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Sunday, October 17, 2004
Mixed Martial Arts--- Full Breakdown of Fighter Salaries for UFC 46, UFC 47, UFC 48, and UFC 49
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
We've got all of the information on the fighters' salaries for UFC 46, UFC 47, UFC 48, and UFC 49, along with in-depth analysis for each of those events.
Comparative Notes on Total Fighter Payroll
UFC 46: $540,500
UFC 47: $333,000
UFC 48: $586,000
UFC 49: $535,000
UFC 46 Fighter Salaries
Event took place on January 31, 2004
-Vitor Belfort: $130,000 ($100,000 for fighting; $30,000 win bonus)
-Randy Couture: $120,000 ($120,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $80,000)
-Frank Mir: $90,000 ($60,000 for fighting; $30,000 win bonus)
-Matt Hughes: $55,000 ($55,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $55,000)
-BJ Penn: $50,000 ($25,000 for fighting; $25,000 win bonus)
-Carlos Newton: $30,000 ($30,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $0)
-Matt Serra: $16,000 ($8,000 for fighting; $8,000 win bonus)
-Renato Verissimo: $10,000 ($5,000 for fighting; $5,000 win bonus)
-Josh Thomson: $8,000 ($4,000 for fighting; $4,000 win bonus)
-Lee Murray: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-Georges St. Pierre: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-Hermes Franca: $6,000 ($6,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $6,000)
-Wes Sims: $5,000 ($5,000 for fighting, win bonus would have been $5,000)
-Jorge Rivera: $3,000 ($3,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $3,000)
-Karo Parisyan: $3,000 ($3,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $3,000)
-Jeff Curran: $2,500 ($2,500 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
-Total Fighter Payroll: $540,500
Analysis of UFC 46 Fighter Salaries
-BJ Penn's pay of $25,000 to fight and $25,000 more to win is huge for a lower-weight fighter and is about as good as it gets for a welterweight or lightweight fighter in the United States (other than an established long-term champion like Matt Hughes). Penn's pay could increase to Hughes' level of pay after several successful title defenses, but it would surprise me if it happened before then.
-Vitor Belfort signed a three-fight contract in 2001 that paid him $100,000 to fight and $30,000 more to win. His fight against Randy Couture at UFC 46 was the third and final fight on that contract, so when/if Belfort steps into the Octagon in the future, it may or may not come with a negotiated raise in pay.
-The competition from Pride for the services of top heavyweight fighters ensures that the UFC is going to have to pay a lot to keep any heavyweight star, but even by those standards it was surprising to learn that Frank Mir's contract paid him $60,000 to fight and $30,000 more to win.
-Carlos Newton's contract that paid him $30,000 to fight and had no winning bonus is not different or "suspicious" in any way, as a few people have suggested on message boards. Newton has always fought with gauranteed, no-win-bonus contracts when he fights in the United States. That's probably the only thing that makes it financially worthwhile for him to fight in the United States, due to the fact that he makes so much more money in Japan.
UFC 47 Fighter Salaries
Event took place on April 2, 2004
-Tito Ortiz: $125,000 ($125,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $50,000)
-Chuck Liddell: $100,000 ($50,000 for fighting; $50,000 win bonus)
-Andrei Arlovski: $23,000 ($15,000 for fighting; $8,000 win bonus)
-Genki Sudo: $16,000 ($8,000 for fighting; $8,000 win bonus)
-Wes "Cabbage" Correira: $12,000 ($12,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $12,000)
-Yves Edwards: $12,000 ($6,000 for fighting; $6,000 win bonus)
-Robbie Lawler: $8,000 ($8,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $8,000)
-Hermes Franca: $6,000 ($6,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $6,000)
-Nick Diaz: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-Mike Kyle: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-Wes Sims: $5,000 ($5,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $5,000)
-Chris Lytle: $4,000 ($2,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-Jonathan Wiezorek: $4,000 ($2,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-Mike Brown: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
-Tiki Ghosn: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
-Wade Shipp: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
Total Fighter Payroll: $333,000
Analysis of UFC 47 Fighter Salaries
-Taking home $50,000 to fight and $50,000 more if you win is hardly chump change. A contract can be greater or smaller depending on whether or not you're coming off a loss like Chuck Liddell was. Tito's original deal in his six fight deal was already in place, thus Chuck isn't making "Tito" money. Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, Matt Hughes, Frank Mir, and Tito Ortiz are all making more money at this point than Liddell.
