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.
The original "Ultimate Fighter" barely makes the list at $1.099M.
The former Middleweight and unofficial "Catchweight" champion made $1.206M.
The newly crowned Light Heavyweight champion pulled in $1.229M. Not too shabby considering how bad he looked against Mark Coleman.
He will probably end up making more for his upcoming fight with Quinton Jackson than he made in all of 2009, but he did make a respectable $1.447M
The recently uncrowned Light Heavyweight champion, or the "Karate Kid" as my daughter likes to call him, raked in $1.759M.
The current Middleweight kingpin put $2.024M under his mattress last year, which made it very lumpy by the way.
"The Prodigy" earned $3.554M. For more, go to BJPenn.com.
I guess taking a good old fashion butt-kicking does have its advantages as it make Mir $4.232M richer.
Being a genetic freak made Brock $4.542M richer. That's a lot of hunting bows.
The B/R #1 Pound-For-Pound fighter is also the #1 paid fighter in the UFC, as he added a measly $6.684M to his bank account.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira--$792K
After spending 3 days digging up information, crunching numbers, and eating Advil like they were going out of style, the 10 millionaires I came up with doesn’t surprise me too much. However, the dollar amounts for a few are probably a little inflated. The other eight who came close, with the exception of Diego Sanchez, I could see being in the Millionaire’s club as well.
Unfortunately, Dana White is very tight lipped about what he pays his fighters, so we’ll never truly know who is making the big bucks and who is getting hosed.
Be sure to check out our show tonight at Blogtalkradio.com/CagesideReport starting at 10:00 CST. We'll be reviewing last Saturday's Strikeforce card, previewing and making our predictions for UFC 114, and will be debuing our new segment "5 Rounds". It's going to be a great hour of Internet Radio!!