UFC on Fox 17 is quietly underscoring the massive embarrassment of riches that MMA fans are having this December. If our latest Fight Matrix Program wasn’t enough of a clue, this weekend hosts one of the most competitive and quality-driven fight cards of the year.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone aside, Michael Johnson, Nate Diaz, Junior dos Santos, and Alistair Overeem could all headline their own UFC cards — but as it sometimes happens, we’re getting them all in one event. Let’s enjoy this good fortune and do our thing, as we run down the previous UFC fighter salaries with most-recent Reebok sponsorship payouts for each combatant on Friday’s Fox main card.
Rafael dos Anjos [#1 LW]
$86,000 = $41,000/$41,000 + $4,000 [UFC on Fox 13]
Donald Cerrone [#2 LW]
$152,000 = $76,000/$76,000 [UFC 187]
Analysis: Donald Cerrone has only gotten craftier with age — both inside and outside the Octagon. On little more than hustle, his unique personality, and some good social media tactics, “Cowboy” has secured himself a (relatively) high UFC salary and 8-0 winning streak that puts him solidly in the “21+ bout” range of the Reebok tenure deal.
At 18 UFC fights and (likely) paid comparatively less than the top stars, RDA has a lot more to lose here, while his physique post-USADA testing has been in serious question around most MMA circles. Either way, it’s pretty grim that a loss will cost either man a steep five figures in sponsorship pay.
Junior dos Santos [#3 HW]
$260,000 = $130,000/$130,000 [UFC on Fox 13]
Alistair Overeem [#9 HW]
$150,000 = $150,000/$50,000 [UFC on Fox 13]
Analysis: Although we don’t like to say any MMA fighter is overpaid, few men have been a poorer investment for Zuffa than former Strikeforce and K-1 Champion Alistair Overeem. Ever since getting paid a disclosed $380,000 to end Brock Lesnar’s career at UFC 141, Overeem has floundered in the heavyweight division while maintaining contractually-obligated six-figure base salaries that many UFC champions have never been paid.
Junior dos Santos has fared much better, (publicly) making as much money as anyone at heavyweight with a peak of $400,000 as a UFC champion and many years of combat ahead. As an added wrinkle, he’ll face a particularly focused Overeem, who will be testing free agency after this card to see if an offer from Bellator (with sponsorship freedom) turns out to be more than whatever the UFC puts on the table.
Michael Johnson [#9 LW]
$36,000 = $18,000/$18,000 [UFC 168]
Nate Diaz [#21 LW]
$16,000** [UFC on Fox 13]
Analysis: Conversely, there’s no denying that Stockton’s Nate Diaz is one of the most underpaid fighters in the UFC. Despite his “21+ bout” status on the Reebok sponsorship ladder and big-name credibility, his disclosed pay looks downright offensive for someone who’s essentially been fighting (note: mostly winning) on the Zuffa payroll since 2004.
Michael Johnson hasn’t had a disclosed paycheck since December 2013, so his updated paperwork after getting bounced from title contention by Beneil Dariush should look rather interesting. By the numbers alone, his progress since Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter hasn’t exactly been on a breakneck pace to say the least.
Randa Markos [#12 W115]
$8,000** [TUF 20 Finale]
Karolina Kowalkiewicz [#13 W115]
N/A (No Salaries Reported)
Analysis: While Randa Markos has noted popularity from her TUF stint and charismatic fighting style, it’s hard to tell if her bout with one-time Invicta veteran Karolina Kowalkiewicz is a sink-or-swim situation. If she loses, that’s probably grounds for a pink slip, but women’s strawweight is still an incredibly thin division.
What’s most likely is that the loser here faces Paige VanZant as the UFC tries to rebuild their fallen star. Either way, neither woman stands to see much in their disclosed fighter salaries, thanks to the steep Reebok ladder and relatively low divisional payouts.
Other Notes: Like we mentioned at the top of this column, there’s a wealth of great talent on this card, from Sarah Kaufman to Josh Samman to Nik Lentz and more. About the only thing more exciting than the actual match-ups on paper is wondering who’s going to bank “Performance of the Night” bonuses after everything is said and done — so make sure to tune in on your respective TVs and enjoy this for all it’s worth.
# = 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.