-Genki Sudo was completing the last fight on a three-fight deal with his most recent UFC fight. With the amount of money that Genki Sudo is paid in Japan for "freak show" matches like fighting Butterbean, I would be surprised to see him fight in the UFC again unless Zuffa decided to offer him a big raise. Sudo is likely to be another fighter leaving the UFC, although for very different reasons than other fighters like Ricco Rodriguez and Pedro Rizzo (both of whom were getting big salaries and won't be fighting in the UFC in the forseeable future unless they take drastic pay cuts).
-Fighters making anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to fight and essentially having their paychecks doubled if they win is the standard fare for anyone who only has 1-3 UFC fights under their belt. It's pretty much accepted that your pay is going to start out at that miniscule level, and increase steadily over time if you're brought back. Your pay will then shoot up to five-figures if you become a big star, or six-figures if you become a mega-star (or Tank Abbott).
-It was equally surprising to me that Robbie Lawler still has a four-figure contract and only makes more than $10,000 per fight if he wins, given the fact that he has become an unofficial Zuffa poster boy and is pushed by the UFC as a superstar. His salary of $8,000 to fight and $8,000 more to win is good pay for a welterweight fighter, but not the usual "star" paycheck.
UFC 48 Fighter Salaries and Analysis
Event took place on June 19, 2004
-Ken Shamrock: $170,000 ($120,000 for fighting; $50,000 win bonus)
-Matt Hughes: $110,000 ($55,000 for fighting; $55,000 win bonus)
-Frank Mir: $90,000 ($60,000 for fighting; $30,000 win bonus)
-Kimo: $55,000 ($55,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $0)
-Tim Sylvia: $40,000 ($40,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $40,000)
-Evan Tanner: $30,000 ($15,000 for fighting; $15,000 win bonus)
-Phil Baroni: $20,000 ($20,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $20,000)
-Frank Trigg: $20,000 ($10,000 for fighting; $10,000 win bonus)
-Matt Serra: $16,000 ($8,000 for fighting; $8,000 win bonus)
-Renato Verissimo: $10,000 ($10,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $10,000)
-Georges St. Pierre: $8,000 ($4,000 for fighting; $4,000 win bonus)
-Trevor Prangley: $5,000 ($2,500 for fighting; $2,500 win bonus)
-Dennis Hallman: $4,000 ($4,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $4,000)
-Curtis Stout: $3,000 ($3,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $3,000)
-Jay Hieron: $3,000 ($3,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $3,000)
-Ivan Menjivar: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
Total Fighter Payroll: $586,000
Analysis of UFC 48 Fighter Salaries
-Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz have almost identical UFC contracts when it comes to the bottom line financially. Ortiz makes $125,000 for fighting and another $50,000 if he wins, while Shamrock makes $120,000 for fighting and another $50,000 if he wins.
-Matt Hughes' contract of $55,000 to fight and another $55,000 for winning is on the high end for a fighter of his weight, but it's hard to argue that Hughes isn't worth every penny given the fact that Hughes was one of the most dominant champions in UFC history in any weight class. With BJ Penn unwilling to give Hughes a rematch and choosing to sign with K-1 instead, it seems likely that the now-vacant UFC Welterweight Title will be decided in a fight between Matt Hughes and an opponent to be determined. The list of possible suspects includes Frank Trigg, Georges St. Pierre, and the winner of the Nick Diaz vs. Karo Parisyan fight.
-Frank Mir is still making the same amount of money that he has made for his last several UFC fights--- $60,000 for fighting and another $30,000 if he wins. That was considered by many fans to be an inflated salary for "a non-champion who has never really proven himself," which is what many fans thought of Mir before his decisive victory over Tim Sylvia. However, now that Mir is the bona-fide, 100% legitimate UFC Heavyweight Champion, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a pay raise in the future. This has to be considered even more likely when you consider the huge level of international demand for heavyweight fighters from companies like K-1 and Pride who have much deeper pockets than the UFC. While any light-heavyweight or heavyweight fighter in the UFC is an attractive target for K-1 and Pride, Mir won't be going anywhere in the near future. He has more fights remaining on his UFC contract, and even if he didn't, all contracts for UFC title fights now state that the winner will be exclusive to the UFC for a period of one year after winning the title.
-Kimo's gauranteed contract, which paid him $55,000 to fight and had no win bonus, is not the norm in the UFC but is not all that unusual, either. Several other fighters have had similar contracts in the past (with no win bonus), including Carlos Newton, who always fights with that kind of contract when he fights in the UFC.
