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UFC fighter pay list has the potential to generate bad blood, or for the wise, fatter pockets

There’s no better way to create hate and discontent within the ranks then by comparing pay. I’ve always taken the workplace attitude of not putting much thought into what others get and to just worry about myself. But then one day while searching through some old documents I happened across payroll records. Was it unethical to look at them? Probably. Did I regret it? Shit yeah. Would I do it again? Without hesitation. I was flabbergasted with the compensation some of my fellow workers, many of whom I consider fairly useless, were receiving. Naturally my initial guilty thought of, “Oh man I don’t know if I should be looking at these,” quickly transmogrified into bitterness and jealousy, “Wait, this worthless bastard makes more than me!”

Well, MMA Manifesto went and stirred the shit pot something fierce with what must have been an exhaustive collection of data on the total salaries for 772 UFC fighters. Now it’s important to note they could only base their figures on disclosed payouts, which consist solely of contracted dollars including win bonuses and FOTN bonuses. Other means of income, such as “locker room” bonuses, sponsorships, pay per view cuts, and man-whoring are NOT included. Not to mention that it’s an aggregate list, consisting of old and new-school fighters; “old-school “ in this context meaning badly paid, not the current definition of willing to sacrifice health and long-term career objectives for the good of the company.

Of course, after every event in an American state whose athletic commission mandates the public revealing of fighter purses this information is widely available. But putting it all together in such a comprehensive list is something I’ve never seen, and has the potential to inspire some bad blood. The list is pretty freakin’ great, and provides an astute fighter with a cornucopia of data to fatten their pockets.

Here are some of the things that stood out to me:

You don’t have to be a star to make the long dough, just be a consistent presence. Guys like Gabe Gonzaga, Fabricio Werdum, Joe Stevenson, and Nate Marquardt are known names in the MMA world, but they’re certainly not stars with the crossover appeal necessary to make the really huge dollars, yet they’ve all done fairly well, flirting with seven figures; while the likes of the unheralded Cheick Kongo, Brandon Vera, and Jon Fitch have all surpassed that mark.

It was baffling when, in 2008, Tim Sylvia requested, and was granted a release from his UFC contract. Okay, the request was baffling, not so much that the UFC honored it. But the reason is because he wanted to fight Fedor, and Affliction offered him that one fight at $800,000, or about 88% of what he made in 13 UFC fights. Everyone thought Timmy was an idiot for leaving the UFC. But he got paid. Currently he makes low-to-mid five figures to fight on the regional circuit. Who’s the idiot now?

Be exciting. This one is a no-brainer of course. The UFC awards the kill-or-be-killed types, and that’s why Chris Lytle, Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone, and Joe Lauzon – all Fight of the Night regulars – made a nice amount of dough in the upper six figure range (Diaz is into seven figures).

Michael Bisping, who has never fought for a title and has but a single Top 10 victory to his credit, has made more than former champions and UFC mainstays BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, GSP, Anderson Silva, Frank Mir, and Rich Franklin. Granted, none of those fellows is starving in the streets, but it’s hard to imagine there isn’t just a little animosity for someone like Franklin, who is the most famous “company man” in the UFC, a former champion, has fought more than Bisping, and yet has grossed about 43% of what Bisping has. The true sin is that in just a few fights, Bisping will surpass the all-time leader and MMA pimp-daddy, Chuck Liddell. (Note to young fighters: Find out who Bisping’s agent is and secure him immediately).

Be a Gracie. Renzo was fortunate enough to have his sole UFC fight in the UAE, where financial anonymity is a sacred rite and the driving force behind why that land has become the new playground for the rich, but I’d bet he made a decent penny. Rolles Gracie pulled in $15,000 on last name alone, because damn sure no one outside the grappling circuit knew who he was before UFC 109. And Royce Gracie pulled in a sweet $400,000 for his fight against Matt Hughes, who was the champion at the time, and made a paltry $55,000 in comparison. Granted, Royce is the grand pappy and commands a handsome salary, but more than seven times that of the current champion? Dayum!

Be a pudgy, past-his-prime boxer who produces hilarious, unintelligible YouTube videos on the reg. James Toney made half a mil for his lone UFC appearance, and it was an utter, yet totally predictable disaster. Randy Couture took Toney down with an ankle-pick – a move even Randy admitted was slightly disrespectful to try on anyone with even a cursory grasp of grappling acumen, then commenced to apply a first round arm triangle that would have come 90 seconds earlier had he not been against the cage.

These are just my observations. Check out the list to draw your own conclusions, and feel free to riff your way to the rank of expert statistician.