According to a recent article in Esquire magazine, the UFC has 18 fighters making over $1 million a year:
“White estimates that eighteen of his ultimate fighters earn in the millions per annum. Many others make in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. New guys make fifty to seventy-five, depending where you are in the pecking order.”
This made me very curious. Who are making over a million a year? I thought there were a few that were obvious, but 18 seemed to me at least, a little high. So I spent way too much time researching this to figure out who these 18 fighters are.
Note: No pay figures include sponsorship, “under-the-table”, or any other sort of compensation other than the type listed that fighters are believed to receive.
First, I figured out who make the most disclosed pay and bonuses in 2009:
1. George St. Pierre - $800k
2. Lyoto Machida - $585k
3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - $460k
4. Brock Lesner - $400k
5. Quinton Jackson - $385K
6. Randy Couture - $310K
Now there were a few in the $200k range, but I’m not going to include them just yet.
The biggest problem I had while figuring disclosed pay is that UFC 93, 95, 97, 99, 101, 103, 105, and 107 had no disclosed pay. So for this, I went back and figured an average of what a fighter was making in 2008 and use that as their base pay for an event in which they fought that did not have a disclosed pay amount.
(Please note that these are estimates. All fighters who had an included estimated pay is denoted with an asterisk.)
1. George St. Pierre - $800K
2. *Dan Henderson - $600K
3. Lyoto Machida - $585K
4. *Shogun Rua - $565k
5. *Randy Couture - $560K
6. *Chuck Liddell - $500K
7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - $460K
8. *Forrest Griffin - $435K
9. Brock Lesner - $400K
10. *Anderson Silva - $400k
11. Quinton Jackson - $385K
12. *B.J. Penn - $310K
13. *Tito Ortiz - $250K
14. *Diego Sanchez - $225K
15. Rich Franklin - $210K
16. Wanderlei Silva - $210K
Now, here is when things get a little tricky. It is widely accepted that the main draws on any given card are given a cut of the pay-per-view revenue. According to FighterLinks.com, this is how the PPV bonuses are distributed:
Up to 100K buys--$0
100K-175K--@ $1 = $75K
175K-300K--@ $1.50 = 187K
300K-330K--@ $2 = 60K
330K+ = (# of buys -330K) X $3
So to make it a little simpler, if a PPV hits more than 330K buys, which all of the events in 2009 did, the fighter would automatically get the first three bonuses ($332K) plus $3 for every buy in excess of 330K.
Since nobody knows for sure who gets these bonuses, I am going to assume that if the main event featured a title bout, the champion, or champions in some cases, receive their cut based on the table above. The title challenger or a “name” fighter on the card would receive a $332K bonus. Using this theory and the estimated pay-per-view buys provided by MMAPayout.com, these are the fighters who made the Millionaire’s list.