UFC news: Who are the highest paid fighters in UFC history?

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UFC has undoubtedly shot up in popularity over recent years, with mainstream media coverage across the world making it one of the highest-watched fighting sports.

The promotion was launched in 1993 as UFC 1, taking place in Denver, Colorado, and hit over 85,000 television subscribers on its first outing.

As of 2018, president Dana White claimed the promotion is now worth $7 billion.

Apart from McGregor, there are plenty of familiar names further down the list, which has been released by TheStreet and is based on earnings from bouts alone since 2004 and does not include bonuses or sponsorships.

Top 20 Fighters (according to UFC)

20. Frankie Edgar ($4.2m)

In his 32 mixed martial arts fights, Edgar has won 23, including seven knockouts. He made his featherweight debut against Jose Aldo in 2013, losing what turned out to be the Fight of the Night via unanimous decision, before defeating former WEC Flyweight Champion Urijah Faber in 2015. He has only competed three times since April 2018, losing his most recent fight to Chan Sung Jung in December.

19. Nate Diaz ($4.37m)

Diaz needs little introduction to even those with a passing interest in UFC, and it is perhaps a surprise he is not higher up in this list. Diaz’s rematch against Conor McGregor at UFC 202 in 2016 broke the record for pay-per-view buy rates; Diaz having handed the Irish fighter his first defeat in six years earlier that year. After defeat in that rematch, the 34-year-old American spent three years away from action, returning in August last year to beat Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision.

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18. Chuck Liddell ($4.38m)

Fifty-year-old Liddell has fought just once in the last 10 years – a comeback fight against long-term rival Tito Ortiz, which ended in a first round knockout – but Liddell’s fights have resulted in 5.8 million pay-per-view buys over the years. Upon his initial retirement in 2010, he took the role of vice president of business development at UFC, and even featured on the American version of Celebrity Big Brother in 2018.

17. Dan Henderson ($4.4m)

The second retired fighter in this list, 49-year-old Henderson was the first mixed martial artist to hold two titles in two different weight classes at the same time in a major MMA promotion. He has featured in four different weight divisions, and 16 of his 32 MMA wins came by knockout. His final fight was against Michael Bisping at UFC 204 in Manchester, which he lost by unanimous decision. He was inducted into the Fight Wing of the UFC Hall of Fame in July 2018.

16. Stipe Miocic ($4.48m)

The current UFC Heavyweight Champion, Miocic is one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all-time. He has the record for the most consecutive title defences in the heavyweight decision, a total of three. Miocic has a record of 19-3, with 15 of those wins knockouts, and faces Daniel Cormier on August 15 at UFC 252, for the trilogy of a series of bouts where both fighters have one win each.

15. Mauricio Rua ($4.54m)

Born in Brazil, Rua is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and has won several Fight and Performance of the Night awards, including one in the impressive victory over Tyson Pedro via TKO in December 2018. 21 of his 27 wins have been awarded via knockout, and his most recent victory came in July when he defeated Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by split decision.

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14. Lyoto Machida ($4.58m)

Machida left the UFC in 2018, but still features high up the list of highest-paid fighters. He is a one-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and was awarded the 2009 Fighter of the Year accolade by Black Belt Magazine. His final fight in UFC came at UFC 224 in May 2018, where he defeated Vitor Belfort via knockout in the second round.

13. Rashad Evans ($4.6m)

A 2019 UFC Hall of Fame inductee, 40-year-old Evans is another name on this list that has a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship to his name. He surprisingly won the Ultimate Fighter 2 competition, given that he was the shortest and second-lightest fighter involved, then won his first 10 UFC fights. His first defeat came against Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 in 2009, although he did not lose again for three years as he recorded impressive victories over Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva. Evans retired in 2018.

12. Andrei Arlovski ($5.08m)

The first Belarusian champion in UFC history, Arlovski initially took his martial arts talents to the next level at a police academy in Minsk. He began his career in Russia in 1999 and joined UFC a year later. In the last six years he has been a regular part of UFC coverage, most recently defeating Philipe Lins by unanimous decision in May. He has the record for the most fights in UFC heavyweight history (31) and most wins (18), as well as being a one-time UFC Heavyweight Champion.

