Average UFC Salary Remains Difficult to Determine as Sport Continues to Grow

Jun 15, 2016
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is purposefully vague about what it discloses in terms of fighter earnings. With that in mind, determining the average UFC salary can be a difficult task indeed.

While the Nevada Athletic Commission and many other sanctioning bodies disclose reveal show and win money following UFC events, there are other state athletic commissions that do not disclose fighter pay at all. Even when a fighter’s disclosed payday is public knowledge, there is other income for which to account including those rumored “backroom bonuses,” sponsor pay and for some, pay-per-view points.

According to an August 2015 report from The Economist, the median pay per fight in the UFC is $24,500. However, that does not account for how many times a fighter steps into the Octagon per year, as the most active athletes can compete as often as four or five times in a 12-month period, while injuries and other unforeseen circumstances could reduce that figure to just one or two appearances.

If anything, the numbers should be trending upward as the UFC’s reach continues to grow. UFC 196, for example, was big business for the promotion, as it reportedly did in the neighborhood of 1.5 million pay-per-view buys and featured big earners in Conor McGregor ($1 million), Nate Diaz ($500,000) and Holly Holm ($500,000).

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The gap between the haves and the have nots remains large, however, because on that same card, “The Ultimate Fighter 22” cast member Julian Erosa pocketed an event-low $12,000 for his loss to Teruto Ishihara in the evening’s opening bout. Even minimum fighter pay is trending upward, as the least a UFC athlete can make to show was recently increased from $8,000 to $10,000.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta recently spoke out on the backlash regarding fighter pay shortly after the promotion that it was building a state-of-the-art campus in Las Vegas late last year. While some saw the project as extravagant, especially with base fighter pay so low, Fertitta claimed that his company is ahead of the curve.

"That's always going to be an issue," Fertitta said. "If we distributed 200 percent of our revenues, people would be complaining about fighter pay. The fact of the matter is, fighter pay has continued to increase every single year that we've owned the company.

"We pay way more than anybody else in the space, that's a factor. You do have some fighters that maybe aren't happy with what they get, but at the end of the day, the fighters that achieve great things in this sport and get to the level of actually making a career of it, you don't see many of those athletes complaining. That's the fact of the matter. The guys who are rising to the top are making the majority of the money.”

While the Las Vegas-based promotion appears to be more profitable than ever with the rise of stars like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, with so many variables involved, the average UFC salary remains in an ever-fluid state.

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