Inside the octagon, their job is to basically beat people up, but in everyday life, fighters may differ little from the average people going about their business, doing their thing, earning that paycheck. Fighters aren’t born, so it’s not that surprising that they can come from every stroll of life. Not everyone can know their passion right away, and even fighters sometimes have to work a regular ‘9:00-5:00’.
Sports aren’t always a lucrative career choice either, at least not when it comes to MMA. Even the biggest sports promotion can’t or won’t pay all their fighters enough to allow them to fight full-time. While UFC’s Conor McGregor is stuffing his pockets full of millions from each Diaz fight, other fighting professionals have no other choice than to take up a second job, or at least try and secure a profession that will help them make a living after they retire from the brutal sport with a slew of possible injuries and health problems.
From handymen to middle-managers to college professionals, these UFC fighters have worked (and some continue to do so) as garbagemen, doctors, and even teachers at one point of their life to either make a living or balance out their fighting career.
Here could be any one of Michael Bisping’s numerous jobs, but an upholsterer seems like a much more constructive profession as opposed to a slaughterer, a demolition worker, or a fighter. UFC’s middleweight champion cycled through quite a few occupations, which also included a tiler, a plasterer, and a postman, before finally arriving to the thought that he wanted to become a professional fighter.
Never paying much attention in school or going to college left Bisping clueless about what he wanted to do with his life, until one day his boss asked him about it and ended up calling the reigning champ an idiot, when he voiced his aspirations.
Aside from fighting on the biggest MMA arena, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic also works as a firefighter/paramedic in Valley View and Oakwood Village, Ohio. But it doesn’t seem to have to do much with finances. Miocic admits that for him, there is “nothing better than being a fireman” and that he loves helping people.
The belt Miocic won from Fabricio Werdum earlier this year changed nothing. It’s his love for doing the good work and the brotherhood in his department that keeps Stipe Miocic in the dangerous line of work.
Chris Lytle and Don Frye probably share that love as well. Both worked as firemen with the former still keeping a job at an Indiana fire department.
Although he is not a UFC fighter, MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, too, served as a military firefighter in the 90s. Much later though, he scored a high-profile gig as a Russian Ministry of Sport, which he left to return to the cage.
Forget model gigs and film roles. Before Conor McGregor ever dreamed about appearing in Call of Duty, he was a simple Irish plumber with no passion or obsession, as he calls it, for the job. It’s not that there is anything wrong with it, but The Notorious wanted to follow a different path, and do what he does best— fight.
After a post-lunch epiphany in the rain, McGregor came home from work and told his parents that he is never going back, and the rest is pretty much history.
While plumbing is not the most glamorous job in the world, it is a decently paying one (at least in the US). Conor opted for an uncertain future in a relatively small sport and definitely came out on top, though probably not entirely because of his fighting skills.
14. Police Officer
Another dangerous occupation fighters opt for is police work. With a slightly higher pay comes a slew of life risks, but someone’s still got to do it.
Fighters like Forrest Griffin and Mike Russow took up arms to serve and protect, but while Griffin moved on to other avenues (like writing books) after his UFC fame came to be, Russow is still carrying his duty in his native Chicago.
There is a different, more prominent relationship between police force and fighters, however. Run-ins, discontent, and arrests, often put the people of the two occupations at odds with each other. The latest incident with Jon Jones reiterated the oldest life lesson anyone can learn regardless of profession. Stay out of trouble.
13. U.S. Special Forces Servicemen
The U.S. Army always welcomes new recruits. For such athletic individuals that usually go into fighting, a boot camp may seem like another day at the gym. Another long, hard day.
UFC has had quite a few fighters with different military backgrounds. Tim Kennedy, for one, is a Ranger qualified, Green Beret, Special Forces Sniper with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And women’s bantamweight Liz Carmouche was an aviation electrician in the Marine Corps for five years, during which she also went on tours to the Middle East.
Sergeant Randy Couture served in the 101st Airborne for six years back in the 80s. There, he took up some wrestling and boxing, later even making the Greco-Roman team.
12. Fitness Instructor
This seems like a great fit for someone who spends most of their time in the gym. Many fighters tend to stick to what they know and love— training. And though being a teacher requires an entirely different set of skills, it’s still closer to home than something unrelated to fighting and sports.
Holly Holm started her training in aerobics, quickly transitioning into kickboxing, but she kept it as a job to make a living on the side. Now she’s training people at Defined Fitness gym in Albuquerque, helping them to get in shape with jumps, explosive moves, and even boxing.
This is something Holm keeps doing even after knocking out Ronda Rousey and becoming UFC’s second bantamweight champion, as she seems to enjoy helping people and keeping herself active.
11. Martial Arts Teacher
Helping people lose weight is one thing, but passing on your own knowledge and experience about a certain discipline is even more common among retired fighters. The most prominent example? Matt Serra.
After retiring in 2013, Serra opened two Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools in New York, and went on to train such UFC fighters as Chris Weidman, Aljamain Sterling, and Al Iaquinta.
Other fighters-turned-coaches include Nate Marquardt, Mark Coleman, and Randy Couture. The latter has been coaching people throughout his MMA career and founded a few camps including his latest gym Xtreme Couture, which is a training ground for the former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate. He even helped train Vitor Belfort for his Affliction bout with Terry Martin.