-It was expected that Tim Sylvia might have to take a pay cut after coming back from his steroid scandal, but the opposite is true. This is due to the fact that Sylvia is in the middle of a five-fight contract that appears to pay him slightly more with each passing fight. Sylvia's most recent fight prior to UFC 48 saw Sylvia make $30,000 for fighting and another $30,000 for winning. Sylvia's fight at UFC 48 saw him make $40,000 for fighting, and he would have made an additional $40,000 if he had been victorious.
-If you want to talk about fighters who might have had to play a little bit of hardball to get their current deals (based on the current UFC pay landscape), the three names that would come to mind would be Evan Tanner, Frank Trigg, and Renato Verissimo.
-In Renato Verissimo's case, it is extremely unusual for any fighter in only his second UFC fight to have a contract that pays him $10,000 to fight and another $10,000 if he wins. Even Robbie Lawler doesn't make that kind of money, and he is one of the UFC's "poster boys." Then again, when your first UFC fight is such a thorough and impressive domination of a fighter like Carlos Newton, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Verissimo got this much of a pay raise for his second UFC fight. (Verissimo's first UFC fight paid him $5,000 to fight and another $5,000 to win.)
-Frank Trigg pulled off the slightly more impressive feat of getting a two-fight contract with the UFC wherein both fights would pay him $10,000 to fight and another $10,000 to win. (The UFC 45 fight with Matt Hughes was the first fight on Trigg's contract, and the UFC 48 fight with Dennis Hallman was the second.) Trigg likely got that kind of deal by sitting out so long and turning down several offers for less money, and actually making it seem like it was a step down for him to make $10,000 and $10,000. While that's considered a lot of money on the UFC pay scale due to the fact that Trigg is "just a welterweight," it really shouldn't be that way in my opinion. Trigg came in as a big-name free agent signing who was going to fight for the title at his weight class. To do so for any less than $10,000 and $10,000 would only skew the pay scale of the whole 170-pound weight class downward.
-I was also somewhat surprised to see that Evan Tanner's contract for UFC 48 paid him $15,000 to fight and another $15,000 to win. That might not seem like a lot of money, but it's fairly high up on the UFC pay scale for non-main-eventers, and is only slightly smaller than the contract that Baroni himself came into UFC 48 with. The reason it was surprising for me to see Tanner making that much money is not because he doesn't deserve it; I just wouldn't expect that kind of money to be going to someone whose only fights in the UFC over the previous two years consisted of getting TKO'ed by Rich Franklin and scoring a controversial victory over Phil Baroni. It was a risky investment for Zuffa to pay Tanner that much for his UFC 48 bout with Baroni when it was considered a strong possibility that Tanner would be knocked out and might then be gone from the UFC for a long time. Fortunately, Tanner made Zuffa's investment in him more than worth it with his impressive performance at UFC 48.
-One of the reasons that Phil Baroni has gotten the treatment he has gotten from the UFC is that he is a big name from New York, and the UFC's pay-per-view buy rates have always been noticeably lower on the East Coast than on the West Coast. The line of thinking is that if a marketable fighter from a big East Coast city such as New York were to do well in the UFC and blossom into a championship-caliber fighter, it could boost buy-rates on the East Coast. So, given that some people within Zuffa consider Phil Baroni to be one of the company's top draws, I would actually consider his UFC 48 contract of $20,000 to fight and another $20,000 if he wins to be a little lower than I expected.
Not all fighters make $10,000 or more for competing in the UFC. In fact, on most UFC events the majority of the fighters make less than $10,000. The six fighters on this event who were gauranteed to take home less than $10,000 were Georges St. Pierre, Trevor Prangley, Dennis Hallman, Curtis Stout, Jay Hieron, and Ivan Menjivar. This is consistent with the salary structure in the UFC for fighters who are not considered "big stars" and are not long-time UFC veterans.
If you're not considered an already established big star coming in, it's almost certain that your first one, two, or three UFC fights are going to pay you $2,000 to $4,000 to fight, and another $2,000 to $4,000 if you win. Even Lee Murray, with all of the hype around his debut at UFC 46, only made $3,000 and $3,000. This relatively small paycheck is acceptable for fighters who simply love to fight and don't care about the money, but even these fighters have to have "bigger paydays down the road" as a topic in the back of their mind.
What's so risky for fighters coming up through the ranks in the UFC is the fact that there is so little room for error. Looking at UFC newcomers since the first Zuffa-run UFC event in early 2001, the trend is clear: Lose one fight, and there is a very strong possibility that you're out of the UFC for the forseeable future. Lose two fights, and you're almost certainly out. There is often no second chance, and hardly ever a third chance, for a young hopeful just starting out in the UFC making a few thousand dollars per fight. For aspiring mixed martial artists, the task of getting to the UFC is not the big payoff at the end of the rainbow in and of itself. It's only after you succeed in the UFC on multiple occasions that you can begin the dream job of doing something you love for a living and getting paid good money to do it.