11. Jon Jones ($5.1m)

Jones is the current undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, having held the title since December 2018. He became the youngest champion in UFC instituted weight classes in 2011, at the age of 23, and is currently ranked number one in the men’s pound-for-pound rankings. Jones has only recorded one defeat in his mixed martial arts career, his most recent victory coming against Dominick Reyes in February. He was handed a 15-month suspension for doping violations in 2017, but has recorded four successive wins on his return.

10. Brock Lesnar ($5.1m)

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Perhaps better known to WWE fans, Lesnar has headlined all eight of the UFC bouts he has taken part in, totalling over 7.5 million pay-per-view buys. He won the UFC Heavyweight Championship in 2008, and won on his comeback to the promotion in 2016, defeating Mark Hunt by a unanimous decision, but this was later overturned when Lesnar tested positive for clomiphene.

9. Vitor Belfort ($5.1m)

Brazilian-born Belfort is another former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion to feature on this list, and also ties third for the most finishes in UFC history, with 14. He took part in two headline fights against Dan Henderson, winning them both by knockout, and also defeated Michael Bisping in 2013. His most recent fight came at UFC 224 in May 2018, which he lost to Lyoto Machida.

8. Daniel Cormier ($6.06m)

Cormier is one of the most prominent figures in UFC today, and is scheduled to fight Stipe Miocic at UFC 252 on August 15. The 41-year-old is a one-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, and was named Fighter of the Year by MMA Fighting in 2018. He has lost just two out of 25 career fights, 10 of his wins coming via knockout. He is also set to feature as a commentator on EA Sports UFC 4.

7. Alistair Overeem ($6.1m)

The 40-year-old London-born fighter has a wealth of experience in both light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. He has defeated the likes of Brock Lesnar, Andrei Arlovski and Mark Hunt throughout his career. Overeem joined UFC in 2011, defeating Lesnar on debut by technical knockout at UFC 141. Outside of UFC, he is a one-time Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, and also claimed the K-1 kickboxing World Grand Prix title in 2010.

6. Donald Cerrone ($6.14m)

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Cerrone is quite the record setter in UFC due to his vast experience inside the Octagon. He has since added wins over Alexander Hernandez, by technical knockout, and Al Iaquinta, by unanimous decision, but has lost each of his last four fights, including to Conor McGregor.

5. Mark Hunt ($6.4m)

New Zealand-born Hunt spent eight years in the UFC, winning eight of his 19 fights. He has recorded notable victories against Roy Nelson, Antonio Silva and Frank Mir, but was also defeated by Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem. Hunt also had plenty of success in kickboxing, winning the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix, and finishing in third place the following year.

4. Anderson Silva ($7m)

Silva’s reputation within UFC is as such that Dana White and UFC commentator Joe Rogan rate him as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Silva holds the record for the longest title reign in history – 2,457 days, when he held the UFC Middleweight title. He won 15 fights during that time, eventually dropping the title against Chris Weidman in 2013. He has 34 wins throughout his career and has the record for the most Knockout of the Night awards in UFC history (seven).

3. Georges St-Pierre ($7m)

Thirty-six-year-old Canadian fighter St-Pierre is a three-time UFC Welterweight Champion, as well as having won a title in the middleweight division. He initially retired in 2013, as reigning Welterweight Champion, but defeated Michael Bisping on his return to claim the Middleweight title in 2017. He was named Comeback Fighter of the Year by several outlets and is set to be named in the UFC Hall of Fame this year.

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2. Michael Bisping ($7.1m)

Bisping has been a consistent name throughout this list, having faced off against numerous members of the top 20. He holds the number two spot in his own right, though, with his estimated worth a whopping $7.1 million. Born in a British Military Base in Cyprus, Bisping was raised in Lancashire and represents England. He is a one-time Middleweight Champion, the first British champion in UFC history, and is also a five-time Fight of the Night winner. Since retirement in 2018, he has featured in several films and TV shows, also starring in Hollyoaks in a five-episode cameo in 2013.

1. Conor McGregor ($9.5m)

McGregor is the clear victor in this list – given how many pay-per-views he has headlined, that is no surprise. The Irishman has featured in four of the five best-selling events in UFC history, and also featured in a highly lucrative boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017. 

He quickly rose to the top of the UFC arena, defeating the likes of Chad Mendez and Jose Aldo, before losing to Nate Diaz in 2016 by submission. He won the rematch, however, by majority decision, and recently made a comeback in January with an impressive victory over Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. 19 of his 22 wins have come via knockout, and he is both a one-time UFC Featherweight and Lightweight Champion.

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