Fame and glory earned from fighting are all well and good, but a professional fighter must, above all else, earn money from his craft. MMA is a young sport, and its athletes often complain that they are underpaid, but how much do they make?
A mid-tier UFC fighter makes $85 000 on average, while prelim fighters get a minimum of $10-12 000 depending on the event. World champion payouts begin at $500 000 and can reach several million dollars.
Aside from the UFC, there are other major promotions. So, we will look at the salaries they offer and some figures concerning amateurs and low-level MMA fighters.
It’s imperative to point out a couple of things before we continue with the figures. All the salaries below are publicly disclosed. Which often does not include sponsor payments (outside of the official UFC/Venum deal), locker room bonuses, side agreements, and other similar sources of cash, which we cannot know for certain.
As the largest MMA promotion, the UFC gets much attention regarding fighter pay. The last few years have seen heated debates and comparisons to other sports, but these are for another day, and here we will show the current pay level for UFC athletes.
The disclosed payments include a base salary (show and fight money), a win bonus, and a sponsorship bonus, currently provided by Venum.
Additionally, there is a performance bonus of $50,000 (unless Dana White decides the fighter deserves more), which is given for two of the night’s best performances. Additionally, a “Fight of the Night” bonus is earned by the fighters that produce the most exciting scrap on the card.
UFC fighters are generally split into low, mid, and high. A fighter can expect a minimum base salary of $10,000 for a fight on the prelims. When you add a win bonus and the sponsorship money, low-tier fighters make between $14,000 and $35,000 per fight.
The mid-tier is much broader, with pay ranging from $50,000 to $250,000. The contracts depend on a fighter’s fan base, ability to draw viewers, current form and record, the attractiveness of fighting style, and others.
The highest caliber fighters, meaning world champions and very popular fighters (Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler, for example), earn at least a hefty $500,000 in show money. But this can go all the way to a few million dollars.
I will give you some new examples from the latest (at the time of writing this article) PPV cards, UFC 274 and 275. At UFC 275, Glover Texiera was the light heavyweight champion and received $500,000 in show money, a $50,000 performance bonus, and $42,000 in sponsorship money, for a total of $592 000.
The man who dethroned him, Jiri Prochazka, got $200,000 in fight money, another 200k for the win, a $70,000 performance bonus, and $32,000 from Venum for a total of $502,000.
Fighters who lost in the prelims and received a $12,000 purse plus $4,000 in sponsorship money received the lowest pay.
UFC 274 had a bit more star power and Charles Olivera earned a sizable $1,602,000 ($480,000+ $480,000 win bonus + $600,000 performance bonus + $42,000 incentive pay) for his performance against Justin Gaethje, who took home his guaranteed $620,000 and $32,000 from Venum.
Veterans like Donald Cerrone, Francisco Trinaldo, and Joe Lauzon earned between $150K and $250K. But these were PPV cards, which are always more lucrative than Fight Night events.
Bellator has a smaller roster and pays its top fighters and newcomers significantly less than the UFC. Of course, the big contention point here is the sponsorship money.
While the UFC has a deal with Venum and no other brands are allowed in fight week, in Bellator, fighters can have their sponsors, which earns them a lot more money than their UFC colleagues.
To use an event from April 2022, Bellator 277, the main event Patricio Pitbull and Aj McKee, earned $250,000. The co-main championship fight between Corey Anderson and Vadim Nemkov earned them $250,000 and $80,000, respectively.
Salaries quickly drop as you move down the card, with a few fighters earning as little as $2000 for a loss and $4000 for a win. But again, these are without any sponsorship money, which these guys earned.
One FC has a massive following in Asia and has some fantastic fighters on its roster. The events are top-notch, but as far as the salaries go, there is not much information. Other organizations we listed hold events in the USA, and athletic commissions often disclose the full purses, which is not the case with ONE FC.
Many numbers are lying around the internet, but nothing concrete and not from 2022. But it’s safe to say that the stars like Demetrious Johnson and Angela Lee make north of $500,000.
The PFL is a newcomer to the MMA scene. Still, it’s quickly gathering steam thanks to its original for MMA and very familiar with sports fans’ season format.
We know that the salaries there are not that different from what UFC fighters get. The PFL is aired on ESPN, so it is expected to have a good reach and a reasonable payout for fighters.
We have the info from this year’s PFL 4, 5, and 6 events. The absolute leader in earned cash is Anthony Pettis, with $750 000, followed by ATT talent Kayla Harrison with $500 000.
Rory McDonald got $250,000 while Jeremy Stephens and Omary Akhmedov made around $200,000 each, with a few more making 6 figures as well. The lowest earners took home between $10,000 and $30,000, comparable to the UFC.
But when you add undisclosed locker room money and sponsor pay, we can assume low and mid-tier fighters in the PFL make more money than their UFC counterparts.
The championship winner of each weight class at the end of the season in the PFL earns 1 million dollars.
How Much Do Amateur Fighters Make?
Amateur fighters usually don’t make money. The point of an MMA career is to gather the experience and skill set required to chase success as a professional where the money is.
Amateur MMA is regulated similarly to amateur boxing in some countries and is held in a tournament format. In these cases, amateur fighters make no money unless the government pays some form of tuition.
However, amateur fights can sometimes be part of an event that includes professional fights, wherein all participants are paid. Amateurs are frequently paid between $100 and $200 for their participation. A well-known amateur can make a little more money.
A common arrangement is to bind fighters’ pay to sell event tickets. You earn more money if you can get butts in the seats.
The promotion sections taught you how much low-level MMA fighters earn in the big leagues. But most fighters start their pro career at a local level and begin with $300-500 in pay with the same sum added as a win bonus. The payment goes up as they stack wins and get their name better known.
The arrangement for selling tickets is critical in low-level promotions. Fighters are paid a percentage of each ticket sold, so it’s an excellent way to make money.
How Much Do Female MMA Fighters Make?
Female fighters are not paid any differently than male fighters. In the UFC, male and female fighters are in the same tiers. Female champions such as Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko have the same $500,000 purses as male champions before adding sponsorship money and win bonuses. Even bigger stars like Amanda Nunes pocket more than $1 million every time she fights.
Sponsorship money became a significant issue for UFC fighters in 2016 when the organization signed a contract with Reebok as the sole apparel supplier, effectively cutting a lucrative revenue stream for fighters.
These rules do not apply to other organizations, and each fighter is free to obtain sponsors for himself, thus earning more money. These are strictly individual and are determined by the quality and number of sponsors available to each fighter.
The UFC has had Venum as their official apparel partner since 2021. Venum has a table with several tiers based on the number of UFC fights a fighter has had. Here is what it looks like:
|Over 20 UFC fights||$21,000|
|16-20 UFC fights||$16,000|
|11-15 UFC fights||$11,000|
|6-10 UFC fights||$6,000|
|4 or 5 UFC fights||$4,500|
|1-3 UFC fights||$4,000|
Being an MMA fighter is a very tough job; until you reach the higher levels of the sport, it is not a very well-paid job either. This article should give you a good insight into the reality of how much MMA fighters make in 2022.