How much do MMA fighters make?


Written by The Editorial Team, in MMA Articles

When you pound to make some extra pounds

MMA brief overview

MMA, which is also often referred to as cage fighting, is all about getting dominance by three general skills: Strike, finishing holds, and take control. MMA is a universally used abbreviation for Mixed Martial Arts.

The rules of this game allow the competitors to use a great variety of techniques. These techniques must be a part of martial arts. General attacking examples of the methods that are most used are joint-locks, takedowns, kicks, punches, and throws.

It is also called NHB, which refers to No Holds Barred. The victory in this combat sport is achieved when one of the fighters knocks out the other and makes the other submit.

Modern MMA fights have a specific advanced set of rules. In recent fights, competitors can use a wide variety of tactics. The only restriction is regarding fish-hooking, biting, and eye-gouging. Other than that, the competitors are usually seen using techniques like toe-stamping, chocking, hair-pulling, and vice versa.

All the major MMA promotions have their personalized rules and regulations regarding permitted and banned techniques delineated, which they communicate with the competitors before the sport starts.

To read the history of MMA click here.

Modern MMA overview

The conventional MMA techniques spanned all the styles ranging from sumo to karate. It is observed that the strategies and their effectiveness have been shifted with time.

Now the competitors use three major methods of fighting, which are amatuer wrestling, kickboxing, and submission wrestling. It is because the competitors nowadays are trained to fight using these sets of techniques. The fighter can pick one of these strategies, or mix two different types of strategies.

The fighters are required to determine the strategy in which they can perform their best while creating an advantage to take their opponent down. Three phases of combat are taken into consideration that are clinch fighting, stand-up fighting, and ground fighting.

The competitors are allowed to make use of any of these phases to take advantage of their weaknesses. The primary examples of MMA fights are the UFC tournament (Ultimate fighting championship) and the PFC tournament (Pride Fighting Championship). Let’s discuss the insights of how MMA fighters get paid.

Professional MMA fighter salary

Money Raining down on Conor Mcgregor

This is a simple question with a complicated answer.

The pay of MMA fighters has substantially increased with the growing popularity of this combat game. There is a significant economic gap in organizations like UFC, such that the wage gap between the highest and the lowest paid fighter is wide enough.

We can say that mostly the celebrities of this combat sport get paid the highest wages. This is an obvious way to motivate amateur fighters to become one of the top stars.

There are some hurdles in the industry, as well.

Just like the regular job market, where if you do not have a reference, you are less likely to get a better job. Similarly, in the MMA industry, the newbies do not have big agents, which clarifies why they do not get an advantage in the wage-related negotiations.

This is because the MMA industry lacks a “Fighters’ Association” or “Fighters’ Union.” All the other professional sports like football and soccer always have a union or association where the financial negotiations are held and heard.

How much money do MMA fighters make?

So how much money do MMA fighters make and what was their income in 2018? The researchers have shown that during the last year, a total of 187 MMA fighters made six-figure salaries.

How can these all be celebrities? Of course, all of these fighters were not celebrities or the top-rated fighters.

There are certain factors on which the wages of MMA fighters depend. MMA fighters get paid according to their UFC fight history.

How often do they participate in the sport is the parameter that defines their popularity.

Popularity, on the other hand, determines how much do MMA fighters make, respectively. According to me, this is entirely justified as every professional need to make struggles to make ends meet.

How much do UFC fighters make?

How much do UFC fighters make? In the year 2018, 37% of the MMA fighters who participated in UFC made fewer than $45,000. This is surprising, as this figure is even lower than the average US household income.

The average professional MMA fighter salary, however, was $68,500. The average of all the UFC fighters collectively was $138,250. The average is profoundly affected by the top-rated earners; thus, we would consider $68,500 as the 2018’s average.

The expected lifetime earning for the MMA fighters is $1,419,432.

As discussed previously, 33% of the MMA fighters made six-figure salaries in 2018.

On the other hand, 37% made fewer than the average US household income, which is $45,000. We can clearly recommend that to earn more in this industry, you have to increase popularity.

Fame is directly proportional to the increase in salary figures. The fighters who are top-rated would usually be looking for a base professional MMA fighter salary of hundreds of thousands for winning.

They negotiate the bonuses in terms of thousand for each knock-out, the main event, submission, and hundreds of thousands for the back room.

On the other hand, the lower-potential fighters might only be looking for $10,000 to $25,000 as their base salary. So, how much money do MMA fighters make depends on their popularity and winning attitude?

Yes, the salaries can be negotiated if you continuously try hard and make winning, one of your best habits.

In the MMA industry, people are regularly appearing as the shining stars, so technically, this industry is about training, pain, and winning. So if you are not willing to get through these barriers then you should seek another career.

How to make money as an MMA fighter?

