The Money Game: A Closer Look at the Wealthiest MMA Fighters

April 3, 2023
From: Spartacus
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In modern times, MMA began to gain popularity in the early 1990s with the introduction of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which was founded in 1993. The early UFC events were marketed as no-holds-barred fights, with few rules and no weight classes. The sport faced intense criticism from politicians and the media for its perceived brutality and lack of regulation.

In response to the backlash, the UFC and other MMA organisations began to adopt more rules and regulations, including weight classes, time limits, and mandatory protective gear. As the sport became more regulated, its popularity grew.

Today, MMA is a global phenomenon with millions of fans around the world. The UFC remains the largest and most well-known MMA organisation, but there are many others, such as Spartacus MMA, Bellator MMA and ONE Championship. MMA fighters are among the most skilled and well-rounded athletes in the world, and the sport continues to attract top talent from all over the globe.

High earning fighters play a crucial role in the growth and success of MMA as a sport. Here are some reasons why:

  • Attracting Top Talent: MMA is a highly competitive sport, and top fighters are always in demand. By offering high earnings to fighters, MMA promotions can attract the best athletes and build more exciting matchups. This, in turn, creates more interest and draws larger audiences to the sport.
  • Boosting Pay-Per-View Sales: Pay-per-view (PPV) is a significant revenue stream for MMA. When high earning fighters compete, they draw more attention to the event and increase the likelihood of fans purchasing the PPV. This leads to higher revenue for the association and a more significant share of the earnings for the fighters.
  • Sponsorship Opportunities: High earning fighters often attract lucrative sponsorship deals from major brands. These deals not only provide additional income for the fighters but also help to bring in more revenue for the MMA promotions. Sponsors are more likely to invest in the sport if they see that high profile athletes are endorsing it.
  • Improved Working Conditions: When fighters are well-compensated, they are more likely to stay with the same organisation and work under better conditions. This can lead to improved relationships between the fighters and the organisation, which benefits everyone involved.

The article seeks to offer you an engaging and informative read, while also highlighting the importance of high earning fighters to the growth and success of MMA as a sport. Ultimately, the article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the top earners in MMA and the role they play in shaping the sport’s future

Criteria for Ranking for Top MMA Earners

The criteria for ranking the top highest earning MMA fighters included the following factors:

  • Fighter Pay: The fighter’s total earnings from fights, including their base salary, win bonuses, and other performance-based incentives.
  • Endorsements: The value of the fighter’s endorsement deals, including sponsorships, merchandise sales, and other sources of income.
  • Pay-Per-View Revenue: The fighter’s ability to draw large audiences and generate significant pay-per-view revenue for the MMA organisation.
  • Consistency: The fighter’s consistency in achieving high earnings over the course of their career, rather than just a one-time spike in earnings.
  • Level of Competition: The level of competition the fighter faced during their career, including the quality of their opponents and the significance of the events they participated in.

It is important to note that while these factors were used to create the list, the rankings are not necessarily an indicator of a fighter’s skill or overall success in the sport.

Top 5 Highest Earning MMA Fighters

Here are the top 5 highest earning MMA fighters:

Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor is the highest earning MMA fighter of all time. McGregor is a former two-division UFC champion, having won titles in the featherweight and lightweight divisions. He is known for his striking ability, trash-talking, and charismatic personality. Some of his notable victories include wins over Jose Aldo, Eddie Alvarez, and Nate Diaz.

