UFC on Fox 18 is do-or-die time for Ryan Bader. If the Ultimate Fighter winner is finally going to get his long overdue title shot for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, he has to get past fellow blue-chip-prospect-turned-veteran Anthony Johnson, and that’s one heck of a tall order.
That’s just the peak of another excellent UFC on Fox card to date, as a heavyweight tilt between Ben Rothwell and Josh Barnett lights up the co-main, while rising talents Jimmie Rivera and Sage Northcutt face their own litmus tests. As usual, let’s see what kind of money is on the line this Saturday as we tally the previous UFC fighter salaries (plus most-recent Reebok payouts) for every main card talent.
Anthony Johnson [#3 LHW]
$245,000 = $115,000/$115,000 + $15,000* [UFC 191]
Ryan Bader [#4 LHW]
$47,000** [UFC on Fox 4]
Analysis: Categorically, there’s very little difference between Bader and Johnson as far as their athletic achievements in MMA. Both are top-flight 205-ers with dominant wins over former UFC champions, and both have had solid claims at title contention since last year.
However, their differences are far more pronounced just looking at the discrepancy in their last-disclosed fighter pay figures. Bader’s $47,000 KO loss to Lyoto Machida is pretty much his most-watched highlight outside of getting leapfrogged by Jon Jones, while Johnson’s six-figure tag has climbed with every dramatic knockout victory. It’s a shame that this event is in New Jersey, too. Since that athletic commission doesn’t disclose fighter salaries, we won’t know if the UFC currently pays Bader anywhere near as much in base/win salary as his dance partner.
Josh Barnett [#12 HW]
$170,000** [UFC 168]
Ben Rothwell [#9 HW]
$108,000 = $54,000/$54,000 [UFC 164]
Analysis: While featherweight and lightweight may be the UFC’s current “money” divisions, heavyweight is definitely the place where you’ll get paid a bit more on average just for hanging around. That pretty much describes both Barnett and Rothwell — two fighters without much hope of title contention, but valuable enough that they’d be paid well to dominate in Bellator.
It’s also worth noting that unlike most UFC fighters, Josh Barnett’s contract doesn’t include a win bonus, which is the payment model he worked under in Strikeforce. How long he can maintain his six-figure base at this point is anyone’s guess, but good to keep an eye on.
Iuri Alcântara [#12 BW]
$16,000** [UFC Fight Night 26]
Jimmie Rivera [#16 BW]
N/A (No Salaries Reported)
Analysis: When fans claim that fighters like Sage Northcutt are overpaid compared to the rest of the UFC roster, you should think of guys like Jimmie Rivera. Despite being an incredibly bright prospect at 26 years old and boasting an 18-1 record with a 17-fight winning streak (and 7-0 as an amateur), it’s not weird to doubt that he’s making the $40,000/$40,000 Northcutt earns.
Alcântara also seems like a drastically tough step-up in competition, too, and nothing like Northcutt is likely to face in a year, maybe even three. As a triple-crown regional title holder with far more achievements under his belt, hopefully Rivera can maintain his winning streak long enough to provide more fuel for the fighter pay debate if he turns out to be underpaid.
Sage Northcutt [#133 LW]
$82,500 = $40,000/$40,000 + $2,500* [UFC Fight Night 80]
Bryan Barberena [#109 LW]
$16,000 = $8,000/$8,000 [UFC on Fox 13]
Analysis: As a side note, when Sage Northcutt’s relatively high UFC salary is mocked and criticized in public forums, the argument shouldn’t be for him getting less money. UFC fighters on the whole should be getting paid more, and that especially includes top-ranked UFC talent with far more tenure and better competitive strength of schedule.
Unfortunately, that’s not how MMA works, but Northcutt’s salary numbers have been remarkably valuable nonetheless. With fighters like Aljamain Sterling, Shawn Jordan, and Ryan LaFlare openly calling out the UFC for paying a relatively unproven youth so much money, it’s a watershed moment that’s going to fuel a lot of contract speculation and free agency talk.
# = 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.