Ali, Joshua & Mayweather vs McGregor, Khabib & Jones: Highest-paid fighters in boxing & UFC

Boxing is widely well-known as the top dog when it comes to fighting sports.

It’s been that way for as long as many can remember, yet, in the last decade there has been a slow and gradual turn towards MMA, in particular, Dana White‘s UFC.

So that begs the question of who earns more, UFC or boxing stars?

Obviously there is a huge difference between the amounts paid to boxers who are just starting out compared with those who are main eventing for world titles. Some at the start only receive a few hundred dollars compared to millions by the big names who earn more based on pay-per-view buys and TV coverage.

The average salary of a boxer, according to Way of Martial Arts, excluding the extortionate fees of the mega stars, is between $22,000 and $51,370 a year.

As you’ll see below, the names who’ve earned the most in history are huge.

There is also a remarkably steep increase in fees between the sixth and seventh highest-paid performers. Vitali Klitschko received $65 million, while it’s almost double that for the next highest earner Ray Charles Leonard with $120 million respectively.

NEW YORK – DECEMBER 6: Vitali Klitschko celebrates after defeating Kirk Johnson during their heavyweight bout on December 6, 2003 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Klitschko won the bout by way of knockout in the second round. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Also, Floyd Mayweather leaves everyone in the dust by earning $240 million more than his second place counterpart George Foreman.

Top 10 Highest-Paid Boxers in History:

  • 10) Marvin Hagler – $45 million
  • 9) Muhammad Ali – $50 million
  • 8) Anthony Joshua – $60 million
  • 7) Vitali Klitschko – $65 million
  • 6) Ray Charles Leonard – $120 million
  • 5) Lennox Lewis – $135 million
  • 4) Manny Pacquiao – $200 million
  • 3) Oscar De La Hoya – $200 million
  • 2) George Foreman – $300 million
  • 1) Floyd Mayweather Jr – $560 million

MMA, on the other hand, has been on the up and up. This has been fronted by the insane rise in popularity of the UFC in recent times.

It’s important to note that while MMA may still be chasing boxing overall, lesser-known fighters earn more in the UFC than up and coming boxers.

Apr 23, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; UFC president Dana White walks onto the stage during weigh-ins for UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In the past, the majority of income for a UFC fighter came from the paycheques themselves, but, along with the changes in popularity, there are many other ways for a fighter to make money.

Finances can be doubled by a win bonus received if a fighter achieves a positive result. Even if they don’t win, they could be in line for a performance of the night award if their fight was a pure highlight reel.

There are also more external sources of income. One of which is sponsorships such as the UFC’s deal with Reebok requiring fighters to wear branded gear for their fight and, as a result, fighters receive payment from the Reebok brand.

Another type of external income is endorsements which are more individual to fighters. They could work with companies and receive cash for promoting their products.

Jul 10, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Conor McGregor before fighting against Dustin Poirier during UFC 264 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Top 10 Highest-Paid UFC Fighters in History:

  • 10) Junior Dos Santos – $5.97 million
  • 9) Donald Cerrone – $6.155 million
  • 8) Mark Hunt – $6.304 million
  • 7) Jon Jones – $7.025 million
  • 6) Georges St-Pierre – $7.037 million
  • 5) Michael Bisping – $7.135 million
  • 4) Anderson Silva – $ 8.112 million
  • 3) Khabib Nurmagomedov – $8.680 million
  • 2) Alistair Overeem – $9.569 million
  • 1) Conor McGregor – $15.082 million

There is clearly a huge discrepancy between the big names of boxing and UFC when it comes to earnings.

Though, we know MMA is on the rise and maybe it won’t be too long before the legends of the Octagon earn more than the top fighters in boxing.

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