UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor – Who’s Getting Paid?

9 Dec , 2015,
McKinley Noble
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UFC 194 is The Big One. Two title fights and three main card bouts with elite divisional talent, and each one of those matches could arguably headline any Fight Night or UFC Fight Pass event.

As far as MMA cards go, it doesn’t get much better than this. UFC 194 is worth it just for the long-awaited battle between featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo and superstar Conor McGregor alone. But thanks to the Las Vegas setting, we’re about to get a rare peek into the money behind some of the UFC’s biggest names. Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive right into previous UFC fighter salaries and most-recent Reebok sponsorship payouts for each athlete on Saturday’s main card.

Note: Divisional rankings via Fight Matrix. UFC salaries and Reebok figures via MMA Payout and MMA Junkie.

 

Jose Aldo [#1 FW]
$240,000 = $120,000/$120,000 [UFC 156]

Conor McGregor [#3 FW]
$530,000** = $530,000 + $30,000* [UFC 189]

Analysis: Jose Aldo has loudly and repeatedly stated that he’s vastly underpaid by the UFC brass, often to equally loud criticism. Judging by the paper trail alone, he’s 100-percent correct.

For a man who has a legit claim to being the world’s #1 pound-for-pound fighter, his reported salaries are underwhelming to say the least. It’s also been nearly three years since Aldo’s last public paycheck, so win or lose, we’ll at least have a better grasp on his worth to the UFC.

Conor McGregor is much harder to figure out. While his last disclosed salary at UFC 189 looks high, it was a one-time deal also given to Chad Mendes to compensate for some very late emergency matchmaking.

UFC Fight Night 59 was actually the last time we got “show” and “win” salary numbers for McGregor, where he made $170,000 ($85,000/$85,000) for beating up an overmatched Dennis Siver. All his bragging aside, the Irish phenom is clearly making six figures in base pay, even before factoring in that exclusive Reebok deal he signed quite a while ago.

 

Chris Weidman [#1 MW]
$500,000 = $250,000/$250,000 [UFC 187]

Luke Rockhold [#2 MW]
$80,000 = $40,000/$40,000 [UFC Fight Night 35]

Analysis: Luke Rockhold walked into UFC Fight Night 35 with an 0-1 record, but the 4-0 winning streak he kicked off that night is nothing short of incredible. Assuming his salary has significantly increased in the last two years, a win over Weidman will also dramatically lift Rockhold’s Reebok payout — from $5,000 to $40,000 — on a regular basis.

That being said, Weidman probably holds some kind of record for the most drastic MMA fighter event-to-event salary increase to date. From UFC 162 to UFC 168, Weidman’s pay increased nearly tenfold from $48,000 to $400,000, not to mention the addition of his own exclusive Reebok contract.

 

Ronaldo Souza [#5 MW]
$100,500 = $72,500/$28,000 [Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine]

Yoel Romero [#4 MW]
$66,000 = $33,000/$33,000 [UFC Fight Night 70]

Analysis: It’ll be a bit shocking if Ronaldo Souza’s first public UFC paycheck is less than six figures on base pay, especially given his 8-0 winning streak and extremely high profile in the newly-surging middleweight division. Unlike Rockhold, “Jacare” may not be as uniquely harmed by the Reebok deal, since he also signed up with Team Reebok in fairly short order.

Yoel Romero, on the other hand, is the rare international talent who’s actually spent most of his UFC career fighting in America, with plenty of disclosed salaries along the way. For a guy so highly-ranked in such a lively weight class, one could only imagine how much more “The Soldier of God” would be making if he were allowed to field his own sponsorships.

 

Demian Maia [#7 WW]
$64,000** [UFC 170]

Gunnar Nelson [#19 WW]
$63,000 = $29,000/$29,000 + $5,000* [UFC 189]

Analysis: At 21 UFC bouts, Demian Maia is one of the rare active fighters who’s in the highest non-title tier of the Reebok deal. Unfortunately, that $20,000 in Reebok payouts per fight is probably where Maia will stay for the rest of his UFC career if he can’t beat Gunnar Nelson.

For Nelson, this fight is one more step on a long climb up the Reebok sponsorship tiers. He just crossed the $5,000 mark at UFC 189, and at this rate, probably won’t hit $10,000 per fight until 2018 or later.

 

Max Holloway [#4 FW]
$40,000 = $20,000/$20,000 [UFC Fight Night 49]

Jeremy Stephens [#11 FW]
$92,000 = $32,000/$40,000 + $20,000* [UFC 189]

Analysis: Max Holloway has quietly put together one of the most impressive winning streaks in MMA today, with a 7-0 record since losing to Conor McGregor in 2013. Holloway’s last public check wasn’t that long ago, so he’s hopefully made a sharp increase since then.

Jeremy Stephens, on the other hand, hasn’t been too consistent in the cage or on the scales, missing weight twice in his last two fights. At least he’s got 21 UFC fights in the bank, with that $20,000 in Reebok money now available to soften the blow from fees to Stephen pays to his opponents.

 

Other Notes: Despite his “headliner” spot on the prelim side of UFC 194, we definitely can’t ignore Urijah Faber. His last reported salary was $140,000 ($70,000 to show, plus $70,000 to win) against Francisco Rivera at UFC 184.

It’s also probably not much of a stretch to figure that Faber’s a possible understudy for the Aldo/McGregor fight, just in case one of them happens to fall down in the shower or something. Weirder things have definitely happened.

 

# = 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.

 

Follow McKinley Noble at @KenTheGreat1.