UFC Fight Night 82 definitely isn’t as attractive as the once-planned UFC 196 card, but it looks like the Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez rematch will have to wait. That’s more than fine, though, since the UFC did the right thing for once and moved the PPV to television.
That brings us to our new headliner, starring Stephen Thompson and former UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks, supported by a pretty decent undercard of prospect action. There’s a lot to cover with this one, so let’s cut into our usual breakdown of previous UFC fighter salaries (plus most-recent Reebok payouts) for every main card combatant.
Johny Hendricks [#2 WW]
$150,000** [UFC 181]
Stephen Thompson [#17 WW]
$47,000 = $21,000/$21,000 +$5,000* [TUF 21 Finale]
Analysis: Fan opinion may have soured on Hendricks in recent years, but at least he’s getting paid comparatively well for his troubles. While there’s probably little chance of any title shot as long as Robbie Lawler sits atop the division’s peak, Hendricks will certainly net some big pay bumps if he continues to build on his 17 UFC and WEC bouts with another winning streak.
And although it’s a little old-hat to keep harping on this point, Stephen Thompson should definitely be looking at a pay raise win or lose. After all, despite a stellar 10-1 record with six UFC wins, he barely makes half of the salary that Sage Northcutt commands.
Roy Nelson [#25 HW]
$48,000 = $24,000/$24,000 [TUF 16 Finale]
Jared Rosholt [#16 HW]
$16,000 = $8,000/$8,000 [TUF 18 Finale]
Analysis: Roy Nelson has always made a stir about his lackluster finances, but we can probably assume he isn’t making much more than his last-recorded paycheck in December 2012. Add in his current losing streak (1-5 in his last six bouts), and Nelson’s probably looking at getting cut if he loses to Rosholt.
Speaking of which, it’s puzzling that Rosholt found his way onto another main card. One has to wonder what a non-action fighter like him is making in the money-laden heavyweight division, but we’ll get the numbers soon enough.
Ovince Saint Preux [#13 LHW]
$46,000 = $23,000/$23,000 [UFC Fight Night 26]
Rafael Cavalcante [#52 LHW]
$60,000 = $30,000/$30,000 [Strikeforce: Cincinnati]
Analysis: OSP’s prospect run came to a pretty hard stop against Gegard Mousasi, and his latest title run hopes hit a dead-end with his last loss to Glover Teixiera. Still, an above-average pay raise doesn’t seem too wacky given that the UFC probably doesn’t want him working with Scott Coker again.
We can’t say the same thing about Cavalcante, though. If he loses as expected here, he’s paid enough that the UFC would probably cut him with quickness, and Bellator or World Series of Fighting would probably be able to offer less than half his Zuffa salary with no challenge.
Joseph Benavidez [#2 FLW]
$106,000 = $53,000/$53,000 [UFC 187]
Zach Makovsky [#9 FLW]
$19,000** [UFC 187]
Analysis: In a division dominated so thoroughly by Demetrious Johnson, it’s easy to forget how valuable someone like Joseph Benavidez is on paper. That gaudy 23-4 record and exciting combat style is going to keep him well-paid, and he’d be a prime steal in free agency — especially if Bellator wanted him for their bantamweight division.
Zach Makovsky seems decidedly less attractive to free agency by comparison, but as a former Bellator champion, his stock would rise immensely with even the most razor-thin victory over Benavidez. In a way, that makes this the most important fight of his career right now.
Misha Cirkunov [#46 LHW]
N/A (No Salaries Reported)
Alex Nicholson [#81 HW+]
N/A (No Salaries Reported)
Analysis: Latvian prospect Misha Cirkunov looks like one of the best light heavyweight prospects that the UFC has signed in ages, and he’s definitely the A-side of his fight with Alex Nicholson. Expect big things in this match.
It’s also very fortunate for this column that this UFC card is in Las Vegas. Now we’ll see what the starting offer is for action-class light/heavyweights like Cirkunov and Nicholson in 2016, and see which one of them passes the “Northcutt Limit” on their very first Zuffa paycheck.
Mike Pyle [#61 WW]
$51,000** [UFC 187]
Sean Spencer [#107 WW]
$14,000** [UFC Fight Night 59]
Analysis: It’s possible that this is a “loser leaves town” sort of match, and Pyle’s had enough bad outcomes in his last few fights that he’s looking at a pink slip or a paycut. That’s a shame, but maybe the UFC keeps the loser of this bout anyway.
That’s probably far more likely for Sean Spencer, who hasn’t quite hit 30 years old and may still have some untapped upside. It’s still worth noting that he’s another kind of UFC fighter who could lend credibility to Bellator’s middleweight division (and he’s also fought for the promotion once before).
# = 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.