The question as to how much professional MMA fighters make varies depending on many factors. The highest-paid fighters Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov earn several million dollars a year whilst those not as well represented or with endorsement contracts can earn far less.
Professional MMA fighters can also earn money from sponsorship deals. Currently, Reebok has an exclusive deal with the UFC to access the 18-to-24-year old male demographic. Smaller sponsorship deals can come from companies such as casinos that can explain what is keno strategy, encouraging this young demographic to sign up to another form of entertainment. Whilst sponsorship is still quite new to MMA, it is expected to become as successful as those sponsorships surrounding Nascar.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) promotes MMA globally and features several elite fighters across twelve weight divisions, with fighters representing 71 countries. The UFC lists a total of 724 active fighters (117 women and 607 men), though at least 60 names are to be culled in 2021.
Almost 40 per cent of MMA fighters in the UFC make less than USD35,977, the average personal income in the US in 2019, though the average overall is around USD138, 540, a figure skewed by the elite fighters earning millions annually.
Paid per fight
The amount a professional MMA fighter can earn each year is reflected by the number of fights and their level of popularity. The five-year deal with ESPN signed in 2019 to broadcast and stream a vast number of UFC events is expected to bring more money into the game, which could see earnings continue to rise.
Each UFC fight offers a base salary to each participant. Outside of elite fights, there is also likely to be a “win bonus” equal to the base salary with additional bonuses for the best performances of the night that can add another USD50,000 to the paycheck.
In 2014, Reebok signed a sponsorship pay deal with the UFC that is due to end in March 2021, though the company will continue as the UFC’s official footwear brand for another nine months. Venum will take over as the UFC’s apparel partner in April 2021. The bulk of the money from the deal will increase pay to the fighters.
Endorsements are deals only open to the most successful MMA fighters. Companies like Modelo and BodyArmor have endorsed World Champions or those considered to have huge potential in the sport, with athlete’s including Brian Ortega and Stipe Miocic (Modelo) and Conor McGregor (Burger King).
The highest-earning non-UFC fighter was Conor McGregor, who announced his retirement in June 2020 after UFC 250 Las Vegas. Despite no fights in 2019 and only one in 2020, against Donald Cerrone, he still earned USD48 million from the sport, placing him 16th in Forbes’ Highest-Paid Athletes for 2020.
McGregor reportedly earning USD100 million on the night he fought and lost to Floyd Mayweather in 2017, his biggest single-fight payment. McGregor has a deal with Reebok worth USD5 million along with many much smaller sponsorships. McGregor has made the most of his notoriety by launching several businesses, including the Proper 12 Irish Whiskey, a hugely successful venture he has claimed earned somewhere around USD1 billion in 2019.