Conor McGregor have a net worth of over $210 Million (est). Here is a breakdown of his earnings:

  • Fight Pay: McGregor’s earnings from fights make up a significant portion of his overall net worth. For example, his fight against Floyd Mayweather with 4.3 million purchases, the fight was one of the most successful PPV events ever. Between guarantees, merchandise rights, concessions, and bonuses at that level, Conor made an estimated $100 million. After the Floyd fight, Conor had a net worth of $85 million if you assume he lost around 50% of his profits to taxes. His gross earnings were $100 million. Add to that the $50 million from his match against Khabib in October 2018.
  • Endorsements: McGregor’s earnings from endorsements and sponsorships have also contributed to his net worth. He has endorsement deals with companies such as Reebok, Beats by Dre, and Monster Energy. He also launched his own whiskey brand, Proper No. Twelve, which has been a major source of income for him.
  • Business Ventures: McGregor has also invested in several business ventures, including his own clothing line, August McGregor, and his fitness brand, McGregor FAST. He has also invested in various real estate projects and owns several properties and the anticipated $200 million pre-tax gain from the selling of his whiskey company Proper No. Twelve in April 2021

McGregor’s earnings from fights, endorsements, and business ventures have made him one of the highest earning athletes in the world. While his earnings from fights have been significant, it is his endorsement deals and business ventures that have contributed the most to his net worth. McGregor’s success both in and out of the octagon has made him a household name and a global icon in combat sports.

Georges St-Pierre

 

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Georges St-Pierre is one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, a former two-division UFC champion, having won titles in the welterweight and middleweight divisions. St-Pierre is known for his well-rounded skills, exceptional athleticism, and outstanding work ethic. Some of his notable victories include wins over Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, and Michael Bisping.

Georges St-Pierre have a net worth of over $30 million. Here is a breakdown of his earnings:

  • Fight Pay: He was known for being one of the highest paid fighters during his career, with reported paydays of $7 million for his fight against Michael Bisping in 2017 and $5 million for his fight against Nick Diaz in 2013. He also earned a reported $4.5 million for his fight against Johny Hendricks in 2013. When he was fighting in the UFC fighter, St-Pierre’s yearly earnings reached millions of dollars and he usually made six-figure sums per fight when all sources of income were considered. He was guaranteed to earn at least $200,000 for each fight, and if he won, he would receive an extra bonus payment of $200,000, which means his potential base pay per fight was $400,000.
  • Endorsements: St-Pierre has had several endorsement deals throughout his career, including a long-term deal with Under Armour. He has also endorsed other brands such as Hayabusa, Electronic Arts, and Gatorade. His deal with Under Armour was reportedly worth over $1 million per year.
  • Acting and Business Ventures: St-Pierre has also pursued acting and other business ventures outside of MMA. He has appeared in several films and television shows, including “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Kingdom”. He has also invested in several businesses, including a gym franchise called “FSP Gym”.

St-Pierre’s success both in and out of the octagon has made him a beloved figure in the world of combat sports, and his contributions to the sport will be remembered for years to come.

Brock Lesnar

 

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Brock Lesnar is one of the most successful crossover athletes in combat sports history. He is a former UFC heavyweight champion and WWE superstar. Lesnar is known for his freakish size, strength, and wrestling ability. Some of his notable victories include wins over Randy Couture, Shane Carwin, and Frank Mir.

With a net worth of over $25 million. Here is a breakdown of his earnings:

  • Fight Pay: Lesnar’s earnings from his UFC fights make up a significant portion of his overall net worth. For his fight against Mark Hunt at UFC 200 in 2016, Lesnar was paid a disclosed purse of $2.5 million. However, he was fined $250,000 for testing positive for a banned substance, which reduced his earnings from the fight. In total, Lesnar earned an estimated $5.2 million from his four UFC fights.
  • WWE: Lesnar is best known for his career in the WWE, where he has been one of the highest paid wrestlers in history. His exact earnings from the WWE are not publicly disclosed, but it has been reported that he earned $12 million in 2019 alone. He has headlined several WrestleMania events and has been a main event player in the WWE for over a decade.
  • Endorsements: Lesnar has had several endorsement deals throughout his career, including a deal with Jimmy John’s. He has also endorsed other brands such as Gearhead Outfitters and Dymatize Nutrition.

