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40 Richest People in MMA History

by: Esteban On  Monday, December 2, 2013
Tags:  Contracts   Endorsement Deals   MMA   Salaries   UFC  

richest people in mma history (richest mma fighters)

Remember on Friends when Monica thought her billionaire boyfriend Pete—played by Jon Favreau—was going to propose to her because he said he had something “really big” to tell her, but really he was just going to say he would be competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship? Well, if you do, then you know back in 1997, the UFC was so bush-league that they were willing to make themselves the punchline of a joke just to get their name out there. 

My how times have changed. Today, the MMA isn’t some obscure, underground sport for blood-thirsty weirdos and eccentric billionaires. It’s the the fastest-growing sport in the world. Many of the UFC’s fighters are household names, and MMA has usurped boxing as America’s combat sport of choice.

That being said, it doesn’t mean MMA fighters are as rich as boxers. Only a handful of the best fighters are making seriously big bucks, and none of those guys have earned as much in their careers as Floyd Mayweather Jr. makes in a single fight. So UFC president Dana White can expect some pushback in the near future as guys come to their senses and realize they need to be earning a bigger piece of the pie.

But how do these guys earn the money they do get? Well, the guys low on the totem poll just get paid for fighting and (if they’re lucky) winning. However, the better an MMA fighter is, the more opportunities he gets to earn cash.

In the UFC, for example, the big guys have exclusive contracts that give them a share of the Pay Per View revenues—usually something like $1 or $2 per buy, which can add up. Then there are sponsorship deals, which can mean anything from endorsing a product in commercials to wearing a company’s logo during a fight.

Want to see how much your favorite fighter is worth? Perfect. Click on those arrows and take a look.


40. Stephan Bonnar

40 stephan bonnar - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 15-8

Net Worth: $500,000

Not long after Bonnar retired (following his loss to Anderson Silva in 2012), it was announced that he would be enshrined in the UFC Hall of Fame…which was the least Dana White could do for the guy, considering the Ultimate Fighter 1 runner-up somehow only earned $500K in his career.


39. Nate Diaz

39 nate diaz - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 17-9

Net Worth: $700,000

Diaz won The Ultimate Fighterlightweight division, but right now Sherdog has him as the #9 lightweight in the world. So he’ll have to pick things up a bit if he wants to move up the earnings list.


38. Ronda Rousey

38 ronda rousey - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 7-0

Net Worth: $750,000

Three quarters of a million may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind Ronda Rousey is only 26 years old, has just seven pro fights under her belt, and is already the best pound-for-pound female fighter in the world—all of which means she stands to earn a lot more money in the very near future.


37. Nick Diaz

37 nate diaz - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Stikeforce, UFC

Record: 26-9

Net Worth: $800,000

Nate Diaz’s older brother Nick was one of the most successful fighters in Strikeforce history. Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much money in Strikeforce as there was UFC…which is probably why they got bought out by UFC and shut down.


36. Cain Velasquez

36 cain velasquez - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 13-1

Net Worth: $900,000

Cain Velasquez is your current UFC heavyweight champion and the #4 PFP fighter in the world according to Sherdog. Hopefully this 31-year-old can use this status to earn some really big bucks before the inevitable decline begins.


35. Bob Sapp

35 bob sapp - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Pride, K-1, Strikeforce

Record: 11-17-1 (MMA); 11-17 (Kickboxing)

Net Worth: $1 Million

Bob Sapp (no relation to Warren, FYI) had a pretty terrible record, but they absolutely loved this guy in Japan, which was where the defunct Pride Fighting Championships were based. So that’s why he appears on this list.


34. Herb Dean

34 herb dean referee - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 2-3

Net Worth: $1.5 Million

How’d he make that much money with only five fights? Easy: after retiring as a fighter he became a referee, and now he’s one of the best in the business.


33. Ken Shamrock

ken shamrock

Promotion: Pride, UFC

Record: 28-15-2

Net Worth: $1.5 Million

MMA would not be what it is today without the legendary Ken Shamrock, former PRIDE and UFC heavyweight champion. However, while I’m sure he enjoys this legacy, he probably would trade some of that in for some of the money the guys today earn. I guess you can’t be an MMA pioneer and one of the richest fighters in the world, can you?


32. Josh Koscheck

32 josh koscheck - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 17-8

Net Worth: $2 Million

This former The Ultimate Fighter contestant has never held a UFC championship at any weight level. He’s just earned his money by fighting a lot—23 times for the UFC, to be precise.


31. Bruce Buffer

31 Bruce Buffer - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: N/A

Net Worth: $2 Million

This longtime UFC octagon announcer is the half brother of Michael Buffer—a.k.a. the most famous ring announcer in boxing history, a.k.a. the “LET’S GET READY TO RUM-BULLLL” guy. That episode of Friends I talked about in the introduction? Yeah, Bruce Buffer was in it.