UFC 49 Fighter Salaries
Event took place on August 21, 2004
-Randy Couture: $225,000 ($150,000 for fighting; $75,000 win bonus)
-Chuck Liddell: $120,000 ($60,000 for fighting; $60,000 win bonus)
-Vitor Belfort: $100,000 ($100,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $40,000)
-Matt Lindland: $20,000 ($20,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $20,000)
-Yves Edwards: $14,000 ($7,000 for fighting; $7,000 win bonus)
-David Terrell: $8,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $5,000 win bonus)
-Josh Thomson: $6,000 ($6,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $6,000)
-Nick Diaz: $6,000 ($6,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $5,000)
-Justin Eilers: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-Chris Lytle: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-Karo Parisyan: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $3,000 win bonus)
-Joe Riggs: $5,000 ($3,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-Mike Kyle: $4,000 ($4,000 for fighting; $4,000 win bonus)
-Vernon White: $4,000 ($4,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $4,000)
-Ronald Jhun: $3,000 ($3,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $3,000)
-Joe Doerksen: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
Total Fighter Payroll: $535,000
Analysis of UFC 49 Fighter Salaries
-As the argument continues to gain strength over time that Randy Couture is the greatest MMA fighter of all time, Couture's UFC paychecks have also steadily increased over time. At UFC 44, Couture's bout agreement was for $105,000 to fight and $70,000 more to win. Couture's UFC 46 bout agreement for the Belfort fight was for $120,000 to fight and $80,000 to win. Couture's UFC 49 bout agreement for the Belfort rematch was for $150,000 to fight and $75,000 to win.
It only makes sense that Couture's salary is steadily increasing over time because not only is he cementing his legacy among hardcore fans as perhaps the most accomplished MMA fighter ever, but just as importantly he is getting the recognition from casual fans that he deserves (as evidenced by the crowd's reaction to him at UFC 49). Couture is a huge star even among casual fans after dismantling Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, and will only be seen as a bigger star in fans' eyes after his complete domination of Vitor Belfort at UFC 49. Randy Couture is at the top level of the UFC salary pyramid, and deservedly so.
-Chuck Liddell's salary continues to rise as time passes. His salary went from its old mark of $40,000 to fight and $40,000 more to win to the higher amount of $50,000 to fight and $50,000 more to win for his UFC 47 fight with Tito Ortiz, and it increased further at UFC 49 with a bout agreement that paid him $60,000 to fight and $60,000 more to win. However, it's still a lower salary than one might expect.
-Vitor Belfort's salary in the Zuffa-owned UFC has traditionally been $100,000 to fight and $30,000 more to win. He got a slight raise in his UFC 49 salary with a bout agreement of $100,000 to fight and $40,000 more to win, but it ended up not making a difference because he didn't win and thus didn't collect his win bonus. When you analyze the top tier of the UFC's pay scale, Belfort's salary is right where it should be on the totem pole for the most part. He's making six figures, but not much more than $100,000. The most Belfort can make for any given fight is $140,000, while fighters who are bigger proven draws like Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, and Tito Ortiz have maximum amounts that range from $170,000 to $225,000 for any given fight. If there's any discrepancy in the pay scale where Belfort is concerned, it's when you compare his contract to Chuck Liddell's.
-Comparing Belfort and Liddell on the totem pole, Belfort has a richer contract with a higher guaranteed amount and a higher maximum amount for any given fight, despite the fact that Liddell is now (arguably) a far bigger star in casual fans' eyes than Belfort. However, this may be able to be justified by the fact that salaries are ultimately dictated by the supply and demand of what the competition would be willing to pay for any given fighter, and Belfort would probably command more on the Japanese market than Liddell. Belfort has fought a lot more than Liddell has in Japan, and Belfort is certainly more well-known in Japan among casual fans. So, if you want to know why Vitor Belfort has a richer UFC contract that Chuck Liddell despite the fact that Liddell is a bigger star in the USA, you can chalk it up to the unspoken but ever-present "Pride Factor."
