A to Z Challenge: P is for Payday

During interviews, mixed martial artists will often describe their day at the office as, “Choking necks and cashing checks,” or they’ll highlight the value of a particular matchup with, “If it makes dollars, it makes sense.” Though these are clever rhymes to recite while the cameras are rolling, it begs the question: How much do MMA fighters make? 

Some of the sport’s elite roll around town in luxurious cars and don high-end threads, while others are still working full-time jobs—along with training, meeting their nutritional demands, and promoting themselves on social media; the financial gains for those who compete in the most physically taxing game greatly varies. 

Before detailing the salary of fighters, it would be eye-opening to examine 2019’s pay for athletes in other sports with powerful associations.

According to sportscasting.com (link here), a rookie’s minimum in the National Football League is $495,000, and the low end of the scale increases with each year in the league, topping out at $1,030,000 for a decade-plus invested on the gridiron. 

The minimum salary, as reported by nbcsports.com (link here), for the first twenty-four players on each roster in Major League Soccer is $70,250. 

In articles from statista.com, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) had similar salaries: MLB (link here) players who ride the pine hit a home run at $555,000, and NBA (link here) benchwarmers sank $582,000 into their bank accounts.

An online publication, thesportsdaily.com (link here), compiled a collection of statistics about the earnings of those on the UFC’s roster last year. The average salary of those in the UFC is $146,673, but this calculation needs to be sifted into much finer detail.

MMA competitors, as opposed to the athletes outlined above, are independent contractors, and their pay is based on the value the promotion places on them. In addition to whatever is contracted, only half, more often than not, is guaranteed, as fighters are paid half their purse for showing up on weight and the other half for winning.  

First of all, the average household income, at the time this article was released, was around $45,000, yet over a third of those under the UFC banner—approximately 221 fighters—made less than that. One would imagine the promotion’s champions, the best-of-the-best, would be paid their weight in gold. However, the average salary for the champs was $974,028; Khabib Nurmagomedov, the UFC’s leading money-maker, was paid $6,090,000, whereas, Rose Namajunas, the Women’s Strawweight Champion at the time, made a mere $195,000. As a way of demonstrating the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, the fighters on the bottom of the totem pole walked away with a whopping $10,500.

Of course, fighters can fatten their wallets by winning performance bonuses—an arbitrary decision made by the promotion’s head honchos to fork out an additional $50,000 for something spectacular—or accumulating sponsorships.

Typically, the competitors who try entering the cage for a cash grab are getting into the wrong business. 

Prompted from the A to Z Challenge at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/


    • I started watching when I was a freshman in high school (1994), and have been hooked ever since. I’ve never competed, but I got into the online aspect of writing about the sport about six years ago. I wasn’t interested in covering the “news” side of the sport anymore, so I created this site and social media, which allows me to participate in all the ways I enjoy to do so without feeling the pressure of staying on top of the latest headlines.

      Thank you so much for visiting!


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