Every sports fan knows by now that professional athletes typically make a ton of money. Even non-star participants can set up themselves, their families and generations to come after them with intense wealth if their careers last long enough. They don’t even need to be frequent champions or necessarily hold a ton of sponsorships.
And yet, UFC fighters don’t typically come up in this discussion. The focus tends to lie almost exclusively with those who play soccer, football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Make no mistake, though, UFC fighters do alright by their measure.
We’re not even talking just main-card fighters, either. Sure, those are the highest earners. But let’s say you’re watching one of the handful of fights during UFC 259. Anyone who is partaking in that event, whether they win or lose, is doing okay for themselves.
Of course, like golf and tennis, much of the money for UFC fighters comes from endorsements. Even the best of the best won’t get filthy rich from their Octagon-specific winnings alone.
This isn’t to say some won’t come close. They will. It all depends on how much of a draw they are.
To illustrate this, we’ve compiled a list of the highest-earning UFC fighters of all time. The salaries for this group come from the folks over at Statista, and they pertain to match earnings only. Any endorsements or pay-per-view bonuses are excluded, as is money that may come from crossover appearances in boxing matches. Mixed martial arts fights are all we care about.
- Conor McGregor ($15.1 million)
Conor McGregor, also known as The Notorious, takes first place by a landslide. Roughly no one should be surprised.
Nobody was more synonymous with the sport when he was at his peak. Even now, with his prime and a long hiatus from the octagon firmly behind him, he reels in lucrative purses for every fight he takes.
And don’t let his UFC-only earnings fool you. He has a lot more money in the bank. Never mind endorsements. He received around $75 million alone for his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“Conor McGregor” by Jeff Bottari is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- Alistair Overeem ($9.6 million)
Alistair Overeem gets here by virtue of sheer volume. The 40-year-old has navigated more than 60 UFC fights, compiling a record of 47-19 in the process.
While he has never necessarily been the biggest name in the sport, he has racked up his fair share of championships. He is a former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, DREAM Heavyweight Champion and K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, and he’s also the first fighter ever to hold world titles in both MMA and K-1 kickboxing at the same time.
- Khabib Nurmagomedov ($8.7 million)
Expect Khabib Nurmagomedov to eventually take third place. It might even happen really soon.
Currently 32, Nurmagomedov is arguably the hottest name in men’s UFC at the moment. More than $6 million of his career earnings came in 2020 alone.
And really, forget his present-day popularity. He’s considered one of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen, period.
“Khabib Nurmagomedov” by Stephen R. Sylvanie is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- Anderson Silva ($8.1 million)
Anderson Silva, now 45, was at one time the most recognizable name in men’s UFC. He has the fight track record to prove it, too. Across 45 matches, he turned in a rock-solid 34-11 record.
While the latter part of his career was never smooth sailing, he put together one of the most dominant title runs in UFC history. He holds the longest-ever title reign for the sport, one that spanned 2,457 days, as the Middleweight Champion, between the years 2006 and 2013.
- Michael Bisping ($7.1 million)
Michael Bipsing has traded in his hand wraps for both commentating and acting roles in recent years. But the 41-year-old didn’t walk away from competitive fighting before raking in more than $7 million in earnings.
Though Bisping is remembered for his devastating power—his 30-9 career record included 18 victories by knockout—he was also sort of a precedent-setter. At UFC 78, he became the first British fighter to compete in the UFC main event. On top of that, at UFC 199, he became the first British fighter to win a UFC title.
Actually, we should say he was the first and only British fighter to win a UFC title. No one else has followed suit yet.