As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to grow in popularity, the biggest stars in the UFC are in turn becoming increasingly wealthy. In this article we look at the Top 12 salaries paid out during the past year in the promotion.
Before we start there’s a few things worth that are worth bearing in mind.
A. Salaries are not always disclosed after UFC events. For example, the fighter earnings for events outside of the U.S, such as UFC99 in Germany and UFC 106 in the UK, or in certain states, like UFC 101 in Philly, were not released. This article is based solely on the information provided from the events in which salaries were publicly available.
B. For the purposes of this article we are looking purely at the fighters base salary, and any additional ‘win bonus’ they may have written into their contract. It’s worth remembering that on top of that a number of the UFC’s biggest stars also take home a percentage of the Pay Per View revenue, which can work out to be significantly more than their standard salaries. In addition to this fighters also earn extra money from other avenues such as sponsorship deals, additional bonuses, etc.
With that out of the way, here are the top 12 fighter salaries in the promotion for 2009.
Chuck Liddell: $500,000 (no win bonus)
Arguably the best known UFC fighter ever, Chuck Liddell took home the biggest base salary in 2009 despite his loss to Maurcio ‘Shogun’ Rua. Though the salaries for the UFC 97 event in April were not disclosed due to it taken place in Canada, Liddell’s contracted salary of $500,000 is known from his previous fight against Keith Jardine in 2008.
Liddell has one fight left on his contract, and despite rumors of retirement it was revealed last month that he will fight for a third time against Tito Ortiz after the pair go head-to-head as coaches on season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Brock Lesnar: $400,000 (no win bonus)
Currently The UFC’s biggest box office star, Brock Lesnar takes home a guaranteed $400,000 for each of his fights, win or lose. Interestingly, under his previous deal Lesnar took home a guaranteed $250,000, but he also earned $200,000 for a win, meaning that he claimed a larger salary for his victory over Randy Couture at UFC 91 in November of ’08 than he did for his UFC 100 win over Frank Mir in July of ’09.
That being said, with his reputation now firmly established as a hugely successful Pay Per View draw it’s likely that his latest deal includes an increased cut of the PPV buys. With his last two fights pulling in over one million paying customers that would boost Lesnar’s bank balance dramatically.
Randy Couture: $250,000 (+ $250,000 for a win)
Along with Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture is consider UFC royalty, and as such the former multiple time champion commanded one of the promotions largest salaries in the past year. Unlike Liddell however, Couture has to win to earn the full $500,000.
Couture spent a year in limbo due to a dispute with the UFC which appeared to partly revolve around his earnings. That is all water under the bridge now though, and his current six fight deal came into effect before his fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in August. As with some of the other big name stars in the UFC, Couture is known to command a share of the PPV buys for his fights which can propel his earnings per fight into the seven figure region.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: $250,000 (+ $150,000 for a win)
Another veteran, Pride legend and former UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, is also well paid for his battles in the octagon. His base salary is equal to Randy Couture’s, though he earns less for a win.
Even so the $400,000 he took home for his victory over Couture in August is double the amount he was paid under his previous contract for his UFC debut in early 2008 against Tim Sylvia.
Tito Ortiz: $250,000 (win bonus unknown)
Another name synonymous with the UFC, Tito Ortiz publicly fell out with the promotion in 2008, claiming that he was being underpaid. After over a year on the sidelines the two parties came to an agreement and Ortiz returned to the fold with a new contract in tow.
It should be stressed that the dispute was based more on his cut of the PPV buys rather than his base salary, but we do now that he now earns $250,000 per show. Since he lost his comeback fight we do not yet know his win bonus however. After holding out for a more substantial PPV cut Ortiz will surely have been disappointed to discover that his return at UFC 106 against Forrest Griffin had an uncharacteristically low buy-rate.
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson: $225,000 (+ $100,000 for a win)
Former light-heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson rounds out the top 5 earners, at least as far as base salaries go. Having said that, his win bonus of $100,000 is lower than some of the other fighters on this list. Jackson fell out with the UFC earlier this year after pulling out of a blockbuster fight with fellow TUF 10 coach Rashad Evans to star in the A-Team movie, but announced in December that he would return to finish the remaining three fight on his contract.
Despite this he appears to still harbor a grudge towards the promotion, and stated in a recent interview that along with feeling that he is not being treated with the respect he deserves, he is also unhappy with his cut of the Pay Per View buys his fights generate.
Georges St.Pierre: $200,000 (+ $200,000 for a win)
Widely regarded as one of the sports pound for pound best, welterweight champion Georges St.Pierre is considered by many to be an unstoppable force at 170lbs. That means that, for the time being at least, he is expected to earn his maximum $400,000 salary each time he competes.
GSP is also one of the most marketable UFC stars which has also helped him to secure lucrative deals with mainstream brands like Gatorade and Under Armour that helps boost his overall income significantly.
