Top 10 Highest-Earning UFC Lightweights of 2013

Last Saturday’s UFC event was pretty awesome. The preliminary fights were all fairly entertaining and we got to see Frank Mir against Alistair Overeem. I was hopeful for Frank going in to this fight but it was simply not to be. Overeem overpowered him for the entire fight, as Mir was unable to keep up in terms of striking and could not control the ground game. There was a five-second period where I thought Frank might have been miraculously able to lock in a guillotine choke, but that was just a pipe dream.

Finally, I was not surprised by Urijah Faber’s early exit from his fight, as he was completely outmatched overall and didn’t come out with the fire that he would have needed to win the bout. At the end of the fight, I found myself wondering whether Renan Barao was looking at the clock while he was demolishing the side of Faber’s head with hammer-fists, or whether he was looking at Herb Dean as if to say “Bro, you see what I’m doing, when are you going to stop this?!”

The real reason the event was worth watching, was the "Fight of the Night" and "Knockout of the Night" winner, featuring Jamie Varner and Abel Trujillo. Those two lightweights worked each other over like I have rarely seen. Both of them looked solid on the ground and in the clinch, and when they were trading shots standing up, I could not have been more entertained. The back and forth was constant, as each fighter was landing solid shots throughout the scrap. For a while, it seemed as though Trujillo was going to get TKO’d as Varner had him up against the cage and was throwing punches at will. Both men were tough as nails in this fight but Abel Trujillo was able to withstand quite a beating and once Varner had tired out a bit, all it took was one well aimed shot to put him out like a light.

It’s all been said before, but I’ll repeat, lower weight class fights are awesome to watch. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it’s nice to see Brock Lesnar step into a ring and TKO someone after 5 minutes of ruthless hammer-fists. But I will say that the lower weight classes bring a fundamentally different energy to the ring and with a few notable exceptions, the smaller fighters can generally last longer in a high intensity battle. Feel free to call me wrong and question my sanity, but it’s an opinion.

Anyway, in light of that impressive lightweight fight, I thought I would take a look at the highest paid 155lb fighters from 2013. The figures listed are those for base salary, plus win bonuses and other bonuses. These figures are not always exact due to the fact that with many fighters, income from endorsements are not always publicly available, much like Pay Per View bonuses issued to some top fighters.

Some of these numbers are not entirely exact as some athletic commissions do not release exact numbers with regard to fighter winnings. That said, those numbers are based off of patterns in salary increase and decrease for fighters and can be considered very accurate. So, don’t sweat it.

4 Edson Barboza: $194,000 Earned

Competitive since 2009, Barboza dominated Renaissance MMA and Ring of Combat leagues before making his way into the UFC. He won his first three bouts but lost his first fight at UFC 146 against Jamie Varner in May 2012. Since then however, he has been virtually flawless, winning all three of his fights in 2013. In January. he beat Lucas Martins in the first round, earning $23,000 plus a $23,000 win bonus. In July , he TKO’d Rafaello Oliveira at UFC 162, winning the same amount. Finally, December brought Barboza his third victory of the year when he won a tough battle against Danny Castillo via decision. This fight won him $52,000, including win bonus, and another $50,000 for "Fight of the Night" honors.

3 Danny Castillo: $199,000 Earned

Danny Castillo fought three times in 2013, earning two wins and one loss. As previously mentioned, his loss was to Edson Barboza in December. In spite of his loss, he still took $81,000 away from the fight, with $31,000 for showing up and $50,000 for shared "Fight of the Night" honors. His wins occurred in February and July in which he beat Paul Sass and Tim Means, both in unanimous decisions after a full three rounds. These fights both brought him $58,000, bonuses included, but he was awarded $2,400 when Tim Means weighed in overweight.

2 Jim Miller: $203,000 Earned

With two fights in 2013, one win and one no-contest, Jim Miller comes in at number eight on this list. At UFC 159, he had an entertaining fight against Pat Hardy in which they went back and forth until Miller was submitted late in the 3rd round. After the fight however, it was declared a no-contest when Hardy tested positive for marijuana. This fight led to controversy over the amount of money Pat Hardy lost and even Dana White pointed out that the UFC was working on having marijuana removed from the banned substance list (after swearing quite a few times, and berating a couple of reporters). Marijuana controversy always reminds me of an old Robin Williams stand-up routine regarding snowboarders in the Olympics, in which he joked that pot is only a performance enhancing drug if there is a giant Hershey bar at the end of the slope. Miller was still awarded his $46,000 for fighting that night and also received $65,000 for "Fight of the Night".