Conor McGregor throwing money

Once you gain popularity in the MMA industry, there is more than one way to earn money.

The professional MMA fighters can make money by making use of sponsorships, endorsements, and other similar opportunities. A well-known example of this is Cody Garbrandt, a rising name who recently gained the sponsorship presented by BodyArmor.

While the UFC banned sponsored fight attire only 3 years ago other MMA organisations still support fighters wearing sponsored fight gear.

Some athletes, such as Brendan Schaub, had previously stated that they would earn up to 6 figures from sponsors attached to their fight shorts. This sum of money was more than what the UFC would pay him to fight.

It is reported that the UFC tournament has signed a 5-year deal with the national channel, ESPN, which makes ESPN liable to stream UFC events every year.

The UFC-ESPN deal is the start of something which is expected to result in something huge. The popularity of the MMA industry is expected to rise by the next five years.

How do MMA fighters get paid then? Let’s discuss the structure of the earning-cycle for MMA fighters. By learning this, the amateur fighters can free themselves from the reliance on cheque-to-cheque.

MMA fighters – Base Salary

How much do MMA fighters make starting out? The MMA fighters get a base salary, once they are hired. The base salary does not depend on winning or losing; however, if the fighter wins, there is a specific “winning bonus” for him/ her. Starting your career in MMA can be hard at first, but your salary will grow with every match. 

If you wonder how much do MMA fighters make starting out, you should also understand that often the base salary is negotiated and discussed personally. The base salary for each fighter is furnished and sealed in a contract. This contract does not involve winning or losing.

As the fighters gain popularity, they can renegotiate their base salary and demand for better figures.

MMA fighters – Bonuses

The wining bonus that the fighters receive is mostly equal to their base salary. This gives an advantage to the top-rated fighters as they get more significant incentives this way.

Many people in the MMA industry are against the win bonus. The reason is that if the top-rated fighter wins, he easily doubles up his salary and get a massive bonus for winning.

The most important bonus for the MMA fighters is the “Fight of the Night” bonus, which can comfortably accommodate an extra $50,000 for the fighters for doing a little extraordinary. “Performance of the Night” is another bonus that adds an additional $50,000 to the fighter’s income. This title requires a spectacular submission or knock-out which blows off the mind of the crowd.

Below as we take a look at the graph of UFC 244 in which Masvidal and Diaz headlined, you can see a dramatic difference in payouts by the UFC. It’s clear to see that the bigger stars receive more money. Also, there are several bonuses that include win-bonus, the performance of the night and fight of the night.

Without these bonuses, some of the fighters on this graph would not have received half as much pay as they did.

These were more of the popular fights of the night with the prelims fighters receiving as little as $16,000 dollars per night.

And while $16,000 dollars sounds like a lot of money it isn’t. UFC fighter Myles Jury gave joe.ie a breakdown of fighter expenses so you can further understand why this is isn’t a sustainable income.

So, if a fighter wins a 10k/10k purse, the following expenses would be deducted from their $20,000 prize money.

  • $2,000  (gym / team)
  • $4,000   (management)
  • $6,000   (taxes)
  • $500      (medicals)
  • $1,000   (coaching)
  • $1,000   (Misc.)

Total Expenses: $14,500

$20,000 – $14,500 = $5,500 is the fighters profit, excluding Reebok sponsorship money and bonuses.

MMA fighters – Other earnings

Other earnings of MMA fighters can be yielded by sponsorships and endorsements. We have added the sponsorship in this section because recently, UFC and Reebok have made a deal.

This deal speaks about the sponsorship fee for each time the fighter steps in the octagon.

This is discouraged by some of the fighters because this has led to the absence of other sponsors, which has caused many fighters to lose significant amounts of sponsorship money.

Endorsements are another way to earn big in the MMA industry. This, however, implies only to the names which have gained extensive popularity.

Companies such as Modelo and BodyArmor have already sponsored the best athletes from the UFC. These athletes have massive popularity and are known to be the champions.

Another way to use your status as a top MMA fighter would be to create and sell your own product or service.

An obvious example of this would be Conor McGregor and his many businesses such as Proper12, August McGregor, the MacLife and FAST.

Conclusion

Nate Diaz laying down in octagon

In light of all the discussion above, we can say that the MMA industry is operating in the same way in which other potential sports operate.

It is the rule of all the sports that some of them would earn so much that they would not know where to spend, while some would struggle to pay their bills.

The answer to the question “ How much do MMA fighters make” is as complicated as the sport itself.

Some fighters involve in MMA to make big cheques, while the others are the ones who love martial arts.

Thus, we would be concluding this discussion by stating the there is always a high degree of risk in MMA and other similar sports.

If you are not ready to challenge yourself, do not choose them at all.

To get paid, you would need fame. For fame, you would need to get polished by tolerating pain and toughness.

Liked this? Then check out How much Boxers get paid here.

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