Examining UFC Fight Night 26 Payroll: Is It Time To Stop Paying Declining Veterans So Much?


On August 17th, the UFC made its official debut on the new Fox Sports 1 network by putting on UFC Fight Night 26 from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. The night of fights was a rousing event that had a very well rounded and entertaining mix of combat.

In the main event, Chael Sonnen made short work of former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by dominating him throughout the entire first round en route to a guillotine submission victory. In the co-main event, former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem was on his way to finishing Travis Browne with an onslaught of strikes, but “The Demolition Man” got careless. Standing directly in front of several front kicks from Browne, one finally put him onto the canvas.

It was a disappointing night for both Rua and Overeem, but at least they were well compensated for their efforts. Here’s a rundown of the UFC Fight Night 26 main card salaries (via MMA Junkie):

Chael Sonnen: $100,000 (no win bonus)

def. Mauricio Rua: $175,000

Travis Browne: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)

def. Alistair Overeem: $285,714.29

Urijah Faber: $120,000 (includes $60,000 win bonus)

def. Yuri Alcantara: $16,000

Matt Brown: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)

def. Mike Pyle: $45,000

John Howard: $28,000 (includes $14,000 win bonus)

def. Uriah Hall: $10,000

Michael Johnson: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)

def. Joe Lauzon: $27,000

Disclaimer: The figures do not include deductions for items such as insurance, licenses and taxes. Additionally, the figures do not include money paid by sponsors, which can oftentimes be a substantial portion of a fighter’s income. They also do not include any other “locker room” or special discretionary bonuses the UFC oftentimes pays.

Now, with fighter pay a hot topic in MMA, this event’s payroll may bring some interesting points of discussion to light. I think that the overarching topic that must be addressed and is reflected here is the issue of overpaying popular but decreasingly relevant veterans such as Rua and Overeem. Decreasing the bloated salaries for name fighters who can no longer hang with the top fighters of their division would be an excellent way to give much-needed money to the lesser known but talented and hungry fighters in the Octagon.

That’s not to say that “Shogun” and Overeem haven’t earned their lofty pay status, because they have. But to earn the big bucks, you have t perform at close to a championship level. And Rua and Overeem have simply not done that as of late.

They’ve both lost two in a row. Rua could do absolutely nothing against Sonnen’s wrestling at UFN 26, despite looking great in the pre-fight buildup. He couldn’t do much against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on FOX 5 last December either, and his last win was over Brandon Vera.

Overeem isn’t far behind, but at least he was winning his last two fights. He didn’t have his had raised, however, as “Bigfoot” Silva came back to knock him out at UFC 156 before Browne weathered “The Reem’s” early storm to finish the former K-1 champion yet again.

A payday of over $285,000 for Overeem and $175,000 for Shogun would go a long way in dispersing pay to other fighters who may have performed better in Boston. A great example of this at UFN 26 is Yuri Alcantara. Alcantara, an ultra-tough Bantamweight from Brazil, earned a paltry $16,000 for his loss to Urijah Faber. True, he was dominated by Faber in the end, but had “The California Kid” mounted in the first.

Matt Brown could have perhaps been paid higher. “The Immortal” has been finishing off opponents left and right with ruthless efficiency, and without his win bonus, he’d have taken home $33,000. Joe Lauzon could be another case. Lauzon did absolutely nothing against Michael Johnson’s lightning quick striking at UFN 26, but that’s beside the point. Lauzon, the proud owner of an astounding 12 Fight Night bonuses, has done nothing but put on ridiculously exciting bouts for UFC fans. No, his fight in Boston wasn’t one of them, but does he deserve to be making only $27,000 per fight at this point in his career?

There are a ton of aging veterans in MMA right now, and it may be time for the UFC to re-evaluate how much it values their services, especially if they continue to lose. On one hand, fighters like Josh Barnett may still have some gas left in the tank, but Frank Mir, the man he recently finished at UFC 164, may not be ready to take too many more beatings at Heavyweight. Rua, Mir, and Overeem have been through a lot of wars, a lot of knockouts, and they enjoy high paydays for their efforts.

But it’s getting to a point where it’s not necessarily quality over quantity for the UFC’s money. True, they have name recognition, but is the promotion better served by paying their up-and-coming stars that are actually delivering motivated performances? Fighters may be soon calling to unionize due to this issue. Should the UFC stop paying declining fighters such high sums?

Outer Photo: Winslow Townson of USA TODAY Sports


  • It makes sense to stop paying declining veterans so much… but they can't cause they have a contract with a guaranteed pay for the full duration of the agreement. That's why a lot of fighters get cut so quickly if they don't perform well. UNLESS… they're a major draw, like Rua and The Reem. So they're not just getting paid for their performance but also for their "brand", cause that's how you have to look at them.

