonus for winning the fight!
That’s a huge win bonus. Some of the top degree fighters make most of their earnings for a fight just in the sponsorships and bonuses. By making an appearance and representing a brand, for example, means they can make a ton of money. But it all depends on having a brand (as a fighter) that’s worth paying for.
Do UFC fighters get paid if they lose?
UFC fighters get paid whether they win, lose or draw. If the competitor appears for the fight they will be paid a base rate salary. They have a potential for more earnings if they win the fight as well as other bonuses like “Performance of the Night” and fight-week incentives.
That’s why it’s important for a lot of fighters to appear in a fight. You’ll probably hear about fighters still attending a fight with injuries and sometimes even illnesses because if they don’t attend a fight then they could make no money.
Like with many fighters, making that pay cheque is really important, particular at the lower ends of the competition. Their ability to keep their career going, support their families and make some profit all depends on taking place in a fight and coming home with bank!
Who is the poorest UFC fighter?
UFC fighters earn a minimum of $10,000 for taking part in a fight, which isn’t very poor. But fighters earning that are the likes of Austin Lingo and Jacob Kilburn in 2021, as well as Antônio Arroyo and Carlton Minus in 2020.
In the Austin Lingo vs Jacob Kilburn fight at UFC Fight Island 7, Austin won the fight and secured himself an extra $10,000 as a Win Bonus:
Austin Lingo also earned $3,500 (like his opponent, Jacob Kilburn) for sponsorships totalling $23,500 earned. Whilst Jacob earned $13,500 for base salary and sponsorships combined.
In 2020, Antônio Arroyo fought Derron Winn and lost. His base salary for the fight was $10,000 which is the lowest I’ve found in my data.
He added on $3,500 earned in sponsorships to total $13,500 earned:
His opponent who won the fight, Deron Winn, on the other hand had a base salary of $16,000 plus $4,000 sponsorships ($20,000 just for fighting). As Deron won the fight he also doubled his base salary and took home a total of $36,000.
It would seem that Deron has a slightly more elevated popularity in MMA and the UFC, which means he can demand a bit more pay cheque. It probably also is affected by his rank.
Again in 2020, Cartlon Minus lost to Christos Giagos and earned just $13,500 with base salary and sponsorship.
Cartlon’s successor, Giagos, earned a very sweet $49,000 for participating and winning the fight. He grabbed $22,000 for participating, another $22K for winning and $5K in sponsorship money.
It shows that winning a fight makes a big difference to your earnings, often doubling what you take home. The incentive for winning a fight is not only glory and career progression, but a lot less money problems.
Who is the highest paid UFC fighter?
Conor McGregor is the highest paid UFC fighter of all time, including one of the highest paid sportsmen in history. In Conor’s UFC 257 fight against Dustin Poirier, he earned a total of $25,510,000 (25 million) mostly consisting of PPV payouts compared to Dustin’s $1,020,000 (1 million).
Even though Dustin won the fight, there was no win bonus. Neither fighter won any performance bonus, either.
Whenever there is a UFC event with Conor McGregor on the card, he has the popularity and authority to demand a huge share of pay-per-view revenue. For the UFC 257 fight against Dustin, Conor bagged a huge $20,500,000 (20 million) just on PPV tickets alone.
McGregor is currently enjoying his time as one of the highest paid athletes in any sport with an estimated net worth of over $120,000,000 (120 million).
Do UFC fighters get paid a salary?
UFC fighters don’t get paid a regular salary. They only earn their income by taking place in fight cards and appearing for a fight. Even if they lose, they still get paid a base rate salary for attendance. If they win, they can earn more. They can also earn more money by fight bonuses.
Earnings in Amateur and Pro Debut fights
Before any fighter makes the heights of the UFC which is considered the biggest tournament in the world for mixed martial arts, they need to start in amateur bouts.
In an amateur MMA fight, or even boxing, fighters’ often start with no income at all. They follow the sport through passion and participate in charity matches or “exhibition” style fights in order to start testing their skills and making a name for themselves.
It’s not until the fighter has proven themselves in some amateur fights that they’ll be considered for some local events.
But each fighter has to start somewhere. The earnings could take a while to come and likely rely heavily on event tickets and sponsorships.
In fact, a lot of amateur level fighters need sponsorships just to keep up their training to get to the events.
How much do amateur MMA fighters make?
An amateur MMA fighter will often fight for free just to get experience and test their skills or for a charitable cause. But low level amateur competitions fighters often just earn a participant payout between $100-300.
It’s not until they reach a professional promotion that they can earn more than this. The better fighter they become, the more opportunities will open up for them.
How much do starting pro MMA fighters make?
A fighter making their professional debut can make between $300-800 including base salary and win bonus. For their following few fights they can make an extra $100-200 per fight. After that, each fighter would expect to earn a percentage of ticket sales.
For fight events to take place there needs to be ticket sales to maximize the revenue for the venue, promotion and the fighters themselves.
Fighters could make usually around 20% of ticket sales they generate for the first $5000, 30% up to $10,000, 40% up to $15,000 and 50% over $15,000.
These fighters could be using different methods to generate sales. The more they bring in, the more everyone makes bank.
Becoming a pro MMA fighter is no easy road. If you were thinking about starting to fight and go pro, you should expect to be earning a very low amount per fight in the beginning. Like the ranges of just a few hundred dollars.
It’s also worth thinking strongly about your health, for which the costs could be far greater than the rewards that MMA fighting can give.
Even fighters at the top level can be plagued by injuries which destroy their earning potential. If they can’t fight, they can’t earn as much. Pro fighters have dealt with all kinds of crazy injuries like permanent eye, spine, neck, wrist/hands and other problems.