10. Sales Representative
Realtor jobs are all about closing deals on sales, but there is a more lucrative sales occupation that can bring in a number of around $65,000 per year, which definitely beats fighting, or can at least sustain it. Former UFC fighter Kevin Burns knows how it is because he worked as a sales representative for Wells Fargo Financial Leasing in Des Moines, Iowa while training in MMA.
He was also a competing college football player prior to his fighting career, but later fell for Taekwondo and BJJ, which eventually lead him to mixed martial arts.
9. Spokesperson for McDonald’s
If the world didn’t have MMA, Anderson Silva would probably still be a spokesperson for McDonald’s, where the legendary fighter developed his love for burgers.
A man of many talents, he also did a little singing stint in a Burger King commercial, after getting a sponsorship from the brand.
In case you didn’t know, Jose Aldo, too, loves burgers, so much so that he got his own little place in Rio decorated with his posters and equipped for watching fights, while enjoying a huge-looking patty with some reportedly delicious fries. Of course, opening one’s own business probably does not constitute an everyday job, but it is a good investment for a fighter who got some money after years and years of fighting as a champion like Aldo.
8. Garbage Man
Georges St-Pierre was one of UFC’s biggest stars, whose return is still very much entertained by both parties and quite anticipated by MMA fans. But back in the day, when he was only trying to make it in the sport, Georges worked as a garbageman.
It’s hard to imagine a man, who became such a big name in the sport, picking up heaps of trash and tossing them into a truck, but it just goes to show that things can go both ways for anyone.
7. Network Administrator
Dubbed a nerd, Joe Lauzon is no pushover, and is right behind Nate Diaz on those post-fight bonuses. When he just started fighting, Lauzon still worked as a part-time network administrator, and wanted to keep it that way, realizing that it’s a much safer occupation. But after knocking out a former lightweight Jens Pulver, he decided to make fighting a full-time thing.
Later he used his tech knowledge to amount some following on the internet, and help keep his momentum going, which also helped with sponsors.
6. Grade School Teacher
Working with kids isn’t as far from fighting as one may think. Many athletes start their training at a fairly young age. But fighters working as grade school teachers is something more unconventional.
Before his run in the UFC, heavyweight Roy Nelson worked as a substitute third- and fourth-grade teacher. Looking like a driver and hitting like a truck, Nelson is truly a man of many talents.
A former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin was teaching math at Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, when he decided to try mixed martial arts. With a degree in mathematics and education, his path was pretty clear until interest in combat sports surfaced and made him want to try them out.
5. University Professor
Teaching and training is popular with fighters, but it usually has to do with teaching people how to punch, kick, and wrestle. UFC’s former featherweight Aaron Phillips previously taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. With a degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science he is keeping things in line with sports, it seems.
Quite a few others have pursued or are pursuing degrees in various disciplines, but it’s safe to say that very few teach at a university.
With fighters’ pay raising concerns, athletes keep looking to the side, and try to further their qualifications for a day job. Straw-weight Tecia Torres is currently acquiring a Master’s Degree in criminology, and if she wasn’t scared, by her own admission, she’d like to work for the FBI.
With a net worth of $2 million, Holm has no intention to relax and live off her hard-earned capital. But she realizes that training like she does everyday can take a toll on the body, so at the advice of her dad who also deals in real estate, she went on to obtain a realtor license, although she isn’t actively using it at the moment.
Realtors make on average slightly less than plumbers, and it’s a job that requires good sales and communications skills. It seems, however, that it might be just the right fit for Holm once she decides to step out of the ring for good. She is very likeable and already has tons of experience working and communicating with people, both clients and fans.
3. Mechanical Engineer
UFC’s former heavyweight Shane Carwin is another fighter who made good use of his college degree. He graduated from Colorado School of Mines a mechanical engineer, and continued to work as one throughout his fighting career.
With an average salary of $80,000 and a job that allows taking breaks for training, it doesn’t seem bad at all.
It’s difficult to imagine a better-paying job on the list. Average attorneys make around $100K per year, and can generate that much more, if they work in the right place.
Christian Wellisch, who also competed in WFC and King of the Cage, is an attorney with an extra degree in philosophy. He got his law diploma from McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in 2007, and retired two years later to open his own practice.
Okay, doctors get better pay (on average) than attorneys, but the profession requires almost a decade of dedicated training and practice. Few active fighters can afford to spent equal time for both disciplines, but a few of them somehow managed it.
Seth Kleinbeck used to fight under a nickname of ‘Mass Destruction’, but later got billed ‘The Doctor’ thanks to his medical career. It certainly wasn’t easy, but Kleinbeck, who never payed attention in school, did well in his pre-med studies after also serving in the Marine Corps for eight months.
Rosi Sexton was UK’s first female UFC athlete, and fought under ‘The Surgeon’ alias. Training in martial arts since she was in school, Sexton studied math in university and even completed a PhD in Theoretical computer science, but her change of profession came to be in 2010 when she graduated from Oxford Brookes’ and became a registered osteopath in Shirley and Manchester.
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