    I get your point but on the other hand these are guys that have been fighting FOREVER and build themselves up to that point. It didn't happen overnight. It's similar to someone working an office job and being with the company for 20yrs (or having 20yrs of experience). They're gonna get paid a lot more than a newby. Even if the newby is better at doing the job.

    • Well explained… I am with you on this one 🙂

  • i dont think theyre pay rate should be cut for overeem or shogun. just think that fighters like michael mcdonald should be paid more.

  • So Rua is a declining veteran and you have to use his pic for this article? How about Frank Mir? Rua looses against Sonnen and he is the target. SMFH!

  • Although I agree that he is a declining veteran, Frank Mir wasn't fighting at UFC Fight Night 26. Read the article's title before you throw out criticism.

    Shogun is a great fighter and a legend. But the fact is he has a 5-6 record in the UFC. That's not good enough to keep most fighters employed by Zuffa.

    • LOL – Defensive are we? 5-6 vs the top 3-4 guys in world EVERY fight. His fights were close in losses w Machida, Henderson and could have easily went SHogun's way. Most fighters in Zuffa don't fight top tier contenders for the title either.

      • I just said he's a legend.Don't know what else I can say that's higher praise.

        I know you try to get people fired up because you're a troll, but I hope you have a nice day.

      • Hmmm….Mark Coleman and Brandon Vera were top 3-4 guys? They weren't.

  • The whole system of UFC pay needs to be overhauled…The whole notion that if you perform you get paid is complete nonsense….

    A guy can get stuck working for the organization for 5-6 years accumulating more wins than losses and still be stuck in the 20-30k fight money. Most fighters have only a 5 year window in the fight game before their bodies say enough.

    • Yeah and all those fighters signed that contract at free will…. so maybe they should get a better manager/attorney to negotiate these deals. If not, **** it up and honor their end of the deal. Or go flip burgers at Maccie D's… As simple as that… You gotta work your way up. That's the way UFC system, nobody is forcing them to throw themselves in the mix. They jump into it very well aware of what the deal is.

      • everything you say is true….but are you saying the system is perfect and that everyone gets a fair deal…? I think ts more a case of beggars cant be choosers. UFC hold all the cards

        • Define "perfect"? There is never a "perfect" payment model for anyone. Cause no matter how much money you make, you're always gonna want more.

          I think their system works. It's a simple, easy and clear cut system. You get a base salary, you perform well that salary grows. Perform bad, it stays the same. Perform bad long enough you'll find yourself without a job. Doesn't that sound familiar?

          That's the "system" of like 99% of every single business in the world. So is it fair? Yes it is fair.. cause with signing the contract you agree to the base salary and you're not entitled to any more until you perform well and get a "promotion". If you come in with working experience and and have a track record of performing well and come with a huge fanbase. You enter into a higher base pay scale then newby's. It's not rocket science. It makes perfect sense.

  • Let us put this into perspective. Let's just say that The main and Co main event was not in this card. The promotion for this Fight Night would be Faber Vs Alcantara and the co main event will be Brown Vs Pyle. Without the asset of hindsight would you watch that fight? Advertisement and sponsors might not want to pay to have their product to be featured in a fight card like that. Yes they are veterans BUT they have the NAME a name they build over the years of constant battle and memorable fights and people will pay to see their heroes. MMA is such a fast moving evolving sport that it's so difficult to stay on top for a long period of time.

    • Its actually unfortunate that guys like Faber don't have the same pulling power although he pulls a fair share himself. When I see Faber on a card I am actually more excited than seeing Shogun or Sonnen and I live in Ireland so no Cali bias. He just puts on awesome fights and fights anybody and even calls out all the fighters everyone else is hoping they can skip on the way to a shot. Faber sells a card all by himself for me, there could be 12 Askren vs Fitch fights to fill up the rest and Faber might make me buy it but Sonnen and Shogun would have me scratching a little more.

  • Why are you worried what " declining veterens " make? 175k and 285k are a fraction of what Billions being made by ownership. UFC is making more money than you can imagine and most people agree fighter pay in MMA is one-sided and an article questioning why " declining fighters" are getting paid so much.


  • So the declining veterans would be Shogun and Overeem……imagine how attractive that card would be without those names…..not very…so if they make the card interesting they have to get the dollars…..don't hate the player hate the game.

  • Hahaha I love how Overeem's pay is so much more specific than anyone else's.

    • It's in Euros and that's the conversion rate.

      (this or may not be true..LOL)

      • It is because of the money he owes Golden Glory is a lawsuit, he basicly left they guys he has been with his whole career and made him, because they wanted the standard gym 10%, and Reem in a very arrogant tone that you guys deserves only 1%. Need less to say they split and Reem hasnt been the same since.

  • Let me start by saying the payroll is a complete joke.
    It's take it or leave it for the fighters and they all choose to go along with the way things work in the UFC.
    Now I know there is money given to the fighters behind the scenes.
    What i I don't know is to what extend this compensates for the hunger base payments the fighters receive to show up.