how much do ufc fighters get paid

How Much Do UFC Fighters Get Paid? (2020 Earnings Revealed!)

MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world today, and the popularity of the UFC and its fighters has skyrocketed over the years. So, there is a lot of question about how, and how much do UFC fighters get paid.

The average UFC fighter made $147,965 in 2020, up from average earnings of $146,673 in 2019. 219 fighters (38%) earned six-figures in 2020. The highest-paid UFC fighter was Khabib Nurmagomedov, with $6,090,000 (without PPV bonuses).

Let’s see how exactly are UFC fighters making money, how much they get paid, and how much are MMA fighters earning outside of the UFC.

UFC Salary Structure: How Are UFC Fighters Getting Paid?

The main source of income for UFC fighters in the past was salaries from the fighting. But, in recent years, there were some changes in sources of income for the fighters. With MMA being the fastest growing sport globally (you can check who earns more, UFC fighters or boxers), the global popularity of UFC Fighters has skyrocketed.

Today, the most popular UFC fighters have a huge amount of followers on social networks worldwide. That makes them a perfect target for sponsors and advertising products. As time goes by, more and more UFC fighters are making a lot of money from those sources of income as well as from regular paychecks.

Let’s see some of the ways an MMA fighter in the UFC can earn for a living:

How Much Do UFC Fighters Earn from the Actual Fights?

The primary way UFC fighters are making money is through the paychecks they get from UFC when they fight. Each fighter signs a contract for a certain amount of fights, and they are paid a fixed amount of money each time they step inside the Octagon.

Payouts from fighting range from a starting $10,000 to as much as $3,000,000. Generally, we can divide payouts for fighting into three categories based on the contract fighters got from the UFC. Worth noticing is that these tiers are rounded, and there are a ton of exceptions and payouts outside those ranges.

  • Lowest Tier: from $10,000 to $30,000 per fight. This is a type of contract that most new fighters get when they sign with the UFC.
  • Middle Tier: from $80,000 to $250,000 per fight. When new fighters get a few wins, establish themselves inside the Octagon, or are the pioneers of the game, they usually have a much better contract. Payouts are based on the fighter’s popularity and recent results. Based on that conditions the payouts for each fight ranges from somewhere north of tens of thousands of dollars, to a few hundred thousand dollars.
  • Highest Tier: from $500,000 to $3,000,000 per fight. UFC Champions and fighters with the biggest fan bases get the best type of contract. Based on their popularity among the fans and the viewer numbers they pull in for the UFC, they can earn as much as half a million dollars to three (or sometimes even more) million per fight.

How Much Are the UFC Bonuses?

Fight Win Bonus

On top of guaranteed payouts for fights, if a fighter wins a fight, they will receive a win bonus that equals the guaranteed amount they got (doubling the amount of money they get).

To explain a little bit more, if a fighter has a $90,000 payout for a fight; if they win, they will receive $90,000 more (for a total payout of $180,000). Worth noticing is that the win bonus applies only to contracts in the lowest and middle-tier, meaning that UFC Champions usually don’t get a double amount of money if they win.

Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night

UFC also ensures that two fighters that participate in the best and most interesting fight of the night receive a $50,000 bonus. Two fighters who put the best performance on the event also receive a $50,000 bonus.

Let’s take a look at an example of how UFC fighters get paid for fighting on the event. I will take UFC 229 as an example (just the five main fights).

UFC 229 payouts
Khabib Nurmagomedov $2,000,000 (no win bonus) def. Conor McGregor $3,000,000
Tony Ferguson
$155,000 (includes $5,000 win bonus) def. Anthony Pettis $145,000
Dominick Reyes $90,000 (includes $45,000 win bonus) def. Ovince Saint Preux $86,000
Derrick Lewis $270,000 (includes $135,000 win bonus) def. Alexander Volkov $75,000
Michelle Waterson $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus) def. Felice Herrig $40,000
Fight of the Night: Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis
Performance of the Night: Derrick Lewis and Aspen Ladd

One more thing worth noticing is that if a fighter misses the weight, they will be fined 20 or 30% of the money they get paid for that fight.

PPV Bonuses

PPV (pay per view) events are UFC’s biggest type of events. Viewers who want to watch PPV events have to pay an additional amount of money ($65 at the time of writing). These events feature fights between UFC’s biggest stars and Championship fights.

Because PPV events feature the best fights the UFC can offer, these types of events get the most views; thus, they generate by far the most money.

Being a UFC Champion or main eventing the UFC PPV event means that there is a chance that a fighter can have a special item in their contract on which they will receive a percentage of all the sold PPV’s.

