The Highest-Paid UFC Fighters of All Time, Ranked
The Ultimate Fighting Championship, also known as UFC, is an American fighting competition based out of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The organization was started in 1993 and has been a phenomenon of its own ever since. In every sports bar across the country, TVs are tuned in to watch their favorite fighters stand head-to-head to be the baddest fighter in the country.
The pay scale for UFC fighters can be a little confusing for those of us not in the MMA world, so we’ll break it down. Every fighter starts out with a base salary for making weight and fighting. After that, each fighter is considered an independent contractor that negotiates their pay rates with the UFC. The only way to get higher pay is to win more fights and get more popular.
Besides a fighter’s base pay, there’s also a win bonus fo each fight. If you’re popular enough, brands can also endorse fighters for publicity. Scoring a brand endorsement can earn these fighters a hefty paycheck, but the problem is that these brands only want the most popular fighters repping their stuff. So, if you fall from the top, you’ll likely not be considered for the endorsement again.
We took a look at all of the highest-paid fighters in UFC and ranked them based on their earnings. Here’s what we found.
30. Demetrious Johnson - $3.53 Million
Demetrious is an American mixed martial artist, and he is the inaugural and former UFC Flyweight Champion. He’s known for his impressively quick striking and movement ability in the ring. Demetrious holds the record for most takedowns in UFC flyweight history and is tied for the record of the latest finish in UFC history with a submission win of 4:59.
If that wasn’t enough, he’s also the only flyweight fighter to record over 10 takedowns in three fights, and he holds the record for most finishes in UFC history with 7. Demetrious Johnson has been called the greatest mixed martial artists in the world by ESPN, MMA Weekly, and various UFC personnel. He comes in 30th on our list with $3.53 million in earnings.
29. Chris Weidman - $3.55 Million
Chris Weidman, an accomplished amateur wrestler, was a two-time NJCAA All-American and a two-time NCAA Division All-American during his collegiate career. He started his career in mixed martial arts in 2008 and joined the UFC in 2011. Shortly after joining, he gained notoriety for gaining a 9-0 record.
In 2013, Weidman rocked UFC by defeating fighter Anderson Silva, ending Silva’s 16-fight winning streak in the UFC and his seven-year reign as the Middleweight Champion. This win earned Weidman the title of UFC Middleweight Champion, which he held for two and a half years. He’s 29th on our list earning $3.55 Million.
28. Jose Aldo - $3.80 Million
Jose Aldo is Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and the first UFC Featherweight Champion. He’s the former three-time UFC Featherweight Champion overall, undisputed twice and interim champion once. After his first defeat in 2005, Aldo was undefeated for over a decade. He won 18 straight fights until UFC 194.
His reputation landed him the title of Sherdog’s 2009 Fighter of the Year. In 2017 Sherdog gave him his creds again on their April 2017 pound-for-pound rankings calling him “the greatest featherweight in mixed martial arts history.” His success in UFC has paid off quite nicely, he comes in at 28 on our list at $3.80 million in earnings.
27. Robbie Lawler - $3.82 Million
Robbie Lawler, an American pro-MMA fighter since 2001, is the former UFC Welterweight Champion and former EliteXC Middleweight Champion. He’s known for being an aggressive fighter in the ring and as the only fighter to have won three consecutive “Fight of the Year” awards from both Sherdog and MMA Fighting.
Robbie was born in San Diego California, but moved to Bettndorf, Iowa with his father when he was ten years old. There, he started practicing taekwondo and karate. Lawler’s won his Welterweight title in 2014 after his rematch with Johny Hendricks at UFC 181. Robbie Lawler comes in at 27th on our list with earnings around $3.82 million.
26. Fabricio Werdum - $3.87 Million
Former Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum is a Brazilian MMA fighter and 4-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion. Additionally, he’s also a two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Heavyweight Champion and European Jiu-Jitsu Champion. He’s fought in many circuits including PRIDE, UFC, Strikforce, and Jungle Fight.
