In most high-profile professional sports it’s unheard of to hold down a day job while competing at the highest level, but it’s more common than you might think in mixed martial arts.
That’s not to suggest that MMA fighters don’t require as much time to prepare as other athletes though.
Far from it in fact, with mixed martial arts multi-faceted disciplines presenting a never-ending array of techniques to be learned, practiced and honed, while countless hours are invested in grueling conditioning workouts and sparring sessions to prepare fighters minds and bodies for one of the most demanding physical pursuits in all of sports.
However, compared to other leading sports, MMA is still the new kid on the block, and when many of today’s fighters took their first martial arts classes in their teens there was no guarantee that there would be able to make a career out of it.
Even today, with the sport having a stronger footing than at any time in it’s brief history, many of the UFC’s fighters still face challenges making ends meet and beyond a handful of major stars there’s not many who will be financially secure when they decide to hang up their gloves.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that some UFC fighters over the years have opted to retain a day job alongside their fighting careers, and in this article we’ll look at 10 who have done so successfully on the sports biggest stage.
To become the UFC’s heavyweight champion you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d have to make that the singular focus in your life, but that’s not the case for current titleholder Stipe Miocic.
The 33 year-old also holds down a job as a fireman in his home city of Cleveland, and the steady income that provides is no doubt comforting for a fighter in a sport where rising to the top can be challenging, and success can be fleeting.
That being said, as the current divisional kingpin, Miocic’s earning power has taken a big jump recently and he raked in an impressive $600,000 basic salary for his last fight, not including any potential cut of the pay-per-view revenue.
So why does he continue to show up at his day job?
“I love what I do,” Miocic said of his job as a firefighter in an interview for UFC.com. “It’s fun.”
That’s good news for the people of Cleveland, who’ll no doubt sleep a little sounder knowing that if they ever need to call on the fire brigade, that the heavyweight champion of the world might just come to their rescue!
It’s easy to just stereotype MMA fighters as meat-headed Neanderthals, and at first glance, former UFC interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin, with his 265lb, tattooed, thickly muscular frame, seems to fit the bill.
Appearances can be deceiving however, and in fact Carwin is a levelheaded, intelligent, hard-worker who holds a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering, another in environmental technology, in addition to a minor in business and economics.
He put those skills to good use by retaining his full-time job as a design enginer and construction manager for North Weld County Water District throughout his MMA career.
By his own admission Carwin made good money during his UFC tenure, and at one stage was even offered “an obscene amount of money” by Dana White to commit to the sport full-time, but he didn’t take him up on that.
”I take pride in being a contributing member of society and going to work every day,” Carwin told MMAjunkie.com. “It’s something I love to do.”
Anybody who fights in the UFC can consider themselves a certified badass, but Tim Kennedy’s day job takes him to a whole other level.
Throughout his MMA career, Kennedy has remained member of the United States Army, and for a number of years continued to serve as a Green Beret while competing.
During his time in the Special Forces, Kennedy operated as a sniper, sniper instructor and principal combatives instructor, while being deployed multiple times in Iraq and Afghanistan during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom respectively.
In the end something had to give though, with there simply not being enough time in the day to devote to both pursuits, but despite the fact his MMA career had become successful he had no intention of leaving the army, and instead these days serves as a member of the National Guard.
”The Guard was absolutely the best option for me to do the two things I love: to fight and continue being a Soldier,” Kennedy told nationalguard.com. “It was a dream come true.”
Retired UFC heavyweight fighter Mike Russow was known for trading heavy leather in the Octagon, his day job as a police officer required him to stop other people from fighting in the mean streets of Chicago.
Having been shot at in the line of duty and TKO’d in the Octagon, Russow was no stranger to putting his body in harms way in both of his career paths, but the most difficult thing to deal with was simply there not being enough hours in the day.
”It’s very demanding,” Russow told officer.com a few years ago. “You just have to do a really good job with time management. Most of these guys I’m fighting; they’re young and they just do it fulltime. With me and other guys out there, we have to work, do our eight hours, and go to bed, get up, train and then go to work.”
Nevertheless, Russow still managed to compile a 15-3 (+1nc) record in the sport, including a 4-2 stint in the UFC, before hanging up his gloves in 2013.
These days Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson is the undisputed king of the UFC’s flyweight division and one of the top ranked pound-for-pound ranked fighters in the world, but it wasn’t so long ago that he still had a humble day job.
For the first 15 fights of his MMA career, including a lengthy stint in the WEC promotion and three fights in the UFC, Johnson worked at a recycling factory operating a forklift truck from 7am to 3pm each day, fitting his MMA training in afterwards.