Because they get a percentage of it, it is a perfect model for fighters to do their best when promoting the fight. More people that buy PPV for that event means more money for them.

Information for bonuses from PPVs is often undisclosed. UFC doesn’t publicly release which fighters have a PPV bonus clause and how much they get from it. Some numbers were somewhat public.

Conor McGregor said that he earned around $40,000,000 from his three fights in 2016 (two Diaz fights and Eddie Alvarez fight). In 2018, after his bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov, he said that he got around $50,000,000 out of UFC 229 PPVs.

Last year, Conor said that he excepts as much as $80,000,000 from his fight with Cowboy Cerrone on UFC 246.

UFC giving their champions a percentage of PPV’s sold is a perfect business model. The more hype those fighters generate for the fight, the more people will tune in, meaning more money for them. Getting a bonus from PPV sales is a win-win situation for both the UFC fighters and the UFC.

How Much Do UFC Fighters Make from Sponsorships?

In 2021, UFC signed a deal with Venum. The deal obligated all of the UFC fighters to wear Venum equipment exclusively during the fights. For that, all UFC fighters are getting payouts from Venum sponsorship every time they fight. [1]

Here is a breakdown of the UFC and Venum deal:

  • Fighters who have between 1 and 3 fights will receive $4,000
  • Fighters who have either 4 or 5 fights will receive $4,500 per fight
  • Fighters who have between 6 and 10 fights will receive $6,000 per fight
  • Fighters who have between 11 and 15 fights will receive $11,000 per fight
  • Fighters who have between 16 and 20 fights will receive $16,000 per fight
  • Fighters who have 21 or more fights will receive $21,000 per fight
  • Fighters challenging for the UFC title will receive $32,000 for that fight
  • Fighters that are champions will receive $42,000 per fight

Endorsements

As time goes by, UFC fighters are becoming more and more popular. Their fanbase on social networks is going all the way up. Having those huge followings on social networks, UFC fighters are a perfect way for companies to promote their products.

There are a ton of different companies that have deals with the UFC fighters. A fighter has to promote a company’s product on social networks, and for that they receive paychecks.

It is a perfect way for UFC fighters to cash in their popularity and for the companies to place their products in front of millions and millions of fan eyes.

The most popular companies that give UFC fighters endorsements are Monster, Burger King, Bud Light, and many others…

Other Sources of Income for the UFC Fighters

There are some fighters, who besides being extraordinary at MMA, are also great businessmen. Conor McGregor is such an example. Despite earning millions from fighting, he also launched two separate businesses.

As he is a sharp dresser himself, Conor launched a luxury clothing line for men called August McGregor. Also, you probably heard about Proper Twelve. In 2018, just before the Khabib fight, Conor McGregor launched his own whiskey, called Proper Twelve.

The sales of whiskey have skyrocketed all over the world, thus reportedly (link to article) generating past $1 billion mark in the United States. [1]

When I talk about UFC fighters’ payout, it is very important to mention that not all of the money goes directly to them. There is a piece of what they are paid that goes on taxes, coaches, managers, etc.

How Much Do UFC Fighters Make Exactly?

Now that you know how UFC fighters earn their money, let’s see how much money the UFC fighters got paid in 2020.

Here is some interesting data (this is just the money they got from fights, win bonuses, fight and performance of the night bonuses, and Venum deals; earnings from PPV and endorsements aren’t included). [2]

  • Average UFC salary for an UFC fighter in 2020 is $147,965 (in 2019 it was $146,673).
  • The average household income in the U.S. is around $45,000 per year, meaning, over a third of fighters in the UFC roster make less (210 fighters to be precise, which is 36% of fighters).
  • 38% of the UFC roster (219 fighters) earned six-figures in 2020 (which is an increase from last year’s 36%).
  • There were 14 UFC fighters who had a Championship belt (including the interim belt) in 2020; they earned an average of $1,001,071 (an increase from last year’s $974,028). They earned much more because of the PPV sales but those numbers are undisclosed.
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov was the highest-paid UFC champion in 2020; he got paid $6,090,000.
  • Petr Yan was the lowest-paid UFC champion in 2020; he got paid $230,000.
  • The highest-paid UFC fighter in 2019 that wasn’t a champion was Conor McGregor with $3,060,000,

Top 30 Highest Paid UFC Fighters

Here is a list of fighters with the highest earnings through their UFC careers (this is just the money they got from fights, win bonuses, fight and performance of the night bonuses, and Venum deals; earnings from PPV and endorsements aren’t included):