When Fabricio made the decision to leave the UFC, he was #14 in the rankings in the UFC heavyweight rankings. Fabricio started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend choked him till he was unconscious. After finding success in competitions, he then moved to Spain where he became a BJJ World Champion. He’s 26th on our list with earnings of $3.87 million
25. Tyron Woodley - $3.97 Million
American professional MMA fighter and broadcast analyst, Tyron Lakent Woodley, is a former UFC Welterweight Champion who gained the title four times. Besides UFC, Tyron competed at Strikeforce and was an NCAA Division I collegiate wrestler for the Missouri Tigers. He was a two-time All-American and Big 12 Conference Champion.
Tyron was born and raised in Ferguson Missouri, along with his twelve other brothers and sisters. In high school, Woodley competed in football and amateur wrestling. He won the Missouri 4A Men’s State Championship in 2000, and later joined the wrestling team at the University of Missouri. All those years of practiced paid off, because he comes in at 25th on our list with $3.97 million in earnings.
24. Tito Ortiz - $4.13 Million
Tito Ortiz is currently signed to the Combate Americas promotion; however, he is best known for his performances with the UFC. Ortiz is a former Light Heavyweight Champion, holding the title from April 14, 2000, to September 26, 2003. Ortiz is one of the early stars off UFC, and he went on to become the biggest pay-per-view draw of 2006.
Nowadays, Ortiz is the CEO of Punishment Athletics MMA, a gym equipment and clothing line located in Huntington Beach, California. His name went down in the books in 2012 when he was the ninth fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. He’s even been sworn into office as the mayor pro tempore for Huntington Beach, California. He comes in at 24th on our list with a net worth of 4.13 million in earnings.
23. Ronda Rousey - $4.27 Million
We’ve gotten to know Ronda Rousey for some time now after her run on WWE and the UFC. However, she took a break from wrestling after WrestleMania 2019. Besides her time on cable, she’s also the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo with a bronze medal earned at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Ronda is used to being the first to do things. In fact, she was part of the first women’s fight in UFC history when she defeated Liz Carmouche and defended her title at UFC 157. She later set the record for most UFC title defenses by a woman at six defenses. Then in 2018, she became the first woman fighter to be inducted by the UFC Hall of Fame. She comes in at 23 on our list, with $4.27 million in earnings.
22. Frankie Edgar - $4.34 Million
Former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar is an American MMA fighter competing in the Bantamweight category of the UFC. Frankie captured the Lightweight title multiple times, but that wasn’t enough for him. He challenged the Featherweight title holder on three separate occasions.
Before joining the UFC, Frankie competed in collegiate wrestling with Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where he was a four-time NCAA Division I qualifier. Before that, he even wrestled in high school at Toms River High School East! As of early 2021, Edgar ranks in at #7 for the UFC bantamweight rankings. He comes in at 22nd on our list with $4.34 million in earnings.
21. Chuck Liddell - $4.38 Million
Currently retired, Chuck Liddell is a former UC Light Heavyweight Champion. He’s had a total of 23 fights with the UFC and is considered to be the main force that brought MMA to mainstream media in American sports and entertainment. Liddell was one of the early stars of the UFC, joining in 1998--he debuted at UFC 17 in Mobile, Alabama.
By 2002, Liddell was famed as the #1 contender in the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. He had massive success with fans of the show and was considered a fan favorite. The fight everyone was hoping for at the time was a face-off between Ortiz and Liddell, it finally happened at UFC 47 in 2004 where Liddell defeated Ortiz with a TKO. He comes in at 21st on our list with $4.38 million in earnings.
20. Dan Henderson - $4.40 Million
Retired MMA fighter and Olympic wrestler, Dan Henderson last competed as a middleweight in the UFC. Competing in multiple circuits in this category, Henderson earned the title of Welterweight and Middleweight Champion of PRIDE as well as the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion.
Henderson had some serious grit, and it paid off. He was the first MMA fighter to hold two titles in two different weight classes concurrently in a major MMA promotion. He stuck it out with the UFC for a long time. At the time of his retirement, he was the oldest fighter on the roster after UFC 204. He comes in 20th on our list with earnings at $4.40 million.
19. Stipe Miocic - $4.48 Million
Miocic successfully defended his title four times during his two title reigns and he holds the record for most Heavyweight title fights and longest title defending streak in the Heavyweight division with three consecutive defenses.
He also holds the record for most Fight-Night Bonus awards at nine awards, the most in the UFC Heavyweight division’s history. He comes in at 19th on our list with earnings at $4.48 million.
18. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua - $4.54 Million
Former model turned MMA fighter, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua is a Brazilian pro mixed martial artist competing in the Light Heavyweight division of the UFC. He’s a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and 2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Champion. Rua began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of six and Muay Thai when he was seven.
He started his professional fighting career at Vale Tudo events in Brazil where he earned a lot of recognition. Rua made his first attempt for the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion title at UFC 104 where he lost by unanimous decision to Lyoto Machida with a score of 48-47. However, due to some controversy, a rematch was announced for UFC 113 where Rua won via knockout, winning him the title. He comes in at 18th on our list with $4.54 million in earnings.
17. Lyoto Machida - $4.58 Million
Professionally known as “The Dragon,” Lyoto Machida is a Brazilian pro MMA fighter currently signed with Bellator MMA. However, he formerly competed for the UFC, where he won the title of former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, as well as a UFC Middleweight Championship title challenger. He’s currently number six in the Bellator Light Heavyweight Rankings.
Machida became the tenth UFC Light Heavyweight Champion at UFC 98, where he scored an early knockdown in the first round knocking out Rashad Evans at 3:57 of the second round. This performance earned him Knockout of the Night honors and a $60,000 bonus. He lost his title to Mauricio Rua at UFC 113. He comes in at 17th on our list with earnings at $4.58 million.
16. Rashad Evans - $4.73 Million
Rashad Evans is a retired American mixed martial artist. He started his professional fighting career in 2003, and during that time he was Heavyweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter 2 and a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. At 5 feet 10.5 inches, Evans was the shortest and almost the lightest fighter in the Ultimate Fighter competition.
Evans first fight with the UFC took place in 2006, but it wasn’t until UFC 88 that he revealed his revamped fighting style against Chuck Liddell. In this fight, Evans delivered a brutal overhand right that earned him Knockout of the Year by Sherdog in 2008. At UFC 92, he snagged the title of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He comes in 16th on our list with $4.73 million in earnings.
15. Nate Diaz - $4.89 Million
For those of you who have kept up with MMA and UFC for a while, you’ll know that Nate Diaz is Nick Diaz’s younger brother. Nick is a former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion and IFC Welterweight Champion. Before we got to see Nate in the UFC, he was competing in World Extreme Cage fighting, Strikeforce.
Nate has been fighting with the UFC since winning The Ultimate Fighter 5. Currently he’s tied with Joe Lauzon for the second most UFC bonus awards--both have 15 awards. He’s in good company with Connor McGregor as well, with the record for highest UFC pay-per-view buy rate at UFC 202, but the record was broken by UFC 229’s buy rate. We ranked him as the 15th highest earning UFC fighter at $4.89 million earned in 2020.
14. Brock Lesnar - $5.08 Million
You may know Brock from UFC, but you may also know him even better from his days on WWE. This guy’s done it all, including being a professional football player. He started out as an amateur wrestler at Bismarck State College and the University of Minnesota. After his success, he signed with WWE in 2000, and won the WWE Championship in 2002.
In 2006, Brock Lesnar took on MMA and won his first fight against Min-Soo Kim, which landed him a spot with the UFC in 2007. Lesnar has had a few runs in the UFC, retiring from MMA twice due to a chronic illness, only rejoining to take the UFC championship--making him the only person to hold a UFC and WWE champion title. He’s the 14th highest-earning UFC fighter at $5.08 million earned in 2020.
13. Andrei Arlovski - $5.41 Million
If the name wasn’t already a dead give-away, Andrei Arlovski was born in Bobruisk, Byelorussian SSR, Soviet Union, which is now Belarus. When he was younger, Andrei said he was picked on by bullies, but he quickly fixed that when he got older when he started lifting weights to build some muscle.
All those years of weightlifting paid off when he started his career in MMA in 1999. He won the M-1 Global at the European Championships in 2001. He joined the UFC at UFC 28 and later defeated Ian Freeman and Vladimir Matyushenko, which pushed him into the UFC Elite. At UFC 51, Arlovski beat Tim Sylvia by tap-out 47 seconds into the first round, making him the UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion. He’s the 13th on our list at $5.41 million in earnings in 2020.
