The purse earnings of UFC fighters has pulled back, even as the organization expands. 2013 was a better payout year than 2014. While earnings may differ among fighters based on experience and popularity, there are some fighters in the UFC who have been making substantial amounts of money with payouts in the hundreds of thousands per fight. So why the decline in payouts?
There has been a drastic decline in PPV sales. No one knows for certain how bad it has been. The UFC does not release its pay-per-view numbers and so any figures you may come across on the Internet are only estimates. Given that pay-per-view sales come from a variety of sources. Many cable, satellite and telephone companies, all with competing interests sell the events. There is no one person outside of UFC headquarters who has all the accurate information that can put it all together and come up with a correct figure per event.
Some boxing enthusiasts have interpreted the drop in PPV sales as a decline in interest in mixed martial arts generally and the UFC specifically. It could be that’s the case, but I doubt it. Fox seems to be quite content with its deal with the UFC. Reebok just came aboard as a title sponsor for the UFC’s new uniforms, and the UFC is on the verge of a major sponsorship deal with Monster Energy Drinks. Most likely, the pay-per-view sales decline stems from the fact that the UFC’s biggest names fought so infrequently in 2014. Forget about all the complaints regarding the so-called over saturation problem, because the majority of those excess cards aren’t on pay-per-view.
This is a list of the top ten highest earners in the UFC for the last two years. This list is based on the payouts that have been made known to the public. It wasn’t until 2004 that the athletic commissions began to release fighter purse information, however these same commissions have yet to release precise fighter salary information, so these numbers will be based on other information and factors that have been made available to the public.
There are many fighters who get paid additional bonuses, plus a cut of the profits from the fights that they headline, as well as additional money from sponsors that have the potential to make up a substantial amount of the fighter’s annual income. This list has been compiled based only on what these fighters have earned in their fights, plus bonuses. While the numbers noted here are as accurate as can be, know that these fighters are likely making much more than what the public is aware of. The 2014 UFC decreases in fighter pay seem to be inexplicable. You will note that three of the top earners did not even fight in 2014 and only two have increased their pay. Most have cut their pay in half.
$600,000 in 2013 – $300,000 in 2014 – TOTAL $900,000
Hector Lombard signed with the UFC in April of 2012, making him one of the newest high-profile fighters to enter the company. Lombard made his debut in July of last year, losing to Tim Boetsch in a split decision. Dropping two of his first three fights in the UFC, there has been much speculation about his future with the organization. However, Lombard recently saw a victory against Nate Marquardt in UFC 166 in October of this year. He and Anderson Silva are tied with equal earnings of $600,000 despite very different fight results.
$975,000 in 2013 – $0 in 2014 – TOTAL $975,000
As one of the biggest stars of the early UFC days, Vitor Belfort and has continued to impress fans since his debut in 1996. The Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter has had a very successful year as he hasn’t lost a match yet in 2013. He earned $275,000 for each of his UFC showings on FX in January and May while earning an additional $50,000 bonus for Knockout of the Night. Then, in November, Belfort earned $325,000 for UFC Fight Night. All together this makes Belfort one of 2013’s highest paid UFC fighters with a purse that is envied by fighters and fans alike. He did not compete in 2014.
$1,035,000 in 2013 – $0 in 2014 – TOTAL $1,035,000
Rashad Evans is the season two winner of The Ultimate Fighter. After winning, Evans dropped his weight class from heavyweight to light-heavyweight. Even though his first fight against Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 156 resulted in a loss, Evans still walked away with $300,000. But he would soon regain his victory against Dan Henderson in UFC 161, earning another $300,000 just for showing up, and then an additional $185,000 win bonus. Evans followed all this up in November with a TKO victory against Chael Sonnen at UFC 167, earning him an additional $250,000. He did not compete in 2014.
$750,000 in 2013 – $350,000 in 2014 – TOTAL $1,100,000
Dan Henderson is a longtime veteran of PRIDE and the UFC, as well as a former competitor in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, he has had a rough year in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped his wallet from benefiting from the fights. So far, Henderson has not been victorious in the octagon this year. He has earned $250,000 for each of his three fights between UFC 157 against Lyoto Machida, UFC 161 against Rashad Evans, and UFC Fight Night against Vitor Belfort.
$1,200,000 in 2013 – $0 in 2014 – TOTAL $1,200,000
Anderson Silva joined the UFC in April 2006, and the company almost immediately started thrusting him into the spotlight. His first fight in June of that year resulted in a victory against Chris Lebon. Even though Silva lost to Chris Weidman this year at UFC 162 in Las Vegas, he still earned much more than his opponent in that fight. According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Silva picked up a total of $600,000, one of the biggest paychecks issued to any fighter in the UFC. Most high-profile fights average $200,000-$400,000 per fighter. He did not compete in 2014 and has made the UFC look quite suspect in 2015.
$850,000 in 2013 – $400,000 in 2014 – TOTAL $1,250,000
Native New Yorker, Jon Jones is an American light-heavyweight competitor in the UFC who has seen a great year in 2013 and has been showing a lot of promise in his future with the organization. At UFC 159, he was victorious against Chael Sonnen while earning himself $400,000. Then, in UFC 165, he beat out Alexander Gustafsson, earning another $400,000 plus an additional $50,000 as a Fight of the Night bonus.
$650,000 in 2013 – $750,000 in 2014 – TOTAL $1,400,000
This Japanese-Brazilian fighter from Salvador made his debut in 2007 in UFC 67, and since then has been earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per fight. Lyoto Machida earned $200,000 against Dan Henderson in the light-heavyweight division at UFC 157 where he won by split decision. He also earned $200,000 in his fight against Phil Davis at UFC 163, as well as UFC Fight Night against Mark Munoz.
$700,000 in 2013 – 975,000 in 2014 – TOTAL $1,650,000
British fighter, Michael Bisping hasn’t wasted any time making his presence known after being brought across the pond from Britain to the United States. The Ultimate Fighter Season Three reality series light-heavyweight winner has had a mixed season between his two fights in 2013. After the show, he dropped his weight class down to middleweight. His first fight in the UFC on FX against Vitor Belfort found him losing, but he still walked away with $275,000. However, Bisping turned it around in UFC 159 against Alan Belcher, earning himself $275,000 plus an additional $150,000 win bonus.