30. Brandon Vera

30 brandon vera - richest mma fighters

Promotion: WEC, UFC

Record: 12-6

Net Worth: $2.5 Million

Brandon Vera’s greatest success came in the WEC, where he was the Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion. Fortunately, he’s been able to rake in some good money since the WEC was bought out by UFC.


29. Urijah Faber

29 urijah faber - richest mma fighters

Promotion: WEC, UFC

Record: 29-6

Net Worth: $3 Million

This surfer bro—nicknamed the California Kid—is a former WEC featherweight champion.


28. Rich Franklin

28 rich franklin

Promotion: UFC

Record: 29-7

Net Worth: $3.5 Million

Former UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin got rich by being really good for a long time…and by moving up to light heavyweight so he could take on such superstars as Randy Couture.


27. Lyoto Machida

27 lyoto machida - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 20-4

Net Worth: $4 Million

I would have thought this former light heavyweight champ would rank higher on the list. But what do I know?

In any case, $4 million isn’t too shabby—though even NHL hockey players make that much in a year, so…


26. Michael Bisping

26 michael bisping - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Cage Rage, UFC

Record: 24-5

Net Worth: $4.5 Million

Bisping got his start in the UFC as the light heavyweight winner of the Ultimate Fighter 3, and he’s never looked back.


25. Rener Gracie

25 rener gracie - richest mma fighters

Promotion: N/A

Record: N/A

Net Worth:$5 Million

Rener Gracie comes from a legendary Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu family, and today he operates his own self-defense academy with brother. However, back in 2003 he was still doing competitive BJJ, and at one single competition he tore through two UFC fighters and the BJJ World Champion—so that’s why he counts as an MMA fighter.


24. Alistair Overeem

24 alistair overeem - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Strikeforce, K-1, UFC

Record: 36-13 (MMA); 10-4 (Kickboxing)

Net Worth: $5 Million

Five million bucks is nothing to shake a stick at, but I would have thought an historic fighter like Overeem—the only guy to hold titles in MMA and kickboxing at the same time—would rank higher on the list. However, after fighting with PRIDE and later DREAM, he only joined UFC in 2011. So that might explain it.


23. Dan Henderson

23 dan henderson - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Strikeforce, UFC

Record: 29-11

Net Worth: $5.5 Million

At one point, Henderson held both the Pride welterweight belt and the Pride middleweight belt as the same time, which was a first in pro mixed martial arts. He was also the last Strikeforce light heavyweight champ before the UFC shut that down. So that pretty much explains the millions of dollars he has earned.


22. Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic

22 mirki cro cop - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Pride, UFC, K-1

Record: 28-11-2 (MMA); 22-7 (Kickboxing)

Net Worth: $5.5 Million

They call Mirko the Cro Cop because, in addition to his MMA career, he is also a Croation police officer. (I think he earned most of his money in MMA, though.)


21. Jason Mayhem Miller

21 jason mayhem miller - richest mma fighters

Promotion: WEC, Strikeforce, UFC

Record: 28-9

Net Worth: $6 Million

Mayhem is a pretty good fighter, but his career earning were no doubt aided by his stint as the host of MTV’s Bully Beatdown.


20. Mauricio Rua

20 mauricio rua - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Pride, UFC

Record: 21-8

Net Worth: $6.5 Million

Rua has held titles in both UFC and Pride—light heavyweight and middleweight, respectively—and has fought some of the biggest names in the sport. Hence the $6.5 million.


19. Bas Rutten


Promotion: Pancrase, UFC

Record: 28-4-1

Net Worth: $7 Million

Rutten finished his career with a 22-fight unbeaten streak, during which he claimed the UFC heavyweight title. If he’d gone on that kind of historic run in 2009 instead of 1999, he’d be a lot richer.


18. Forrest Griffin

18 forrest griffin

Promotion: UFC

Record: 19-7

Net Worth: $7 Million

Forrest won the first season of Ultimate Fighter, then he went on to win the UFC light heavyweight championship. Griffin, Rashad Evans and Matt Serra are the only Ultimate Fighter winners to go on to win UFC titles.


17. Frank Shamrock

17 frank shamrock - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Pancrase, UFC, Strikeforce

Record: 23-10-2

Net Worth: $8 Million

Frank Shamrock, little brother of Ken Shamrock, won the UFC light heavyweight championship in 1997, then defended the title four straight times, becoming the #1 PFP fighter in the world. So obviously, he and Ken have terrific MMA genes, right?

Wrong. They’re only adopted brothers. So I guess this was a case of nurture over nature.


16. Matt Hughes

16 matt hughes - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 45-10

Net Worth: $8 Million

Hughes was a two-time UFC welterweight champion who lost his titles to the guys who appear at #1 and #2 on this list. He probably wonders why he only comes in at #16.