When Johnson’s long-time coach Matt Hume first asked him to focus full-time on fighting he refused, fearing that he may never reach a high enough level in the sport to be able to look after his family.
He did eventually take the plunge though, and thankfully it worked out well, though despite his success in the Octagon he’s still not one of the biggest earners around, so he’s not ruled out the possibility that one day he might have to go back to work.
However, he doesn’t plan on going back to grueling factory work, and instead has his sights on using his notoriety to become a video game streamer.
”I’m building my viewership and community now, so when I’m 38 years old and I’m done fighting I can have streaming as my main source of income, hopefully.”
As with current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, former UFC veteran Chris Lytle also maintained his job with the Indianapolis fire department throughout his MMA career.
Working 48 hours a week didn’t seem to affect Lytle’s MMA career too much as he was able to remain competitive in the Octagon for his full seven year run in the UFC, retiring in 2011 having won five of his previous six fights and been one of the fighters with the most bonus awards in the history of the sport at the time.
Lytle says he was often asked why he didn’t give up firefighting, particularly since his earnings from fighting each year eclipsed his salary from the department, but it was never an option that ‘Lights Out’ considered seriously.
”I look forward to going to the fire department,” Lytle told MMAfighting in 2009. “I like the people I work with. I feel good about what I do when I go to bed at night. Any time you have that, why give it up?”
When MMA veteran Ivan Menjivar returned to the sport of MMA in 2010 after a four-year absence, he did so while still retaining his full-time job as a security guard at Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport in Montreal.
Menjivar had already fought 27 times prior to his comeback, and his decision to return appeared to pay off when he made his way to the UFC and racked up an initial three-fight winning streak.
Menjivar was long enough in the tooth to know that success in the sport can be fleeting however, so he resisted the temptation to focus on competing full-time.
“I tried that before, and it was okay, but at the same time it was a little bit boring,” Menjivar told FCFighter in 2011 when asked about ditching his day job. “Just fighting, fighting, fighting. I would like to work a little bit less, but it’s still good to change ideas and don’t just think about the MMA world. It’s healthy to do something else and it’s good pay.”
In hindsight that seems like a good move on his part as he’d lose four of his next five fights in the Octagon before retiring in 2014 – still financially secure thanks to having retained his security job.
Eddie Wineland is another UFC veteran who has embraced a dual-role as a firefighter in Northwest Indiana throughout his mixed martial arts career.
Not content with just that, Wineland has also somehow managed to juggle a part-time job at Caster Maintenance Co in addition to being a highly regarded fighter.
To be fair, there is some flexibility to his job as a fireman in Northwest Indiana which sees him work 120 days a year, but it can lead to some awkward scheduling on his calendar, such as when he did a full shift at the fire station the day before heading off for his bantamweight title fight against Renan Barao at UFC 165 in 2013.
Nevertheless, Wineland has no intentions of changing his hectic schedule.
”I don’t see a point in giving up a job that I can hold and still fight at the same time,” Wineland told Mmajunkie.com. “They’re supportive of it and are behind me in my fighting. I like to work and stay busy in my downtime.”
Former UFC fighter Paulo Thiago put together a 13 fight run in the Octagon over a five-year period despite also being gainfully employed as a member of Brazil’s elite military police unit, B.O.P.E.
The 400 strong unit, specializes in urban warfare due to their work in the crime-ridden favelas of Rio De Janeiro.
In a nut-shell, BOPE is who the Brazilian police call upon when a situation gets too much for them to handle, which meant that for Thiago, stepping into the cage to fight was no big deal.
”To experience situations of great danger, I think hardens a man’s spirit,” Thiago stated in a UFC promo prior to one of his fights. “He gains more tranquility in situations a normal person would lose control. I think that in this way, my military service helped my MMA a lot.”
For the majority of his MMA career, Polish fighter Piotr Hallmann was fighting in the cage, while also serving as a Lieutenant in the Polish navy.
That was no easy task, given that his day job took up 65 hours a week, yet Hallmann managed to rack up an impressive 15-2 professional record, including three fights in the UFC, before he finally decided to devote himself full-time to mixed martial arts in 2014.
It wasn’t a decision he took lightly.
“On one hand the UFC now provides me with an opportunity to turn my hobby – fighting – into a job and get paid well to do that,” Hallmann had mused a couple of years before taking the plunge. “On the other hand, there is no insurance against failure.”
Those would prove to be fateful words as Hallmann lost his next three fights after leaving his day job, leading to him being released from the promotion in 2016, though he’s continued to fight in his native Poland since.