John Cholish’s recent comments regarding fighter pay have brought the topic back to the forefront of fan thought. This isn’t the first time we’ve had a conversation amongst each other regarding fighter pay – it was a regular topic back when the UFC first started seeing major success and only went away after Dana White convinced everyone that secret bonus money plus sponsorship money = riches for even the lowest of fighters on the UFC totem pole.

Maybe that’s what will quiet everyone down once again, but until then here’s BloodyElbow user Decado’s fanpost breaking down the numbers we know on UFC fighter pay.

Incoming Event Revenue

Total UFC Gate income for 2011: approx $58.2m
Average Gate: $2.1m
Total UFC PPV income for 2011: approx $202m.
Average PPV income: $7.5m


Total announced UFC fighter salaries for 2011: approx $23,642,000
Average Announced Salary Payout per event: approx $875,000
Average Percentage of announced salaries to top 4 fighters on card*: 57.5%
Average Paid out to bottom 18 fighters: $371,875. $20,000 per fighter.
Total announced UFC bonuses for 2011: $7,321,000
Total estimated PPV points pay out for 2011: approx $8,000,000
Total estimated “discretionary bonus”** : $6m
Percentage of total event income (PPV+Gate) Paid to fighters: 17%
Percentage of total income (event+misc) Paid to fighters: 9.5%
Amount of total Salary + PPV Points paid out to top 10% of fighters: $26.29m
Percentage of total Salary + PPV Points paid out to top 10% of fighters***: 83%


Total live event revenue was approx: $260m
Total estimated revenue was approx: $475m
Total paid out to fighters (salary+PPV+Bonuses): $44.9m

*Not including PPV points, bonuses etc.
**based on average of $10,000 for every fighter, after every fight
***Not including any bonus payments.

Summary & Thoughts

As of 2011 the UFC was paying roughly 9.5% off its overall revenue to the fighters in total. This seems low for such an athlete-driven venture to me, and it seems unlikely that the UFCs expenses run more than 50% of its revenue, given the comments in the Standard & Poor’s report about profitability[1].

From my calculations if they paid every guy a minimum of 20/20 it would increase their salary expenses by under $7million per year. 30/30 would be under $12 million per year. One average Pay-per-view brings in roughly that much.

This would allow fighters joining the UFC to train full time without having to worry about the roof over their head or feeding their family. As things stand after taxes a fighter joining the UFC and losing will be guaranteed about $4,000. This $4,000 needs to cover his living expenses for the last 3 months, as well as all of his training, and flights and hotel rooms for 2 of his corner men if he wants to have 3 corner men like his opponent. That’s a pretty untenable situation. If the fighter wins, they will have a guarantee of about $9,000 to cover those same expenses.

Assuming a good training camp costs $2,000 for 3 months, and flights/hotels for 2 cornermen costs another $1,000, that leaves $6,000 to live on. If a fighter fights 3 times in a year and goes 2-1, they would be guaranteed roughly $22,000 before expenses, and about $13,000 after expenses. If the UFC matches the fighters “show” money for every fight, that puts on the fighter on about $25,000 per year.

If the starting pay was upped to $20/20 that same fighter would be guaranteed about $75,000 for going 2-1. After expenses he would have roughly $64,000 to live on for the year. The UFC’s sliding scale would change to accommodate this, and if we assume the fighters got a raise of 3/3 after every fight, it would cost the UFC approx 2% of their revenue (total) to cover this for the entire roster..

That’s the most frustrating part of this whole discussion – raising the bar for starting fighters wouldn’t affect the UFC’s bottom line very much. But it would make all the difference for the fighters trying to claw their way up the ladder. How many athletes have done the math and realized it’s a bad bet to go into MMA because even making it into the UFC doesn’t guarantee you a living wage?

You gotta make it into the UFC and then make it in the UFC if you wanna start coming close to clearing six figures. And then how long are you gonna stay competitive in the UFC? The average length of a major league baseball player’s career is 5.6 years. NHL is five years. Assuming the UFC is on par (in reality it’s probably much shorter), that’s not a lot of time to earn enough money to make a career in MMA worthwhile.