How Much Money Do UFC Fighters Really Make? The Sad Reality Behind the Scenes

Ever wondered what is the reality behind the exciting and fierce fights we see? One may think that UFC fighters are taking risks and putting themselves out there for decent paychecks, but the truth is a bit different. We’ve decided to dive deeper into the system and reveal the bitter reality behind the cage.

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The profit of UFC stars such as Conor McGregor might be misleading. The Notorious was featured in the Forbes list and was named the 16th richest athlete in the world. Among the MMA fighters, he is the first with over $120 million net worth. No wonder the fighter has also been into a couple of lucrative sponsorships, such as Reebok, Burger King, and others. But is this the case with other fighters? Let’s find out how much money other UFC fighters make.

 Do UFC Fighters Make a lot of Money?

Unfortunately, most UFC fighters’ earnings can barely even get close to the industry’s elite’s million dollars. One of the stats on UFC fighters that still seems shocking went viral back in 2018. It was then that 37% of the fighters made less than the U.S. median household income (that was $45,000). This shows that the UFC fighters are seriously underpaid.

The main reason is that the system, unlike other sports such as boxing, is governed by individual bodies without any special federal law protecting the fighters’ welfare and rights.

Given that even the fans of MMA fights can win big by just placing bets via betting platforms, it’s undoubtedly not fair for the UFC fighters to be paid less for taking all the risks.

Although the whole image is not so satisfying after watching what the fighters are going through, the income is still different depending on the number of factors. These may include the number and frequency of their fights, how popular they are, ratings, etc. But what they have in common is the process of getting paid.

Do UFC fighters get a salary?

Let’s break down the process and see how the UFC fighters are getting paid. The fighters do not get monthly salaries, and the payment details depend on the contract. However, they are mainly getting their monetary rewards after each fight.

The UFC fighters who are just getting started will most probably get $10,000 to fight and another $10,000 if they win. Given that it’s only for one fight, it may seem more than enough for spectators like us. However, the fighters do not take it all home. Most of the paycheck goes to the camp, managers, nutrition, and other costs that are not covered by the contract. Some might even need to pay the travel costs of one cornerman.

There were a few lucrative sponsorship deals that the fighters were striving to sign. They even used to make more money through the deals than from the fight itself. But this didn’t last long. Right after UFC signed an executive sponsorship contract with Reebok, fighters lost other sponsors and their extra source of money.

The payment fighters receive from Rebook’s deal is known as the fight night incentive pay, as this is the night to get more viewers and increase sponsorship fees.

The exclusive sponsorship, however, was a significant hit, and it even made some fighters switch to a rival promoter—the Bellator MMA.

To keep on fighting, some MMA fighters even had to find second jobs. This might be a bit unexpected, but among the fighters with a second job is Geoff Neal. One of the most promising MMA prospects regularly serves the tables working as a waiter in Dallas. He says he enjoys fame and recognition during his second job, though. Like Neal, Emily Whitmire combines her UFC career with working as a waitress in several restaurants and pubs. She earns more with this job than through fighting, and we can see why.

Fierce light heavyweight Paul Craig is a great teacher outside the cage. He used to be in the charity project “Skillforce”. Paul teaches vocational skills to teens, and the kids absolutely love him.

Once Al Iaquinta is done in the cage, he quickly transforms into a real estate agent to attend his second job. We can go on with the list as, like everyone else, UFC fighters pay the bills and need to have a backup plan.

Fighters are fighters both in sports and real life; no matter the cost, they still follow their passion and face challenges. Let’s hope that the industry will take better care of our favourite UFC fighters, and we can keep on encouraging them, taking risks, betting, and winning with them.


Interesting related article: “What is a Sponsor?