-Moving on to the rest of the pay scale for UFC 49, Matt Lindland's salary of $20,000 to fight and $20,000 is lower than one might expect. Fighters in the UFC are rewarded over the course of time for having had fights in the UFC, and especially having had wins in the UFC. Going into the UFC 49 fight with David Terrell, Lindland had eight fights in the UFC, and he had only lost two of them (with one of those two losses being the freak accident against Falaniko Vitale). You also can't ignore the fact that Lindland is an Olympic Silver Medalist and gives the sport a huge credibility boost in the eyes of mainstream media types who tend to ignorantly dismiss MMA competitors as untrained street fighters.
-Yves Edwards' bout agreement paid him $7,000 to fight and $7,000 to more to win. That is actually a good paycheck for a lightweight fighter in the US, which actually speaks volumes about how underpaid lightweight fighters are in the US. There's no doubt that Edwards deserves his salary on the UFC pay scale because as previously mentioned, UFC fighters are normally rewarded for fighting in the UFC and for winning in the UFC. Going into his UFC 49 fight with Josh Thomson, Yves had seven fights in the UFC and had won his last five UFC fights. Yves is a talented fighter who is also marketable, and he has plowed through a who's who of the lightweight division without having lost in the UFC for over two years. Taking all of that into consideration, it's fair to say that when $7,000 and $7,000 is the top of a weight division's pay scale instead of the bottom, and when the UFC has not had a Lightweight Champion since early 2002 and has no plans to crown one, it doesn't create confidence in the future of the division.
-David Terrell's salary was a decent amount for a fighter making his UFC debut, and it was unique in the sense that Terrell's fight money and his win bonus were not identical as those numbers usually are. Terrell was only paid $3,000 to fight and had a win bonus of $5,000, which he collected by beating Matt Lindland. Terrell may be in line for a big push from the UFC in the future, and it would seem that he is less likely to get a big head than most in his position due to the fact that he is part of the well-grounded Cesar Gracie fight team and also has no history of attitude problems.
-Josh Thomson and Nick Diaz serve as good examples of the fact that fighters make more money as they get more UFC fights under their belt. Thomson started off in the UFC making a mere $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win, and he is now making $6,000 to fight and $6,000 more to win. Meanwhile, Diaz started off making $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win; then he made $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win; and he now makes $6,000 to fight and $5,000 more to win. In Diaz' case, I would actually expect him to be making more money due to the fact that he not only defeated UFC poster boy Robbie Lawler, but he did so in impressive fashion by beating Lawler at his own game and knocking him out. Thomson and Diaz still aren't making much money, but it's a big improvement over what they were initially making and it demonstrates the usual trend for fighters who are relatively new to the UFC. Even though Thomson and Diaz both lost their fights on this card, it's safe to say (or at least it should be) that with all of their previous wins, they will both still be major players in their respective weight classes in the future.
-Justin Eilers' salary of $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win is actually on the low side for the heavyweight division. However, with his impressive win over Mike Kyle and the fact that he does have some star potential (and is a heavyweight), you can probably expect those numbers to increase pretty quickly in Eilers' future UFC fights.
-Chris Lytle's pay of $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win is an increase from his previous pay of $2,000 and $2,000, but I would have expected him to get a larger increase than this. Considering the fact that his first fight in the company was a very close decision loss to Robbie Lawler in an exciting fight, and his second fight was an impressive victory over Tiki, I expected to see a larger salary than $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win. With Lytle looking very impressive in controlling and submitting a very tough fighter in Ronald Jhun who is much more accomplished than Tiki, he could be a star in the welterweight division and will probably be making a lot more than this for his next UFC fight.
-Karo Parisyan did not get a raise from his previous UFC fight, but that's probably because he lost his previous UFC fight (via decision in a close fight with Georges St. Pierre). For his UFC 49 fight, Parisyan only made $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win. Parisyan had "potential future star" written all over him after his explosive UFC debut, and now after beating Nick Diaz, I expect him to have a pretty good standing in the welterweight division and a chance to make more money. He's 2-1 in the UFC, and the one thing that all of his UFC fights have in common is that they were all exciting fights.
-Mike Kyle got a small increase in pay after knocking out Wes Sims, 4,000 to fight, 4,000 to win, while Joe Riggs, Joe Doerksen, and Ronald Jhun all made typical salaries for fighters making their UFC debuts with 3,000 to show and 2,000 to win. It's not pretty, but that's the kind of money fighters make when starting out in the UFC, and it's only after they win one or more fights that they have a chance to make more money.
-You might be surprised to see that Vernon White "only" made $4,000 to fight and $4,000 more to win, but it's not as surprising when you consider the fact that going into his loss to Chuck Liddell, White was 0-3-1 in his last four MMA fights.