15. Rashad Evans

15 rashad evans - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 19-3-1

Net Worth: $8.5 Million

Along with Forrest Griffin, this heavyweight winner of Ultimate Fighter 2 is one of just three guys to win the reality TV competition and an actual UFC title.


14. Chael Sonnen

14 chael sonnen - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 28-14-1

Net Worth: $9 Million

Sonnen talks the talk, but unfortunately he’s never been able to walk the walk and bring home an actual UFC championship—and he’s been given his chances, too. However, as one of the biggest “personalities” in the UFC, Sonnen has been able to make a lot of money.


13. Frank Mir

13 frank mir - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 16-8

Net Worth: $9 Million

When you win the UFC heavyweight title twice, you make good money.


12. Junior Dos Santos

12 junior dos santos - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 16-3

Net Worth: $10 Million

Junior Dos Santos has also won the UFC heavyweight title. In fact, he did it by beating the last guy.

Of course, he would later lose that title to Cain Velasquez. But at least Dos Santos is still way ahead of Velasquez on the money list.


11. Jon Bones Jones

11 jon bones jones - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 19-1

Net Worth: $10 Million

Jon Bones Jones is just 26 years old but already one of the UFC biggest superstars and the #1 PFP fighter in the world according to Sherdog. He’s going to make so much more money before it’s all said and done.


10. Quinton Rampage Jackson

10 quinton rampage jackson - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Pride, UFC

Record: 33-11

Net Worth: $12 Million

Did Rampage Jackson make all his money as the UFC light heavyweight champ, or from playing Mr. T (okay, B.A. Baracus) in the A-Team movie? Maybe a little bit of both.


9. Chuck Liddell

9 chuck liddell - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 21-8

Net Worth: $14 Million

Arguably the most famous and important fighter in the history of UFC, it’s no surprise this former light heavyweight champ cracks the top 10. He’s got the second-most knockouts in the history of the promotion, right behind #3 on this list.


8. Fedor Emilianenko

8 fedor emelianenko shaking hands with putin - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Pride, Affliction, Dream, Strikeforce

Record: 35-4

Net Worth: $15 Million

Fedor Emilianenko made $15 million in MMA, and that’s despite the fact that Dana White and company totally blew their chance to get him fighting for the UFC. Some observers say Fedor is the greatest PFP fighter in MMA history, and for that reason he is and always will be “the one that got away” for the UFC.


7. Tito Ortiz

7 tito ortiz - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 16-11-1

Net Worth: $15 Million

Along with Liddell and the guy at #4 on this list, Tito Ortiz was one of the UFC’s biggest breakout stars in the early 2000s when he was light heavyweight champ.


6. Brock Lesnar

6 brock lesnar - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 5-3

Net Worth: $16 Million

Lesnar had one hell of a weird career. First he was a pro wrestler. Then he tried to be an NFL player. Then he joined the UFC and won the heavyweight title in just his fourth fight before retiring after his eight fight.

In any case, he’s kinda rich. And he likes to shoot things.


5. Wanderlei Silva

5 wanderlei silva - richest mma fighters

Promotion: Pride, UFC

Record: 35-12-1

Net Worth: $16 Million

At #5 we have the only guy in the top 10 who achieved his greatest MMA success fighting for a promotion other than UFC. While Silva does indeed fight for UFC now, his greatest achievement is his record-setting Pride winning streak and middleweight championship.


4. Randy Couture

4 randy couture - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 19-11

Net Worth: $17 Million

If Chuck Liddell ins’t the most important fighter in UFC history, then it’s gotta be Randy Couture. His rivalry with Ortiz and Liddell defined the sports and took it mainstream.


3. Anderson Silva

3 anderson silva - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 33-5

Net Worth: $18 Million

For a while, people were saying Anderson Silva might be the greatest MMA fighter of all-time. Then this happened. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how he rebounds.


2. B.J. Penn

2 b.j. penn - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 16-9-2

Net Worth: $22 Million

What made B.J. Penn so special? Well, he was only the second person to hold championships in two different weight classes—UFC light heavyweight and UFC welterweight. The other was Dan Henderson, who accomplished the feat in Pride.


1. George St-Pierre

1 george st-pierre - richest mma fighters

Promotion: UFC

Record: 25-2

Net Worth: $25 Million

Despite his recent beatdown victory, GSP is without a doubt the most successful and marketable champion in UFC history. The guy not only pulls in about $400K per win, but he also earns $2-$3 per PPV buy and major cash from various sponsors. Thus, in total, he makes about $3 million per fight.

That would make it pretty hard to retire…if not for all the blows to the head.


Special thanks to the folks at Celebrity Net Worth for crunching all the numbers.