When an observer reviews UFC fighter payouts after an event, they’re often left scratching their heads as to why they are so low in comparison to boxing. UFC president Dana White has been often accused of underpaying his fighters and was even labelled as a tyrant by his own mother in a painfully uncomfortable interview. We would be foolish to think that top fighters like Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones only make a mere $500,000 per fight. They obviously get a cut of the pay-per-view revenue and have lucrative sponsorship deals.
One of St-Pierre’s head trainers, Jon Chaimberg, revealed in an interview with TSN 690 that when it was all said and done, St-Pierre would earn over $5 million for his last fight against Johny Hendricks. This is all fine and dandy for fighters in the main event slot, but there are also 12 other fights on the card; how can these guys earn an extra buck? The only way they can is by receiving a bonus based on their performance.
It’s not enough to simply win, as the UFC traditionally offers $50,000 for a “Knockout of the Night”, “Submission of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” (sometimes a little less if it is not a pay-per-view event, sometimes a little more if they’re feeling generous). This bonus is vital to a fighter’s financial well-being in many cases. For example, at UFC 104, Pat Barry was slated to receive a measly $7,000 to show. Then he ended up racking in the “Knockout of the Night” award for $60,000, along with the “Fight of the Night” award for an additional 60 grand, leaving him with $120,000 in bonus money! The bankers didn’t even believe him when he walked in to cash the check as he had nothing in his account and was sustaining himself with Ramen noodles and ketchup in the weeks leading up to the fight.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 all-time bonus leaders. Unfortunately, in certain cases the monetary totals are not disclosed due to the fact that bonus money was not consistently reported prior to UFC 70.
10. Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez, 6 Bonuses ($305,000)
Before we get started, I must admit that there are 10 other fighters tied with Sanchez at 6 bonuses, but I have decided that he jumps the other 10 and makes the list because his case is the most intriguing. I say this because all 6 of his fight bonuses are for “Fight of the Night”. Diego Sanchez is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC as he is simply incapable of being boring (as I’m sure you could never guess by his picture). Even his walk-outs to the octagon are captivating as he comes out to “We Will Rock You” and shouts “YES” over and over for no apparent reason. He is truly one of a kind.
9. Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, 7 Bonuses ($420,000)
For those of you who are not familiar with Wanderlei Silva, he was an absolute beast in Pride FC, which was the #1 competition of the UFC for years until they finally got bought out. He doesn’t rank very high on this list, but the reason that this ranking is so impressive is because he was deemed “done” by the time he came back to the UFC. Silva fought in the UFC twice before moving to Pride FC and by the time he came back, most pundits believed his better days were behind him. This is because he was 2-3 in his last 5 fights before returning to the UFC. He made his octagon debut versus Chuck Liddell which was billed as a “loser goes home” type of fight, as it would appear that both their careers were on the decline. Both fighters captivated the crowd in an all-out slug fest and earned themselves 50K each for a “Fight of the Night” bonus. Since that fight six years ago when Silva was deemed “finished”, he has amassed 6 more bonuses. Way to shut the critics up Wandy!
8. Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout, 7 Bonuses ($385,000)
Sam Stout is one of those fighters who has been stuck in the middle of the deck for his entire career. Whenever he gets an opportunity against a top 10 opponent, he unfortunately falls short. This is not to say that he isn’t an entertaining fighter as he has amassed 7 bonus awards and 6 of those were of the “Fight of the Night” variety. He uses the nickname “Hands of Stone” and you would figure with a name like that, he would be knocking people out left right and center. It is fair to say that he did not live up to his moniker in his UFC career, until he fought UFC veteran Yves Edwards at UFC 131. Stout knocked him out cold and picked up $50,000 in bonus cash, finally showing off his “Hands of Stone”.
7. Donald “The Cowboy” Cerrone, 8 Bonuses ($510,000)
7th on the list is Donald Cerrone with 7 bonuses. MMA fighters in general are pretty nice guys nowadays and they’d much rather be referred to as “martial artists” rather than fighters. They also generally steer clear from altercations outside the work place and show an aptitude for turning the other cheek. Well, that nice guy fluff all goes out the window when it comes to The Cowboy. He is definitely a throw-back to the old-school breed of fighters who will throw-down at the blink of an eye. His most notable bonus took place at UFC 150 against Melvin Guillard. Cerrone managed to survive an onslaught and connected with a kick and then a right hook which floored Guillard. Similar to Pat Barry, Cerrone took home a 60K “Knockout of the Night” bonus, and a 60K “Fight of the Night” bonus, as the two combatants set a frenetic pace.
