UFC Fight Night 79 may look like a smaller MMA card at a glance, but the main event is a blockbuster affair with some high stakes. Former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson returns in a violence-assured contest against dangerous fellow-veteran Jorge Masvidal, as both men look to put together the start of a winning streak in the welterweight division.
Things aren’t quite that simple for Henderson, though. Sure, he’s racking up money and climbing that UFC/Reebok tenure ladder. But “Bendo” is also intent on wrapping up his UFC contract for a run at the MMA free agency market. That’s unusual for an elite guy like Henderson, but let’s look deeper into the details as we dive into the previous UFC fighter salaries and last Reebok sponsorship payouts for the main card talent.
Benson Henderson [#16 WW]
$48,000** [UFC Fight Night 59]
Jorge Masvidal [#21 WW]
$102,000 = $51,000/$51,000 + $10,000* [TUF 21 Finale]
Analysis: If the numbers look skewed here, it’s worth noting that Bendo was making $110,000 in “show money” at his peak as UFC Lightweight Champion. Since disclosed pay is all we have to judge by, it seems Henderson’s suffered through a heck of a pay cut, and that’s along with whatever damage the Reebok deal has already done.
If that’s the case, it’s no wonder Henderson is thinking of taking his talents to Bellator, or perhaps ONE Championship. Even past his prime, it’s fair to guess the former UFC/WEC titleholder would be a decent draw and betting favorite against non-UFC 155-ers or 170-pounders.
Dong Hyun Kim [#11 WW]
$116,000 = $58,000/$58,000 [UFC 187]
Dominic Waters [#117 WW]
$12,500** = $10,000 + $2,500* [TUF 21 Finale]
(Dong Hyun Kim was originally supposed to fight Jorge Masvidal, which probably would’ve been vastly more competitive. Thiago Alves was initially scheduled vs. Benson Henderson, but pulled out via injury.)
Analysis: Like the main eventers, Kim may also be past his prime, but the 34-year-old is still a top-flight welterweight and easy lock for the UFC push into South Korea. About the only thing more lopsided than the rankings disparity between him and Dominic Waters is the gap in fighter pay, and one can only hope Waters is getting a “locker room bonus” check for his short-notice appearance and likely beating.
Yoshihiro Akiyama [#235 WW]
$45,000** [UFC 116]
Alberto Mina [NR]
N/A (No Salaries Reported)
Analysis: With a 1-4 record in his last five fights, it’s hard to imagine Yoshihiro Akiyama is being paid much more now than he was in 2010, when his last paycheck was publicly disclosed. It’s not even certain that’s he getting a relative softball in Alberto Mina, who’s boasting a 11-0 record decorated with nothing but wins via KO and submission.
Doo Ho Choi [#51 FW]
N/A (No Salaries Reported)
Sam Sicilia [#41 FW]
$36,000 = $18,000/$18,000 + $5,000* [UFC Fight Night 71]
Analysis: There’s a lot of interest in Doo Ho Choi here, since he’s assuredly being groomed for a return trip on the next UFC card in South Korea. The 24-year-old has a stiff test in a seasoned pro like Sam Sicilia, but a win here goes a long way to making that Dong Hyun Kim money.
Just for kicks, it’s worth noting that Seo Hee Ham is getting a pretty favorable match-up against unranked Courtney Casey, with both women coming off decision losses to Joanne Calderwood. Ham isn’t a huge investment judging by the $8,000 in disclosed pay, so a defeat here might not mean a pink slip given the shallow talent pool in the women’s 115-pound division.
# = Rankings Position
* = Reebok Sponsorship (since July 2015/UFC 189)
** = Loss, disqualification, no-contest, or no win bonus
UFC / Reebok Sponsorship Tiers
UFC Champion — $40,000
Title Challenger — $30,000
21+ UFC bouts — $20,000
16 to 20 UFC bouts — $15,000
11 to 15 UFC bouts — $10,000
6 to 10 UFC bouts — $5,000
1 to 5 UFC bouts — $2,500
Disclaimer: UFC salaries and Reebok payouts do not represent the full value or accurate dollar amounts paid to UFC fighters, which includes private gifts, unreported bonuses, and total undisclosed pay. “Performance of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” UFC bonus are not included. These figures also do not account for taxes, insurance, miscellaneous commission fees, or fighter expenses including traveling costs, gym fees, medical payments, coach salaries, and fighter management.