Why Are MMA Fighters Underpaid (3 Common Reasons)

Many people have the impression that athletes are the embodiment of fame and money. However, while some household names like Christiano Ronaldo or Serena Williams may bear witness to this statement, not all sports enjoy the same spotlight and privileges. 

There are more niche branches where the participants barely make a living, especially in combat sports like boxing or fighting. 

In today’s article, let’s explore one of the sore topics of the martial arts industry. Why are MMA fighters underpaid? How are their payments in comparison to other fighters? And how much do they earn approximately per fight? Keep reading if you find these questions intriguing! 

3 Reasons Why MMA Fighters Are Underpaid

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There are several reasons why MMA fighters are underpaid. These include the lack of legal recognition and legislative protection, limited competition, and fewer chances of promotion.

The lack of protection from the Ali Act

First of all, MMA fighters do not fall under the category of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, or the Ali Act for short. This was passed in 2000 as an attempt to reduce and minimize the negative influence of promotors on licensed boxers. 

Named after the famous 20th-century boxer and activist, the Ali Act seeks to shield boxers against abusive and coercive contracts, conflict of interests, and unfair wages. 

Unlike formal boxing, MMA fighting is not covered in this piece of legislature. Therefore, legally speaking, there is no breaking the laws if the MMA fighters receive less money than they deserve or were promised.

Read more: Best Muay Thai Heavy Bag Reviews

Limited competition

Secondly, the number of MMA fighters is rather limited. As a result, when a tournament is organized, fighters rarely have to face more than a few opponents to claim the prize. 

Since fighters are paid based on their appearances and final results of each fight, they are not likely to be overwhelmed with cash when the fighting does not exceed beyond four or five rounds. 

Little promotion

Last but not least, MMA fighting does not enjoy as much coverage and attention as boxing. This discourages any potential brands or promoters from pouring money into the games. So why waste it knowing that only a small fraction of the audience will watch the fights? 

Having little sponsorship prevents MMA organizers – such as the UFC – from increasing their payment towards the fighters. Hence, MMA athletes suffer from much lower wages compared to more popular sports. 

What Are MMA And UFC?

Why Are MMA Fighters Underpaid

If you are a fan of combat sports, you might already be familiar with MMA or UFC. But for those of you who are new to the game, here is a brief explanation.

MMA stands for mixed martial arts, which is a direct combat sport. MMA can also be used to refer to no holds barred, cage fighting, or fighting in general. What makes it different from other specific types of fighting is its lack of central focus. 

Instead of using fighting techniques from only one sport, MMA prides itself on the involvement of various sports. You can see bits of boxing, bits of Muay Thai, bits of karate, etc., when watching a standard MMA show. 

Now, let’s move on to the UFC.

UFC stands for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, one of the most recognizable and biggest companies of MMA fighting. UFC helps to establish what is known as the ground rules of all MMA fighting tournaments. 

The organization also has its fair share of top-tier fighters, alongside several worldwide events. If you have ever seen an MMA fight being broadcast, chances are it is a product from the UFC.

If you are interested in watching the best UFC knockouts of all time, try this Youtube video right away. Not only is it thrilling and entertaining, but it also gives you a glimpse into how UFC monitors its activities.


1. What is the lowest amount paid for UFC fighters?

UFC fighters are divided into three tiers, namely low, medium and high. Those belonging to the lowest tier tend to make roughly $10000 for each fight. However, this number can fluctuate, depending on how popular these people are and whether the fight is heavily sponsored.

2. How much do low-level MMA fighters make?

Not all MMA fighters are part of the UFC. If you are an amateur MMA fighter with no big corp or organization to back you up, showing up at the game means you can get approximately $300. 

Winners are added another $300, which makes a total of $600. Needless to say, this payment does not pay homage to the possible injuries during the fight and the hard work put into it.

That is not to mention the training fees and taxes. These factors usually cost around 20% of the overall payment, leaving newbie MMA fighters with roughly $350-400 at their disposal.

3. What is the highest amount paid for UFC fighters?

Professional UFC fighters have a higher payment threshold, topping at nearly $50000 per fight. Sometimes, they can earn as much as $3000000, though this circumstance is rather rare. 

4. What is the highest-paid MMA fighter?

Why Are MMA Fighters Underpaid

Khabib Nurmagomedov holds the title of the highest-paid fighter in UFC history. Being the former UFC lightweight champion, he earned a staggering amount of more than $6000000 before officially retiring in 2021.

5. What is the lowest-paid MMA fighter?

Unlike Nurmagomedov, Petr Yan – UFC’s champion in 2020 – received a tiny amount of $230000 for winning the tournament.  


After reading this article, hopefully, you have understood why are MMA fighters underpaid. The nature of this sport presents its participants with fewer opportunities to earn money through their hard work, so do not be surprised the next time you happen to glance at MMA fighters’ paysheet. 

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