Miller’s other fight was at UFC 168 where he faced Fabricio Camoes, which he won via submission in the first round. For this fight he was awarded $46,000 for participating and the same amount as a win bonus.

7. Anthony Pettis: $208,000 Earned

The UFC lightweight champion had a solid year in 2013, winning his two fights and earning not only the championship in his division but also one "Knockout of the Night" and one "Submission of the Night" . Both of his wins were quick, finishing both in the first round. In January, he mercilessly beat down Donald Cerrone, ending the fight halfway through the 1st round. Later in the year during UFC 164,  he received his shot at the lightweight title and earned both "Submission of the Night" and "Submission of the Year" when he ended Benson Henderson via armbar.

1 Jorge Masvidal: $209,000 Earned

Another 3-time scrapper in 2013, Jorge Masvidal went 2-1 last year. His fight in April was a unanimous decision win over Tim Means. For that fight, he won $30,000 for the fight and another $30,000 for the win. In July, he won his bout against Michael Chiesa via D’Arce choke submission, earning $33,000 for the fight and the same for the win. His only loss of the year was to Rustam Khabilov at UFC Fight for the Troops 3. The two won "Fight of the Night" for their efforts, so Masvidal took home $33,000 for the fight and another $50,000 for the "Fight of the Night" honor.

5. Gleison Tibau: $212,000 Earned

Brazilian Gleison Tibau, who has fought in the UFC since 2006, fought four times in 2013, going 2-2. His first fight was against Evan Dunham in a split decision loss at UFC 156 which earned him $33,000 for his efforts. In May, he faced off against John Cholish, who he finished off with a guillotine choke in the second round which earned him $66,000, win bonus included. His third fight and second win of the year took place in August against Jamie Varner. Tibau took the fight in a split decision after a hard fought battle. He earned $74,000 for the fight, including his win bonus. His final fight of the year was against Michael Johnson which he lost via a pretty nice knockout. Tibau still earned $39,000 for this fight.

4. Diego Sanchez: $216,000 Earned

Since his UFC debut, Sanchez has fought in three different weight classes since he won The Ultimate Fighter: Season One. He started out at middleweight, later dropping down to welterweight and finally entered the lightweight division in 2009. He has been competing in the UFC since 2005 and is one of the most exciting lightweights to watch. If you don’t agree, I will point to his 6 "Fight of the Night" awards. This guy is an absolute warrior and can always be relied upon for a great fight. His first fight of 2013 was a victory against the legendary Takanori Gomi, in which he earned $120,000 but was fined $24,000 for failing to weigh in at 155lbs. His second fight was a loss to Gilbert Melendez. The two got "Fight of the Night" and "Fight of the Year" honors and brought in a total of $120,000 for Sanchez.

T-2. Donald Cerrone: $310,000 Earned

Donald Cerrone has been in the UFC since 2011 and has been an exciting fighter throughout. He has already fought once in 2014 and finished his night with a beautiful head kick, delivered to Adriano Martins that won him "Knockout of the Night". 2013 saw Cerrone fighting four times and going 2-2. In January, he fought Anthony Pettis and lost in the first round via a vicious TKO and took home $41,000 for the fight. At UFC 160, he dominated K.J. Noons in a unanimous decision, earning $82,000, win bonus included. In August he took on Rafael Dos Anjos, with whom he had a great bout, but lost in a unanimous decision. He still took home another $41,000 for his efforts. His final fight was in November where he took on Evan Dunham. In round two, Cerrone handily submitted Dunham in the second round, earning "Submission of the Night". Along with his $50,000 for this distinction, he earned $96,000, including his win bonus for the evening.

T-2. Benson Henderson: $310,000 Earned

1. Gilbert Melendez: $410,000 Earned

Last year’s most handsomely paid lightweight was also a newcomer to the UFC. Prior to his entry into the UFC, he was the on and off Strikeforce lightweight champion since 2006. Melendez was given a title shot right out of the gate with the UFC, when he fought Benson Henderson in April. He lost the fight in a split decision but was still paid $175,000 for participating. Later on, in October, he met Diego Sanchez and handily won that fight via unanimous decision. He was paid another $175,000 for that fight and received another $60,000 for his bout being "Fight of the Night."

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