UFC popularity has soared over the last ten years, helped by deals with TV broadcasters like ESPN. The increase in viewership has leveraged somewhat of a rivalry between boxing and MMA fans, although many like to tune into both types of fighting events. That rivalry came toe to toe when Mayweather faced MMA star McGregor in 2018, in what was known as a billion-dollar fight. Interestingly, Mayweather has teased of a rematch. The money involved was astronomical, and it makes us question, which type of professional fighter earns the most?
First, Where Does the Money Come From?
Both sports are incredibly wealthy, with money coming from an array of different avenues. For these fighters to get paid big money, the people who arrange the fights need to accumulate even more wealth. After all, fighting is a business and the companies at the top want big profits just as much as the athletes.
There is, of course, TV rights which make up a significant percentage of fighting revenue. Big fights are usually held in well-known locations such as Las Vegas and broadcast to millions around the world who have to pay a one-off fee to view the contest. This means there are also tickets to be sold with those closest to the action paying thousands of dollars to watch the blood and sweat up close.
The other primary form of revenues come from promoting products and sponsorship, and in fighting sports, the latter usually comes from sports brands or gambling companies. There is a natural connection between gambling and sports as most fans like to bet on fights – and get a second bout of adrenaline through betting on the games before the first blow lands.
So, Who Makes More Money?
The facts and figures from both sources suggest that boxers make significantly more money than UFC fighters. Even if you look beyond the outliers at the top of each sport, such as people like Mayweather and McGregor, further down the order boxers still take home bigger salaries. An MMA fighter like Cormier earned less than $2 million in a year, whereas an equivalent level boxer like Golovkin earned around 12 times that amount in a year. Although it is important to remember that the UFC is relatively new compared to boxing.
But Do Most Fighters Really Make Big Money?
The flashy lifestyles, fast cars and own alcohol brands may look like reality from the outside, but for the masses of professional fighters, this is never the case. Business Insider has reported that only 19 out of every 21,000 fighters will make big money from their sport. This means the odds are not in any fighter’s favour to become rich from fighting. The report goes on to say that most fighters in the UK will make post-tax profits less than £20,000. This means fighting for many people means earning less than the average income of any professional industry.
Of course, some fighters will fight in million – or billion – dollar fights in USA’s Nevada desert playground. Yet, it is rare that any fighter will make it to the big time.