There is an illusion that since UFC is “fastest growing sport” that its stars would be paid on the level of other professional. That illusion was shattered for me when I found out that the prize money for Chael Sonnen from this weekend was just $50,000 (source). Of course, he perhaps earned over a million dollars through sponsorship deals, but still.
The following are the top earners (based on approximate yearly earnings from their fights alone) from each of the sports in a recent year.
- Boxing: Floyd Mayweather at $85,000,000
- MMA: Rashad Evans at $710,000
- Freestyle/Greco-Roman Wrestling: $0 (unless they medal, then some countries give bonuses. Russia is highest with $100,000 bonus for gold)
- Judo: Teddy Riner was paid $100K without sponsors and then sponsors bring that up to a about $1,000,000.
- Jiu Jitsu: ADCC pays $40,000 to the superfight winner. World Pro pays $30,000 to the winner of the absolute and $8,000 to the winner of the division. Ultimate Absolute pays $10,000 to first place. So someone like Andre Galvao who won almost all of these prizes, could earn $88,000 a year.
It’s clear that superstars in any sport get paid well. An example of that is judo’s Teddy Riner. But still, it surprised me that the top 10 earners in boxing still make more than the top paid UFC fighters.
For many Olympic sports, money is not the main motivator, which is why the Olympics often feel like the purest form of athletic competition. There’s something beautiful about a human being sacrificing the prime of his or her life for the singular (and nearly impossible) goal of a gold medal…