Dominick Cruz is back, ladies and gentlemen. No injuries, no more torn ligaments, and nothing short of a freak sauna accident can ruin UFC Fight Night 81 now. That’s clearly tempting fate, but given the UFC’s good run of luck lately, it’s a risk this author is willing to take. Although this Sunday isn’t the strongest of cards from top to bottom, the headliner is as dynamite as the modern MMA fan could ever ask for, especially on cable television.
Moreover, Cruz is in the most important fight of his life, as current UFC Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw aims to ruin the former 135-pound kingpin’s return. The stakes are pretty high here, so let’s do our usual thing and run down the previous UFC salaries (with last Reebok sponsorship payouts) for all the main card talent on UFC Fight Night 81.
T.J. Dillashaw [#1 BW]
$100,000 = $50,000/$50,000 [UFC 177]
Dominick Cruz [N/A]
$100,000 = $50,000/$50,000 [UFC 178]
Analysis: If you need to guess any financial indicator of Dominick Cruz’s lost time in this sport, just look at his UFC 177 paycheck and think about how many more he’s missed. Had Cruz never torn his ACL in May 2012 and been healthy enough to fight a couple times a year, he could’ve banked at least a few million dollars in the prime of his career. Now the champ is just a couple months shy of 31 years old, and will only be stepping into the Octagon twice in over a 1500-day span. Thankfully, Cruz took to his Fox Sports analyst role like a duck to water, so he’s had a solid day job to pad things out.
On the other side, T.J. Dillashaw has enjoyed a huge (disclosed) pay bump since dominating former champion Renan Barao. Back at UFC 173, Dillashaw only made a recorded $36,000 in victory, and that doesn’t include the sponsorship money he used to enjoy.
Plenty of grief has also been heaped on Dillashaw for moving from the ridiculously-named Team Alpha Male to Muscle Pharm & Elevation Fight Team, but for a man barely making a comfortable living just a couple of years ago, the move makes so much sense. Without title contention, Dillashaw’s Reebok pay drops to $10,000 per bout, and who knows whether Zuffa would issue an immediate pay cut.
At the very least, both men will be paid relatively better for bantamweights than the last time Dominick Cruz main-evented a card with reported fighter salaries. At UFC 132, both Cruz and Urijah Faber made a combined $72,000 for their five-round title fight barnburner.