Highest-Paid UFC Fighters: Top Ten Earners in 2021
UFC fighters enjoy special privileges and popularity in the thrilling world of mixed martial arts. These are rightfully earned due to the extreme hardships this martial arts branch requires. It takes years, if not decades, of unrelenting dedication and sacrifices for someone to become a part of this club.
The highest–paid UFC fighters are almost celebrities in their own right, but this fame comes at a high cost. It is estimated that nearly a third of all UFC champions have endured some form of brain damage during their sports career. We’ve made a UFC fighters list according to their salaries. With it, we acknowledge their commitment to this brutal sport and their success as a result. You won’t bet on yourself against any of these guys if you know what’s good for you.
We’ll start with the highest-grossing fighter first. All mentions of earnings are strictly limited to the UFC fighter salaries. Meaning any additional UFC revenues from promotions and alternative sources of income are not included. Lastly, keep in mind that we don’t know the total earnings that the best UFC fighters make. Instead, we made our top paid UFC fighters list based on their regular, publicly visible pay.
1. Conor McGregor – $20,102,000
When a UFC fan thinks of this sport, they most likely think about Conor McGregor and his rapid rise to glory. His entrance to the UFC was in a memorable duel with José Aldo, whom he knocked out in 13 seconds, in the quickest victory in UFC fight history. But the peak of Conor’s popularity came in a match with the boxer Floyd Mayweather, which 4.3 million pay-per-view (PPV) fans watched.
As a leader in PPV events, Conor McGregor has earned much more than the numbers we’ve put up indicate. His $20 million UFC fighter salary is a fraction of the $50 million he got for a match with Khabib Nurmagomedov and the supposed $80 million he bagged from the Donald Cerrone fight. In 2021, Forbes named Conor McGregor the world’s highest-paid athlete, with around $180 million in earnings.
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov – $14,770,000
The undefeated UFC and MMA champ, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was the longest-ruling UFC lightweight champion that held this title from April 2018 until March 2021. He had lost only a couple of rounds in his successful fighting career but won 29 times with no losses. In other words: if his matches were a game of roulette, betting on him winning would be a bit like knowing in advance the ball will land in red.
All of these successes naturally made Khabib one of the richest UFC fighters. According to Fight Matrix’s ranking system portal, he remains the best lightweight fighter of all time. His popularity also transcends the UFC, as he is the Russian Instagram user with the most followers and the first UFC title-winning Muslim. Khabib Nurmagomedov is a two-times world champion in Combat Sambo, and he’s proficient in judo and wrestling.
In his three biggest UFC fights, he made 92.9% of all his career UFC earnings. The first of these three wildly profitable matches was with Conor McGregor, where he was supposed to win $2 million. However, due to an altercation with Conor after the game, he had to pay a $500,000 fine. He became one of the highest–paid fighters in the next two matches, earning him $6 million each, with an additional $90,000 in post-fight and incentive bonuses Khabib retired from the UFC in 2021 and signed a football contract for the Russian team FC Legion Dynamo. His PPV numbers, much like with McGregor, are probably off the charts, but we can only guess.
3. Alistair Overeem – $10,204,500
The Dutch heavyweight UFC fighter and kickboxer earned titles of Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, and DREAM Heavyweight Champion. Alistair got a rare $10 million contract with the UFC between May 2016 and November 2018. Besides him, only two other famous UFC fighters ever made over $10m in disclosed UFC pay.
As one of the highest–paid UFC fighters, Alistair Overeem received $800,000 or more for each of seven match events during this period. We can only guess how much he earned from PPV and other sources, but it’s likely to be in the millions of USD, too.
4. Andrei Arlovski – $9,844,000
Andrei Arlovski is a Belarusian-American actor, as well as an MMA fighter and an ex-UFC champion. He is also known as Pitbull among his fans, and in his prosperous MMA career, Andrei won 31 and lost 20 matches. Pitbull’s MMA career started in 1999.
So far, in his UFC career, Andrei has earned approximately $7 million in salary as one of the UFC’s highest–paid fighters. But in his long fighting history, Andrei Arlovski made $3 million in a few non-UFC fights. His bout with Fedor Emelianenko from 2009 garnered him an impressive $1.5 million. To put that in perspective, his final ten matches earned him ‘only’ $300,000.