6. Clay “The Carpenter” Guida, 8 Bonuses ($320,000)
Clay Guida is 6th on the list with 8 bonuses and barring his snore fest with Gray Maynard, all of his fights have been fantastic to watch. He simply cannot stand still, as even before the opening bell sounds, he either jogs in one spot or relentlessly twitches. He is a coach’s nightmare, but a fans dream to watch. His most notable bonus came at The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale as he and Diego Sanchez absolutely tore the house down. These two just stood toe to toe and teed off on each other. This fight was later billed the “Fight of the Year” for 2009. Another reason the fight was so significant was because the rest of the fight card was horrendous. The night seemed to drag worse than a Sex and the City episode until these two gentlemen saved the event.
5. Frankie Edgar, 8 Bonuses ($390,000)
Frankie Edgar is tied with Guida on this list at 8 bonuses. Edgar’s case is compelling because most fighters will weigh in at 20-25 pounds less than their natural weight and then replenish overnight. Edgar fought in the 155 pound weight category but that was also his natural weight, resulting in him fighting opponents with a superior weight advantage. He still managed to win the championship and put on exciting fights in the process. His most notable was his “Fight of the Night” bonus with Gray Maynard at UFC 125. Edgar took more abuse in round one than you would see in most Mortal Kombat fights. The nation unanimously questioned referee Yves Lavigne’s sanity as he allowed this beating to continue (the nation was also unanimously hungover as this fight was on New Year’s Day). Lavigne’s judgment appeared to be correct as Edgar battled back and forced a draw with the much larger Maynard. The fight was billed “Fight of the Year” for 2011 and Edgar also went on to win the rematch.
4. Chris Lytle, 10 Bonuses (Undisclosed)
Chris Lytle clocks in at 4th on the list with 10 bonuses. Lytle was a guy that flew under the radar because he did not have the most charismatic persona as he was a shy, humble and respectful guy throughout his career. When he wasn’t training for a fight, he was putting out fires (as he was a fireman), and I cannot think of a single flaw about him other than the fact that he seems to take everyone’s bonuses! He is one of the few fighters that left on his own terms as he announced that his fight against Dan Hardy in 2011 would be his last. Lytle took home yet another “Fight of the Night” award and managed to snatch the “Submission of the Night” bonus to boot as he choked out Hardy in the final minutes. His total for that night was $130,000 in bonuses, not a bad send-off!
3. Nate Diaz, 11 Bonuses ($535,000)
Nate Diaz stands alone at #3 with 11 bonus honours. He may be the only man on the face of the Earth that can tell his boss that he’s full of it and still be ranked third in the company in overall bonuses. Diaz is also the only man in the UFC who has secured a triangle choke, proceeded to flex, yell and demean his opponent for no apparent reason and also secure a “Submission of the Night” bonus in the process. Gotta love (hate) the Diaz brothers!
2. Joe Lauzon, 12 bonuses (undisclosed)
Joe Lauzon is 2nd on the list with 12 bonuses, with 6 of them coming by way of submission. This is an impressive feat because the submission game is somewhat of a lost art as the sport evolves with wrestlers becoming efficient at smothering their opponents and avoiding submissions. Here’s where Lauzon slides in and craps on my theory as he continues to dish out submissions. Most recently he was in a fight against Jamie Varner at UFC on Fox 4 where it was fairly even midway through the final round. Out of nowhere Lauzon wrapped Varner up in a triangle choke, leaving everyone puzzled as to how he just pulled that off. While we stood there scratching our heads, he walked off with a check for $100,000 as he snatched the “Fight of the Night”, and “Submission of the Night” bonus.
1. Anderson Silva, 12 bonuses (Undisclosed)
Anderson Silva is tied for #1 on the list with 12 bonuses. While Joe Lauzon is actually tied with him, I’ve chosen to put Silva above him on the list because Silva’s bonuses were all on pay-per-view which means he’s accumulated more money. Another reason is because seeing Silva #2 on any list just looks foreign. 7 of the 12 have come by way of “Knockout of the Night”. His knockouts are simply masterful and baffling at the same time as to how he pulls them off. The knockout demonstrated above was against Vitor Belfort in their showdown at UFC 126. It’s been deemed the greatest knockout of all time as he perfectly executes a front-kick to the face (which actor Steven Seagal later claimed he taught Anderson.) Although the exact amount is undisclosed, Silva has earned over $600,000 in career bonus money.
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