Everyone knows that being filthy rich is one of the perks of being a professional sports athlete. When athletes go from college to the NBA, MLB, or NFL they instantly become very well paid, full-time professional athletes.
The story isn’t the same for aspiring mixed martial artists. It starts at the amateur level (unpaid) and then a fighter can choose to become a professional and start getting paid to fight, but the paychecks aren’t huge starting out. A second job is usually needed in order to achieve their goal of someday becoming the world champion.
The general assumption is that even guys that fight in the UFC are so well paid that they don’t need a part-time job or anything on the side. It’s true that the top level guys like Brock Lesnar, BJ Penn, and Anderson Silva don’t have jobs besides being a full-time mixed martial artist. But every fighter has to start somewhere and having a job on top of being a fighter is very common for guys starting out in this crazy sport we call mixed martial arts. This list shows that every fighter has to do whatever they need to do to support a family and chase their dream at the same time.
Shane Carwin's brain may be his biggest asset.
Shane Carwin is considered one of the most dangerous men in the UFC’s Heavyweight division but he also was a fighter who juggled another job while pursuing his dream. Carwin was actually still working as a mechanical engineer while preparing for his interim UFC Heavyweight title fight with Frank Mir at UFC 111, which Carwin was victorious.
Carwin received a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and he also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Technology from Western State College. Shane Carwin is considered by much of the MMA community as being one of the most intelligent fighters that there is.
Carwin decided to pick two very opposite career paths in being a professional fighter and being a mechanical engineer. His job as an engineer was to run and develop hydraulic water pumps and his job as a mixed martial artist is to knock people unconscious. I think it’s safe to say that his current full-time job is a little more exciting.
Computer geeks aren’t usually considered to be tough but Joe Lauzon shatters the stereotype. Lauzon has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and was a full-time network administrator in Massachusetts before giving up the computer job to become a full-time professional fighter.
Lauzon is a self-proclaimed computer nerd but he is one nerd that is not going to be bullied and thrown into a locker. J-Lau has been shocking everyone ever since his UFC debut in which he took down former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver in just 48 seconds. The pocket-protector wearing geek has since been racking up fight bonuses along with wins.
Lauzon recently picked up another win over Curt Warburton at UFC on Versus. He secured the win via submission (kimura), which gave him his 4th Submission of the Night honors. Don’t ever underestimate a computer wizard.
Shamrock and Severn both broke into the fight game way before it evolved into what it is today. It was tough to make a decent amount of money competing in a sport that was widely banned in almost every state and wasn’t on television. So what is the next logical step for a UFC legend? Professional wrestling, of course!
Shamrock essentially left the UFC at the top of his game. He was considered to be one of the best fighters in the world but he abruptly left for the WWF (now WWE) in 1997. Shamrock had major success early in his wrestling career. His character was based on his UFC background and he was billed as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man”. He eventually returned to fighting in 2000 but was never the same having a record of just 5 wins and 10 losses.
Severn became a professional wrestler in 1995 and became the NWA Heavyweight Champion and later in the same year he would win the UFC Superfight Heavyweight Championship. He also had a one year stint in the WWF, which saw him have a short rivalry with Shamrock that focused on their former rivalry in the UFC.
Severn is currently in search of his 100th mma victory and Shamrock is currently in negotiations to have a fight with boxer James Toney. Who knows how their respective careers would have turned out if they stuck to mixed martial arts instead of jumping off turnbuckles.
Brett Rogers’s story might be the most inspiring out of all of these guys because he was a full-time employee at Sam’s Club and he only trained to fight whenever he had free time. He was actually working at Sam’s Club up until he was asked to step up and fight former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski at a Strikeforce event in St. Louis.
He went into the fight as a huge underdog against the former champ and there was little hope that “The Grim” would be able to come out on top. Before the fight, Rogers talked about how he had to take off work in order to train for the fight and his story truly hit home with a lot of fans. Rogers shocked the world by knocking out Arlovski in just 22 seconds.
Rogers realized his dream and became a full-time fighter and now he doesn’t have to work 40 hours a week at Sam’s Club changing tires for a low wage. Rogers proved everyone wrong when he turned a hobby into a full-time profession. He went from changing tires to changing his life. (His life maybe taking another turn after his recent felony charges.)
James Thompson is a fighter that is probably most remembered for his fight against Kimbo Slice, in which Thompson’s ear exploded after a Kimbo haymaker. But the 6’5 Englishman had to have a side job in order to support his fighting career, that job was a debt collector.
I think it is safe to say that Thompson was probably a pretty effective collector. He is most likely a better debt collector than he is a mixed martial artist. Thompson is known for taking any type of fight, anywhere, any time. He usually gets booked against guys who are going to go out there and throw some leather and he surely has come across some upset debtors.
Thompson recently broke a 9 fight losing skid with a win over former strongman competitor Mariusz Pudzianowski. If Thompson ever gets tired of fighting, then he will always have the option of going back to his former career of scaring people into paying him money.
Sonnen’s part-time job as a real estate agent put him in some hot water rather than put some extra money in his pocket. Sonnen was caught up in a money laundering scandal involving him being a real estate agent. He was convicted of taking part in a scheme to illegally net over $65,000 in loan proceeds.
Sonnen is a fighter that is always in the middle of controversy and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. His ability to influence people with his words is probably one of the things that made him a successful real estate agent. Sonnen was stripped of his real estate license as part of his sentence.
Chael Sonnen hasn’t had a fight since he nearly took home the UFC Middleweight Championship against Anderson Silva. Chael has had his problems with the California State Athletic Commission ever since and is just now able to apply for a license to fight. He is a fighter that has been a hot topic for the past year and time will tell if he will be able to put himself back on the fighting “market” as an elite contender. Sonnen is now rumored to fight Lyoto Machida at UFC 136 in Houston, TX.
Rich Franklin being a teacher and a fighter at the same time is something that is brought up in every fight that he’s in. The UFC furiously pushed the fact that Franklin was a former math teacher because it let people realize that these octagon warriors are real people and not just a bunch of muscle-bound freaks trying to kill each other.
Franklin earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Cincinnati, and he later went on to get his master’s degree in education. He taught at Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, which is one of the biggest high schools in Ohio.
Franklin was one of the faces of the UFC when they made a push onto television, and he has been a cash cow for Dana White and the UFC ever since. He fought in the main event on the first live UFC card that was on free cable TV. He became the UFC Middleweight Champion in June 2005 and held the belt until October of the next year.
Franklin is the number one guy people think of when it comes to mma fighters having another job. He is scheduled to face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 133 in Philadelphia. If Franklin can teach Lil Nog a lesson, then he will become a contender at 205 lbs.