  1. Conor McGregor – $20,102,000
  2. Khabib Nurmagomedov – $14,770,000
  3. Alistair Overeem – $10,204,500
  4. Andrei Arlovski – $9,844,000
  5. Anderson Silva – $8,732,000
  6. Jon Jones – $7,230,000
  7. Michael Bisping – $7,135,000
  8. Junior dos Santos – $7,110,000
  9. Georges St-Pierre – $7,037,000
  10. Donald Cerrone – $7,025,800
  11. Daniel Cormier – $6,586,500
  12. Mark Hunt – $6,304,000
  13. Stipe Miocic – $6,068,000
  14. Vitor Belfort – $5,795,200
  15. Dan Henderson – $5,480,000
  16. Brock Lesnar – $5,295,000
  17. Jose Aldo – $5,270,500
  18. Mauricio Rua – $5,270,000
  19. Frankie Edgar – $5,158,000
  20. Lyoto Machida – $5,035,000
  21. Nate Diaz – $4,912,000
  22. Tyron Woodley – $4,874,425
  23. Rashad Evans – $4,735,000
  24. Chuck Liddell – $4,630,000
  25. Fabricio Werdum – $4,583,000
  26. Chris Weidman – $4,573,000
  27. Ronda Rousey – $4,363,000
  28. Max Holloway – $4,342,000
  29. Tito Ortiz – $4,135,000
  30. Robbie Lawler – $4,043,000

As I have already mentioned, it is worth knowing that these numbers are just from regular fight contracts, win bonuses, fight, and performance of the night bonuses and Venum deals. The money they get from PPV and endorsement isn’t included.

To take that money into an account, these fighters’ earnings would be a lot bigger. Let’s take Conor McGregor’s career earnings as an example (with PPV bonuses and endorsement included):

In 2015, per Frobes, Conor earned $22,000,000.

In 2016, he reportedly said the he excepts earnings of about $40,000,000.

I feel by the time 2016 closes out, I’ll be closing in on $40 million. This is a $40 million year for me.

Conor McGregor

In 2017, Conor and Mayweather participated in “The Biggest Fight in the History of Combat Sports”, also called “The Money Fight”, generating the second highest PPV number of all time (just behind Mayweather vs. Pacquiao). That fight earned him an extraordinary amount of $100,000,000 putting him in the Forbes no.4 place of highest paid athletes in a calendar year.

In 2018, McGregor also showed up when he fought Khabib in biggest the biggest UFC fight of all time (and the third biggest fight of all time in combat sports history). Per Forbes, he earned $32,000,000 from a fight with Khabib and $15,000,000 from endorsements.

In 2019, Conor didn’t fight, but that probably didn’t stop him from earning millions and millions from his Proper Twelve sales.

In 2020, McGregor returned to the Octagon against Cowboy Cerrone. During an interview with Ariel Helwani, Conor said that he excepts around $80,000,000:

I’m estimating about $80 million… They think I’m toast, Ariel, but I’m still the bread!

Conor McGregor

How Much Money Do MMA Fighters Outside of the UFC Make?

UFC is by far the biggest MMA promotion and fighters in UFC earn the most. But, there are also some other promotions where MMA fighters can earn significant money:

  • Bellator: best fighters in Bellator can earn as much as $100,000 up to $300,000
  • ONE Championship: Ben Askren, who was at the time one of the ONE biggest stars, reportedly said that he gets $50,000 to fight and another $50,000 if he wins
  • PFL: On 31st December 2018, Profesional Fighters League scheduled the so-called “$1 million tournament” where there were six fights, and each of the winners received $1,000,000

Although the UFC fighters can earn the biggest amount of money, other MMA promotions are listed above where fighters can earn a significant amount of money.

How Much Money Do Amatuer (Beginner) MMA Fighters Make?

Amateur MMA fighters are not getting paid for their fights. Nevada State Athletic Commission states that the word “amateur” describes an athlete who competes in a sport while being unpaid. Amateur MMA fighters can get their expenses paid, but they will not receive additional payouts for fights.

How Much Do Lowest Paid UFC Fighters Earn?

The lowest paid UFC fighters are the ones that just signed (assuming they weren’t big names in other promotions before) with the UFC. They get between $10,000 and $30,000 per fight.

Do UFC Fighters Get Paid if They Lose?

UFC fighters do get paid even if they lose. Whatever the outcome is (unless they don’t make the weight; then they have to give up 20% of the purse), they will get paid what is in their contract for the fight. If they win, they will just receive the extra money from the win bonus.

How Much Money Does UFC Make per Event?

In general, UFC earns a little over $2 Million in gates, an undisclosed amount for TV rights, and between 80 and 120 Million for PPV events.