12. Vitor Belfort - $5.46 Million
Known for his knockout power, Belfort is a Brazilian MMA fighter that competes in the heavyweight and middleweight divisions of the UFC. He’s the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament Champion, as well as the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and Cage Rage World Light Heavyweight Champion.
Vitor Belfort is a machine and is neck-and-neck for third most finishes in UFC history at a whopping 14. He scored his first UFC victory at only 19 years old, making him the youngest winner in the tournament. Vitor was born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and there must be something in the water there because he comes in at 12th on our list at $5.46 million in earnings in 2020.
11. Daniel Cormier - $5.73 Million
Currently an analyst and commentator for the UFC, Daniel Cormier knows his stuff. He’s retired from MMA, but before he took his leave to let some of the other fighters have some titles, he dominated every division he competed in. Cormier is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion.
He’s also the second person in UFC history to hold and defend two titles in two weight classes at the same time. Beyond UFC, Cormier was also a six-time US World or Olympic Team Member and was awarded several medals. He’s distinctly the only person to have won a world championship belt in every promotion he has fought in. He comes in at 11th on our list with $5.73 million in earnings for 2020.
10. Junior Dos Santos - $5.97 Million
Junior Dos Santos is another pro fighter to come from Brazil. Raised by a single mother, he started out with Capoeira as a teenager before his first encounter with martial arts as a 21-year-old. He went pro at only 22 and won six out of seven of his first big fights. He joined the UFC in 2008 at UFC 90 as an underdog, but he knocked out Fabricio Werdum at only a minute and twenty seconds, earning him “Knockout of the Year.”
Dos Santos started earning his reputation as a serious fighter after a slew of knockout wins at UFC 95, 103, and 108. In 2011, Dos Santos was scheduled to fight Brock Lesnar head-to-head, but Lesnar pulled out due to diverticulitis. After several losses and serious medical issues, Dos Santos was released from the UFC in March 2021, but he still comes in as 10th on our list with $5.97 million earned in 2020.
9. Donald Cerrone - $6.16 Million
Donald Cerrone, better known by his nickname “Cowboy”, currently fights in the Welterweight division for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He currently holds two records in the UFC, with the most wins in UFC history at 22 wins and most finishes in UFC history with 16 finishes. Cowboy is from Denver, CO, where he would often get in fights as a kid.
Already an awarded fighter with WEC, Cowboy joined the UFC in 2010 when World Extreme Cage fighting merged with the UFC. His first fight with the UFC earned him “Fight of the Night” honors. He later moved up to Welterweight in 2016 where he won several more Performance of the Night bonuses. He comes in at ninth highest earning with $6.16 million earned in 2020.
8. Mark Hunt - $6.3 Million
Dubbed the “King of Walk-Offs” Mark Hunt is a retired UFC fighter that was popular for walking away from fights before the referee officially ended the match. Before joining the UFC, Mark was a former kickboxer and MMA fighter in New Zealand. He’s been a troublemaker his whole life and even served two jail terms for violent altercations.
These fights changed his life after he knocked out multiple people in front of a nightclub. A bouncer of the club saw the fights and Mark’s talent, so he invited him to train with him. This started Mark’s career in pro-fighting. Mark was fighting with PRIDE when UFC acquired the company. His debut with UFC was in 2010 at UFC 119. He comes in eighth highest-earning at $6.3 million in earnings for 2020.
7. Jon Jones - $7.03 Million
Two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones held his title twice from 2011 to 2015 and 2018 to 2020. As of March 2021, he is the number one in the UFC Men’s Pound-for-Pound Rankings. At only 23, he became the youngest champion in UFC history. In addition, he also holds the record for most title defenses, most wins, and longest win streak in the Heavyweight division.
Many consider Jon Jones to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world. His only loss is a controversial loss to Matt Hamill. This loss is not only disputed by Dana White, the UFC President, but also Matt Hamill himself. This isn’t the only scandal he’s been involved in though. He’s been stripped of his title 3 times due to disciplinary actions. Nonetheless, he still comes in at seventh highest-earning at $7.03 million earned in 2020.
