Why Do UFC Fighters Get Paid So Little?

Fighter pay has been one of the most discussed topics in MMA for several years.

One of the common questions that we receive is 'Why Do UFC Fighters Get Paid So Little?'.

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In this page, we will cover fighter pay, and how this pay can vary drastically depending on several factors.

Table of Contents

What Do UFC Fighters Get Paid?

Fighter pay can vary drastically depending on whether you're fighting on Dana White's Contender Series or if you're a UFC champion receiving Pay Per View points. On average in 2020, the average UFC fighter earned $147,965.

However, you should know that these stats are a bit skewed, as:

Only 219 fighters in the league, which is about 38% of the total athletes at the time, made six-figure salaries. Nurmagomedov was the highest-paid UFC fighter that year with estimated earnings of $6,090,000, excluding pay-per-view bonuses.

 

UFC 268 was one of the best PPV's of the year, as Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington would face off in their rematch.

Despite being one of the bigger PPV's of the year, there were five fighters on the card who received less than $20,000 in pay for the night.

Fighter Base Salary Sponsorships Total
CJ Vergara $10,000 $4,000 $14,000

 

On the other hand in UFC 264, Conor McGregor would fight Dustin Poirier as the main event, and they would both be paid handsomely.

Conor McGregor would amass $23,000,000 for the fight and Dustin Poirier would bring in $5,000,000.

Prelims vs Main Card vs PPV Points

Depending on what card you are fighting, where on the card you are fighting, and if you're a champion and/or a draw, your pay will vary drastically.

Typically if you're on Dana White's Contender series (also known as just starting out), you will be on the lower end of pay, and can expect a $5k to show, and $5k to win contract, potentially earning $10k in a night.

Normally, fighters on the prelim's of a fight will earn less than the main card fighters, as they will be featured on free tv.

However, that's not the case for every fighter, as former Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz has recently stated that he gets paid the same whether he's on the prelims or on the main card.

Sean O'Malley is one of the best examples of climbing the UFC pay ladder, as he began in 2017 with the DWCS $10k pay, to his most recent fight in the main card racking up $206,000.

Despite this, O'Malley has been vocal about getting 'paid well', and it looks like he is going to get his wish after his latest performance, as Dana White has stated they will have to pay him.

Expect his earnings to at minimum double for his next fight.

Fighters that earn Pay Per View points undoubtedly earn the most. Champions have PPV points in their contract, and ultra popular athletes can also negotiate for PPV points such as Conor McGregor.

Earlier we mentioned that McGregor earned $23 million in his last fight. Compared to the Contender series, need we say more?

UFC Brand

The UFC brand is directly correlated with MMA. In fact, many people mistake MMA for being the UFC.

The UFC has done such a great job with their branding over the years, that it is indisputably the 'A League' in Mixed Martial Arts.

This is a big reason why fighters are tempted to take a pay cut (or small pay) to fight in the UFC, than to go into other promotions.

After all fighters are extremely competitive, and want to test themselves against the best.

If they remain in the lesser known leagues, not only do they receive less exposure, but they at times feel like they are not at the 'Pinnacle of the sport'.

Regardless of whether this thought process is right or wrong, this is very common in athletes.

In fact, most fighters don't go into other promotions for higher pay until after their UFC run.

Fighters such as Kevin Lee (Signed with Eagle FC), former Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (Signed with PFL), Gegard Mousasi (Signs with Bellator) and Corey Anderson (Signs with Bellator) have all famously taken better offers from other organizations after their UFC run.