Lesnar’s earnings from his UFC fights and WWE career have made him one of the highest earning combat sports athletes of all time. His success in both MMA and professional wrestling has made him a household name and a global superstar. Despite his controversial testing history in MMA, Lesnar’s impact on the sport and entertainment industry is undeniable.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov is considered one of the best fighters in the world, a former UFC lightweight champion, with an undefeated record of 29-0. Nurmagomedov is known for his dominant grappling skills, exceptional conditioning, and stoic personality. Some of his notable victories include wins over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Rafael dos Anjos.

Khabib Nurmagomedov; with a net worth of over $45 million, here is a breakdown of his earnings:

  • Fight Pay: Nurmagomedov earned significant sums of money from his fights in the UFC. For his fight against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 in 2018, Nurmagomedov earned a disclosed purse of $2 million. However, he was also awarded an undisclosed amount of money from the pay-per-view revenue for the event, which was estimated to be over $6 million. Nurmagomedov’s final UFC fight, against Justin Gaethje in 2020, earned him a disclosed purse of $6 million.
  • Endorsements: Nurmagomedov has several endorsement deals, including deals with Reebok, Gorilla Energy, Toyota, and others. He has also appeared in several advertisements for companies such as Toyota and Gorilla Energy, among others.
  • Business Ventures: Nurmagomedov is also a successful businessman. He owns a chain of gyms in Russia called “Eagles MMA”, and has several business ventures in the hospitality and real estate sectors. It has been reported that Nurmagomedov earns millions of dollars per year from his business ventures.

Nurmagomedov’s dominance in the octagon and his success outside of it have made him a cultural icon in Russia and beyond. Although he retired undefeated in 2020, his legacy in the sport will continue to be celebrated for years to come.

Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva is a former UFC middleweight champion, holding the record for the longest title reign in UFC history. Silva is known for his exceptional striking ability, fluid movement, and unorthodox style. Some of his notable victories include wins over Chael Sonnen, Rich Franklin, and Dan Henderson.

During his career, he earned significant amounts of money from various sources, including fighting purses, bonuses, endorsements, and other business ventures. Anderson Silva’s net worth is $8 million.

  • Fighting purses: According to reports, he made $6.5 million from his fight against Nick Diaz at UFC 183 in 2015, which was his highest single-fight payday. His other significant earnings from fighting purses include $600,000 for his rematch against Chael Sonnen at UFC 148 in 2012, $800,000 for his fight against Chris Weidman at UFC 168 in 2013, and $500,000 for his fight against Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 84 in 2016.
  • Bonuses: In addition to his fighting purses, Anderson Silva earned significant amounts of money from bonuses awarded by the UFC. He holds the record for the most “Fight of the Night” awards in UFC history, with eight. He also won four “Performance of the Night” awards and one “Knockout of the Night” award. Each of these bonuses is worth $50,000.
  • Endorsements: Anderson Silva has had numerous endorsement deals throughout his career, including partnerships with Nike, Burger King, and Brazilian energy drink company TNT. His endorsement deals have reportedly earned him millions of dollars. In addition to these deals, he has also appeared in commercials and advertisements for other companies, such as Budweiser and Axe Body Spray.
  • Other Business Ventures: One notable venture was the creation of his own MMA promotion, called “Spider Fight Night.” The promotion held its first event in 2015 and featured a mix of professional and amateur fights. While the promotion did not gain significant traction, it did showcase Silva’s interest in promoting and growing the sport of MMA. In addition, Silva has been involved in the entertainment industry, making appearances in movies and TV shows. He played a supporting role in the 2014 action movie “Tapped Out” and has made guest appearances on shows such as “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Silva has also launched his own line of clothing and merchandise, called “Spider Kick.” The line includes t-shirts, hats, and other apparel featuring Silva’s signature moves and catchphrases. Furthermore, Silva has published a book titled “The Spider’s Way: The Strength of Being Unbeatable,” in which he shares his insights on mindset, discipline, and determination. The book has been translated into multiple languages and has received positive reviews

These five fighters have all achieved remarkable success in MMA, both in and out of the octagon. Their exceptional skills, work ethic, and dedication to the sport have earned them a place among the highest earning athletes in combat sports history.

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