5. Anderson Silva – $8,732,000r
The Brazilian-American MMA fighter and boxer has one of the sporting records for the longest title reign to this day. Anderson da Silva held his UFC title for an impressive 2,457 days between 2006 and 2013. In the eyes of many fighter champions and sports commentators, Anderson is one of the UFC top–paid fighters and the best mixed martial artist.
As a former UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva parted with the UFC in November 2020 and returned to boxing. However, during his career, da Silva collected an impressive amount of money from UFC salaries. He got around $600,00 for his first clash with the fighter Chris Weidman. He continued to gain that much for every subsequent match until his retirement.
His biggest score was against Derek Brunson, with a payout of $820,000. He got $600,000 for participating in a match and another $200,000 for winning the bout. He also got an extra $20,000 from the Reebok sponsorship as the highest–paid fighter in UFC at the time. During his MMA days, Anderson won 34 times and lost only 11 matches, thus becoming one of the iconic faces of the MMA and UFC.
6. Jon Jones – $7,230,000
Jonathan Dwight Jones was the youngest UFC champion when he beat Mauricio Rua at the age of 23. Jon is a former two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and the second-best UFC fighter of all time, according to Tapology. He was also embroiled in a couple of controversies involving doping, a hit-and-run conviction, and an altercation with Daniel Cormier in 2014.
During Jonathan’s UFC history, he got over $7 million from UFC alone. As one of the highest–paid UFC fighters, his total earnings are significantly higher than this, considering we have no idea about the PPV numbers. Right now, Jon aims to move up into the heavyweight category, which will net him even more money.
7. Michael Bisping – $7,135,000
A person of many talents, Michael Bisping, is an actor, sports commentator and analyst, and a former MMA fighter. He was a professional UFC competitor since 2004 and a Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion. Michael was also the first and only British UFC title winner. Michael, also known as the Count, was introduced in 2019 into the UFC Hall of Fame.
As one of the top 10 highest–paid UFC fighters, his most prized bouts were with Georges St-Pierre and Dan Henderson. He got around $500,000 per match, not counting any pay-per-view bonuses. He is still the only British fighter to hold a UFC title. Today, Michael is working as an actor and a UFC commentator.
8. Junior dos Santos – $7,110,000
Hailing from Brazil, Junior dos Santos Almeida is a professional wrestler and a mixed martial artist. Junior is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion who competed and won against five other champions in the same weight category.
While not the most paid UFC fighter around, he still made some nice cash from all of the big-name matches he was part of. Even though he lasted less than one round in his heavyweight title rematch against Stipe Miocic, the match still earned him a cool $800,000.
9. Georges St-Pierre – $7,037,000
Georges is a Canadian MMA fighter who retired in 2013, came back, and then retired again in 2019. In his fighting history, he won 26 matches and lost only two. Georges was a UFC Welterweight and Middleweight Champion. Now he is focusing on acting and charitable work.
Georges St-Pierre grossed over $7 million in UFC salary during his illustrious career. Although considered by many the finest MMA combatant of all time, he was never very attractive for the crowd, so he missed out on the big bucks.
10. Donald Cerrone – $7,025,800
When people ask who is the highest–paid UFC fighter, the name Donald Cerrone does not spring to mind even after you’ve listed several other fighters. Still, “Cowboy” earned over $7 million during his career. His most profitable matches were with Conor McGregor and Al Iaquinta. His every salary was hard-earned, and he often fought up to five times per year. He lacked the pizzazz of more flashy fighters such as McConor, though, so it’s unsurprising that he made far less money over the course of his career.
How much do UFC fighters make per fight?
A UFC fighter can earn anywhere between $10,000 and $3 million. The average UFC salary in 2020 was $147,965.
Who is the highest-paid fighter ever?
To date, the highest–paid UFC fighters are Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, who earned a combined UFC salary of over $34, not counting other bonuses.
Who's the richest UFC fighter in 2021?
The richest UFC fighter is Conor McGregor, whose various promotional activities and fights during 2020 and 2021 earned him a whopping $180 million.