From CM Punk to Lesnar: Unveiling the Lucrative Deals Behind UFC’s Elite Fighters

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is not just a test of physical and mental strength but also a battleground of strategic financial negotiations. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premier organization in the world of MMA, has been a platform where fighters not only showcase their combat skills but also negotiate contracts that reflect their market value and popularity.

Recently, obtained a series of unsealed documents from the UFC antitrust lawsuit, revealing the full contracts of some of the biggest stars in MMA history, including Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, and others. These documents provide a rare glimpse into the financial aspects of the sport and the lucrative deals behind some of its most prominent fighters.

Also check out our article on how UFC fighters train.

CM Punk’s UFC Contract

Phil Brooks, better known as CM Punk, made a dramatic shift from WWE to UFC, signing a deal with the latter on November 30, 2014. Despite his debut being two years away, Punk’s contract was notably lucrative. His base purse was set at a staggering $500,000, with no win bonus, remaining constant throughout the contract’s duration.

Additionally, he received a standard cut of the Pay-Per-View (PPV) revenue: $1 for each PPV buy between 200,000 and 400,000 buys, $2 for each between 400,000 and 600,000, and $2.50 for each buy over 600,000. This deal highlights the drawing power Punk had, leveraging his WWE fame in the UFC.

Brock Lesnar’s Unique UFC Deal

Brock Lesnar, another crossover star from WWE, had a contract that set him apart from other UFC fighters. On July 3, 2009, as the reigning heavyweight champion, Lesnar signed a deal that paid him through his company, DEATHCLUTCH. His purse for UFC 100 was a whopping $1,500,000, with no win bonus and no PPV cut.

However, if he remained champion, his subsequent fights would earn him $1,375,000 with a PPV cut of $2 per buy over 700,000 buys – a threshold significantly higher than other champions. This contract underscores Lesnar’s immense value to the UFC, especially during major events.

Ronda Rousey’s Groundbreaking Contracts

Ronda Rousey, a pioneer in women’s MMA, had multiple contracts with the UFC that reflected her status as a dominant champion and a major draw. Her initial contract, signed in November 2012, started with a $45,000 to show purse, with a $45,000 win bonus.

Then with each victory, her pay slightly increased, reaching up to $70,000/$70,000. Her PPV cut was also substantial, earning $1 for each PPV bought between 200,000 and 400,000, $2 for each between 400,000 and 600,000, and $2.50 for each over 600,000.

In September 2015, at the peak of her career, Rousey signed another deal, receiving a base purse of $3,000,000 for title fights, with an improved PPV cut. Rousey’s contracts were groundbreaking, setting new standards for fighter pay, especially for women in the sport.

Gilbert Melendez’s Strategic UFC Contract

Gilbert Melendez’s journey in the UFC contract negotiations was a strategic play that highlighted the complexities of MMA fighter contracts. In 2014, Melendez tested free agency, flirting with the possibility of joining Bellator, which prompted the UFC to secure him with an attractive offer. His contract, signed on February 23, 2014, guaranteed him $200,000 per fight without a win bonus.

If Melendez won the title, his pay would increase by $25,000 with each win, potentially reaching up to $425,000 for his ninth contracted bout. Additionally, for title fights, he would receive a PPV cut starting at $1 for each buy between 200,000 and 400,000, increasing to $3 for each buy over 1 million. This contract showcased the UFC’s willingness to retain top talent and the leverage top fighters could have in negotiations.

Urijah Faber’s Special Clauses for Big Fights

Urijah Faber’s contract with the UFC, signed on August 26, 2015, included unique clauses that demonstrated the potential for fighters to negotiate terms based on specific opponents. Starting at $150,000 to show and $150,000 win bonus, Faber’s contract had provisions for significant pay increases for potential bouts with high-profile fighters like Conor McGregor, Dominick Cruz, and T.J. Dillashaw.

For example, facing McGregor in a non-title bout would increase his base purse to $250,000 with a $150,000 win bonus. These special clauses in Faber’s contract highlight the importance of marquee matchups in the UFC and the financial incentives tied to such high-profile fights.

Holly Holm’s Contract: A Unique Deal

Holly Holm’s entry into the UFC came with a contract that was quite different from the norm, reflecting her marketability and potential as a major star. Signed on July 9, 2014, her contract started with a $25,000 purse and a $25,000 win bonus, with increases of $5,000 after every two wins.

Notably, Holm had a clause for a title fight against Ronda Rousey right from the start, which would bump her base purse to $50,000. Her PPV cut as a defending champion and other incidentals, such as hotel accommodations and per diem, were also part of her contract. Holm’s deal underscored her team’s negotiation skills and foresight, particularly in securing favorable terms for a potential blockbuster fight against Rousey.

Chael Sonnen’s Lucrative Side Deals

Chael Sonnen, known for his charisma and skills both inside and outside the Octagon, had a contract that reflected his value to the UFC. Signed on August 20, 2013, Sonnen’s base purse was similar to his bout with Shogun Rua at $100,000, with no win bonus.

However, Sonnen often had lucrative side deals for his fights, adding substantial amounts to his disclosed purse. For instance, his fight with Shogun netted him an additional $250,000 on top of his disclosed purse and performance bonus. Sonnen’s contract and side deals exemplify how fighter pay in the UFC can extend beyond the basic contract terms, especially for athletes with high marketability.

Alistair Overeem’s Distinctive Contract Structure

Alistair Overeem, after eight fights in the UFC and on a four-fight winning streak, signed a contract on February 14, 2016, that was structured differently, reflecting his status as a top star from promotions like Strikeforce.

Overeem’s deal started at $700,000, showcasing the UFC’s approach to compensating established fighters from other organizations. His contract highlights the varying pay scales within the UFC, dependent on a fighter’s prior achievements and drawing power.


The unsealed UFC contracts reveal a world of complex negotiations and strategic financial planning. Starting with CM Punk’s lucrative debut contract to Brock Lesnar’s exceptional deal, and Ronda Rousey’s groundbreaking agreements, these contracts provide a fascinating insight into the business side of MMA.

The contracts highlight the importance of marketability, negotiation skills, and the ability to leverage one’s status in securing favorable terms. As the sport continues to evolve, so too will the dynamics of fighter contracts, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of MMA.

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