Mixed martial art, or MMA, is a full contact combat sport that can make boxing look like a sport for sissies. The roots of the sport can be traced to the ancient Olympic Games, when competitors would engage in a martial art called pankration. During the early part of the 20th century, Europe and the Pacific Rim nations saw a variety of contests for mixed styles of martial arts. Brazil, on the other hand, saw the development of vale tudo in the 1920s. When it was brought to the United States in 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, was born. Up to now, the UFC is the largest MMA promotion in the world.
Royce Gracie, the Jiu Jitsu expert, dominated the UFC’s early years when there were no rounds or time limits governing the event. At the time, a fighter was expected to be involved in up to three fights per night before claiming victory for that particular tournament. Gracie was able to submit three fighters in a total of five fighting minutes in the first UFC, which sparked a revolution in the sport. Between the years of 1993 and 1994, Gracie dominated the first four UFC tournaments, though he had to withdraw from a fight in UFC 3 due to dehydration. A notable win was in UFC 4 when he spent 16 minutes being pinned on the ground by the bigger Dan Severn before he caught Severn in a triangle choke. He then fought Ken Shamrock to a draw after 36 minutes of fighting in UFC 5, the tournament where a time limit was reintroduced but with no judges to declare a winner in case the time limit is up.
Gracie and Shamrock went on to become the first members of the UFC Hall of Fame in 2003. MMA has since gone on to garner acceptance in mainstream sports, with pay per view numbers that rival that of boxing. And with its popularity comes the money. Gracie and Shamrock may be the sport’s foundation, but they fought before the big bucks rolled in. Here is a list of the top ten richest fighters in the MMA.
1. B.J. Penn – $20 million
He is probably the greatest lightweight in MMA history. He has won championships in both lightweight and welterweight categories, and he has fought up to the middleweight and light heavyweight categories. In all, Penn has earned $2.65 million from the UFC. But he has a wealthy family in Hawaii to back him up, with reports that they own up to five percent of Hawaiian land. He also has a popular gym and has written a couple of best selling books. This is one rich man who does not need a bodyguard.
2. Tito Ortiz – $15 million
He was light heavyweight champion for three years. He was also one of the sport’s biggest pay per view draws. He has his own clothing line called Punishment Athletics MMA. He also has his own gym called Punishment Training Center. The Bad Boy of Huntington is married to Jenna Jameson, the richest porn star in the world.
3. Randy Couture – $14 million
He was the first fighter to hold two championships in two divisions at the same time when he held both heavyweight and light heavyweight crowns. He was a three-time heavyweight champion and two-time light heavyweight champion. He is now a movie star, appearing in The Expendables series.
4. Chuck Liddell – $13 million
He was one of the most dominant champions in the UFC, having captured the light heavyweight championship. He helped bring MMA into the mainstream, even appearing as a guest in some TV shows, like Entourage. He has the highest earning of any fighter if prize money is the only basis, having won $4.3 million from his fights.
5. Brock Lesnar – $12.5 million
The former WWE star is also a former heavyweight champion of the UFC. He has earned $2.8 million from UFC. He also had a failed attempt at being a linebacker for the National Football League when the Minnesota Vikings cut him late.
6. Anderson Silva – $10 million
He is probably the greatest MMA fighter of all time. He is currently the best not only in the middleweight category, but also in pound-for-pound rankings. He is the longest reigning UFC champion ever.
7. Fedor Emelianenko – $10 million
He is one of the best heavyweight fighters in the MMA. He won tournaments in Pride and Combat Sambo. He is now a politician in his native Russia, where he is also a staff member of the Council of Physical Fitness and Sports.
8. Wanderlei Silva – $8 million
He is nicknamed The Axe Murderer, and he has competed in both Pride FC and UFC. He holds the Pride record for most wins, knockouts and title defenses, as well as the longest winning streak. He held Pride’s middleweight title, as well as the IVC light heavyweight crown. He is also raking it in as an endorser in Japan, where he is hugely popular.
9. Quinton Jackson – $8 million
He used to be the light heavyweight champion of the UFC. He had a famous rivalry with Wanderlei Silva that extended from their Pride days to the UFC. He burst into the limelight when he beat Chuck Liddell for the UFC’s light heavyweight championship. He is now a movie star, as the man known as Rampage has appeared in such films like The A-Team.
10. Georges St. Pierre – $7 million
He is the UFC welterweight champion of the world. He is also regularly ranked as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world today. He was named Athlete of the Year of Canada for three consecutive years starting in 2008. He has had memorable fights with the likes of B.J. Penn, Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. He is probably the biggest pay per view attraction of the UFC today, according to no less than the president of the UFC, Dana White.