6. Georges St-Pierre - $7.04 Million
Widely considered one of the best fighters in MMA, Georges St-Pierre was a two-division champion in the UFC with titles in the Welterweight and Middleweight division. He’s even been named Canadian Athlete of the Year by Rogers Sportsnet in 2008, 2009, and 2010. In 2017 he became the fourth fighter in UFC history to be a multi-division champion.
In 2021, St-Pierre was honored with a life-sized bronze statue of himself, along with a biography entitled Place GSP. The statue also displays St-Pierre’s eight core values: family, perseverance, wisdom, integrity, generosity, respect, creativity, and honor. We can see why people would build a statue in his honor; he comes in at sixth highest-earning at $7.04 million earned in 2021.
5. Michael Bisping - $7.14 Million
Michael Bisping is currently an English sports analyst, actor, and commentator after his retirement from MMA. While fighting, he competed in the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight division of the UFC. He joined the UFC in 2004 and is a former UFC Middleweight Champion and former Cage Rage Light Heavyweight Champion.
He’s the first British fighter to compete in a UFC main event, and after UFC 199, he won the UFC Championship title and became the first British winner of a UFC title. In July 2019, UFC inducted Michael Bisping into the UFC Hall of Fame. He’s pretty much unstoppable at this point as the fifth-highest paid fighter with $7.14 million in earnings in 2020.
4. Anderson Silva - $8.11 Million
Another Brazilian to make this list is the formidable Anderson Silva. He’s a former UFC Middleweight Champion and holds the record for the longest title reign in UFC history at 2,457 days. His unstoppable reign started in 2006 and ended in 2013, which included a UFC record of 16 consecutive victories during that time. He’s one of the most popular fighters in the UFC, and we can see why.
Anderson has won many titles and awards, but beyond that, he’s won mad respect from UFC and MMA commentators and fans. UFC president Dana White, UFC commentator Joe Rogan, and several MMA pundits have all named Anderson Silva as one of the greatest fighters in MMA history. It’s no doubt that he’s worthy of fame, because he’s fourth on our list for highest earnings at $8.11 million earned in 2020.
3. Khabib Nurmagomedov - $8.68 Million
Khabib Nurmagomedov is a Russian fighter that fought his way to the top through MMA. He found his success through the Lightweight division of the UFC where he was the longest-reigning UFC Lightweight Champion. He held his title from April 2018 to March 2021. His specialty in the octagon is grappling, which has made him a forced to be reckoned with in MMA.
From the Republic of Dagestan in Russia, he is the first Muslim to win a UFC title. And as a fun fact, he’s also the most-followed Russian person on Instagram. So, in addition to a burly MMA fighter, you could say he’s an Instagram baddie too. He was ranked #1 in the UFC Men’s Pound for Pound Ranking when he retired in 2021. Fight Matrix also ranks him as the #1 Lightweight of All Time. He comes in at third-highest earnings in UFC history at $8.68 million earned in 2020.
2. Alistair Overeem - $9.57 Million
Former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, DREAM Heavyweight Champion, and K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, Overeem was the first fighter in history to hold world titles in MMA and K-1 kickboxing simultaneously. Born in England to a Jamaican mother, Alistair initially didn’t like MMA but continued the sport to learn self-defense.
Alistair’s career in MMA and kickboxing started long before UFC, but he joined the UFC in 2011. His first fight in the UFC would be against former UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar at UFC 141. He won his legendary first fight against Lesnar with a kick to the liver, earning him shot at the title against Junior dos Santos. Overeem was released from his UFC contract in 2021, but he’s still the second-highest earning UFC fighter at $9.7 million earned in 2020.
1. Conor McGregor - $15.08 Million
Connor McGregor is an Irish MMA fighter, boxer, and finally, a businessman. He’s earned titles as former Ultimate Fighting Championship Featherweight and Lightweight Double-Champion. He’s also ranked at #5 in the UFC Lightweight rankings as of May 17, 2021. His debut pro-boxing match was against the legendary Floyd Mayweather Jr.
His fame, or rather infamy, has broken records in MMA history as the biggest pay-per-view draw and as having five out of 6 highest-selling UFC pay-per-view events to date. McGregor has been ranked as the highest-paid athlete in the world by Forbes. He’s the number one highest-paid UFC fighter of all time, with earnings in 2020 at $15.08 million from UFC alone. His 2021 reported income is at $99 million.