Rashad Evans: $200,000 (+ $175,000 for a win)
The fifth light-heavyweight star on this list, Rashad Evans has come along way from winning a six figure contract (spread out over three years) with the UFC after winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 2. Having since worked his way to the top of the division, and briefly holding the belt, he now commands a guaranteed $200,000 a fight, and almost that again on top if he wins.
Evans picked the perfect time to negotiate his current contract – just months after winning the title at UFC 92 by beating Forrest Griffin, and only a few months before losing it to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98.
Anderson Silva: At least $200,000+ (win bonus unknown)
Of all the fighters on the list middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s salary is the one that is most shrouded in mystery so his exact place on this list is unknown. Silva signed a six fight deal with the UFC after his win over James Irvin at UFN 14 in July 2008. Since then all three of his bouts have taken place in locations where the fighters salaries are not required to be publicly disclosed.
What we do know is that Silva was paid $200,000 with no win bonus for his KO victory over Irvin, and so his current deal is likely to be considerably more. Though historically not considered one of the promotions biggest Pay Per View draws, Silva’s status as one of the top three pound for pound fighters in the sport, and currently holding the record for most consecutive UFC wins (10), the Brazilian is undoubtedly worth every penny he earns.
Lyoto Machida: $200,000 (no win bonus)
Current light-heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida has also made his way into the top earners list this year thanks to a new contract. Despite that it is perhaps somewhat ironic that, considering The Dragon’ has never lost a fight in 16 professional fights, he does not have a win bonus written into his contract.
That being said his current deal, which came into effect for his last fight with Shogun Rua is a marked improvement on the $70,000 to show + $70,000 to win which he received for his title winning performance against Rashad Evans at UFC 98 in May.
Wanderlei Silva: $200,000 (win bonus unknown)
While Wanderlei Silva’s salary for his UFC 99 fight with Rich Franklin wasn’t disclosed, we do know that he was paid a base rate of $200,000 for his loss against Quinton Jackson just days before the start of 2009 at at UFC 92.
It’s not known whether Silva currently has a win bonus written into his contract, though having won just one of his four fights since his return to the UFC in 2007, this has perhaps been something of a moot point lately. Despite that he is still one of the legends of the sport and a fan favorite, which ensures that he is still handsomely rewarded for his battles in the octagon.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua: $155,000 (win bonus unknown)
Considering his days as one of the divisions most feared fighters during the Pride era seemed far behind him after his disappointing performance against Mark Coleman in January of ’09, he has done well to turn his fortunes around, and a win over Machida in the rematch will raise his stock even further.
Are there any fighters you might have expected to see on the list that are missing from it?
Long time fighter in the UFC and Current lightweight champion BJ Penn is perhaps the most obvious name that didn’t make the top 12. Penn’s last two fights have taken place in states which do not disclose salaries, but in January of ’09 he earned $125,000 for his unsuccessful bid to take the welterweight title from Georges St.Pierre. Based on previous figures from 2008 his win bonus is also $125,000.
Ultimate Fighter season 1 winner and former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin is another of the promotions most recognized fighters. So much so in fact that he adorned the cover of the ‘UFC Undisputed 2009’ video game. He currently receives $100,000 to show, while unusually his win bonus is even larger at $150,000. That’s notably still some way short of season 2 winner Rashad Evan’s pay-check, but Griffin isn’t complaining, recently stating that he is happy being “moderately wealthy”.
Another TUF winner, Michael Bisping commands a significant fee for his fights in the UFC. Though many of his salaries remain undisclosed since he often competes in UK events, his KO defeat at UFC 100 earned him $150,000. His opponent Dan Henderson on the other hand earned $100,000, plus $150,000 for the win – mirroring Forrest Griffin’s deal. Henderson left the company later at the end of the year after failing to come to terms on a new enhanced contract.
One former champion who may have been expected to appear on the list is Frank Mir, yet remarkably he earned just $45,000 for his first round defeat against Brock Lesnar at UFC 100. It’s certain that ex middleweight champion Rich Franklin is earning more than that after signing a new six fight deal in the summer of ’09. The exact figures of his contract are unknown, but the fighter was previously known to be commanding $100,000 with an additional win bonus of $50,000 back in 2008.
The potential wild-card in terms of salary is another Pride legend – Mirko Cro Cop. When he first entered the octagon at UFC 67 in February of 2007 he earned a whopping $350,000 pay cheque, though he received no additional win bonus for his first round TKO of Eddie Sanchez. His stock has dwindled significantly since then due to a number of defeats and lackluster performances in the UFC, so it doubtful that his new contract, which was signed in July of ’09. We can’t say for sure though due to his salary at UFC 103 not being released to the public.
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Article By RossC
Pictures courtesy of Sherdog.com