20 Highest-Paid UFC Fighters Ever (2024 Rankings)

Once a fringe sport amongst martial arts fanatics, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has evolved into an international phenomenon with passionate and dedicated fans around the world. At the forefront of this evolution is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), an organization that hosts fights between talented MMA athletes from across the globe.

Highest paid UFC fighters with Khabib, McGregor, and Diaz

The meteoric rise of MMA has meant MMA athletes, particularly those signed with the UFC, have risen to incredible levels of fame and success. However, an elite few, the creme de la creme of MMA athletes, have managed to translate their success in the sport and their popularity amongst fans into making financial fortunes.

Below, we dive into the careers of the highest-paid UFC fighters of all time. From charismatic showmen to quippy trash-talkers to absolutely clinical fighters, there are several names that have gone down in history for their performances in the octagon and the amount of money they’ve been able to generate from fighting.

However, this article is more than just a tribute to financial success. It’s a testament to the blood, sweat, and tears of the MMA athletes who have dared to dream big and pursue greatness. From countless hours in the gym to following a nutrition plan to brutal training camps, these athletes dedicate so much in the hopes of a victory over their opponent during their few short rounds under the spotlight. Not only do MMA athletes work hard, but they also put their bodies on the line and risk painful injuries for our entertainment.

Join us for a thrilling exploration of the defining moments of their careers and the occasions they’ve had to earn big from the fight game. You will see how the UFC Octagon is not only a stage for entertaining fights but also a pathway to staggering wealth and glory for the best fighters.

20. Lyoto Machida

EVERY Lyoto Machida UFC Finish EVER

Total earnings from UFC $5 million
Years Active Still active
Birthplace Salvador, Brazil, 1978
Fighting Record 26-12
Current net worth $ 4 mill

Lyoto Machida, also known as The Dragon, might not breathe fire, but he sure does bring the heat to every fight. Machida is a specialist in Karate, but it was his enthusiasm to learn and excel at a variety of martial arts that ultimately brought him to the UFC.

From Machida’s early childhood years, he was already destined to be a karate and fighting specialist. He was born into a karate family and earned his blackbelt by the age of thirteen.

Machida made a stellar UFC debut, winning by unanimous decision against Sam Hodger. Building off his early success, Machida went on to collect more wins and smoke his opponents in a style befitting “The Dragon.” Machida was awarded his first co-main event, facing a fellow Brazilian, Thiago Silva, at UFC 94. UFC president Dana White indicated that should Machida triumph against Silva, Machida would get a title shot. Machida wasn’t about to let the opportunity of a title shot pass him by, so, rising to the occasion, he masterfully knocked out Silva in the first round of their fight.

A significant “big money” fight of Machida’s career was his bout against Rashad Evans at UFC 98 for the light heavyweight championship. From the moment he stepped into the Octagon, Machida put on an excellent performance, winning the fight with a vicious second-round knockout. Not only did Machida walk away with the light heavyweight belt, but he was also awarded the “knock-out of the night” bonus of $60,000.

While Machida is still an active UFC fighter, many fans speculate that he’s passed the peak of his career. Machida lost to Maurício Rua in their rematch fight at UFC 113. The former champ had another title shot against Jon Jones, but again, he wasn’t able to execute a win.

19. Frankie Edgar

Top Finishes: Frankie Edgar

Total earnings from UFC $5.1 million
Years Active 2005-2022
Birthplace New Jersey, USA, 1981
Fighting Record 24-11
Current net worth $ 2 mill

Frankie “The Answer” Edgar is adored by his fans and his peers alike for the many occasions he’s shown his warrior heart and single-minded determination to do his best in the octagon. Edgar’s fighting record might not be that of a typical fighting legend, having experienced several losses, but he’ll still go down in the history books for his heart, his grit, and his strength of character.

One of Edgar’s most famous fights was his bout against Tyson Griffin in UFC 67. In the lead-up to Edgar vs. Griffin, Edgar was considered the underdog by a mile. Griffin was the first and only fighter at the time to have beaten the deadly Urijah Faber, garnering him some serious hype. In addition, Griffin was a significantly larger build than Edgar. However, Edgar utilized strategic footwork and crisp boxing that might even make Floyd Mayweather turn his head. The fight was back and forth until the final minutes, when all hope seemed lost for Edgar. Edgar’s opponent had him locked in a gnarly kneebar, yet Edgar wasn’t about to let the glory of a win be snatched from him with so little time left on the clock. He gritted his teeth, pounded his opponent’s ribs, escaped the inescapable kneebar, and emerged from the fight victorious.

Edgar continued to rise among the rank of UFC stars. He defeated the then-lightweight champion “The Prodigy” BJ Penn, stealing his title in one of the biggest upsets of 2010. Edgar won against Penn a second time during their rematch fight some months later.

Boasting a long career, Edgar’s most recent fight occurred during UFC 281 in November 2022. The ITNWWE reported Edgar’s take-home pay for the bout was $271,000 (including base pay) and an additional $250,000 in sponsorship earnings. While his UFC earnings are definitely nothing to scoff at, Edgar is unfortunately considered an “almost man.” The UFC athlete has had plenty of fights where he has fallen just a little short, so he remains on the outskirts of being one of the UFC greats – he’s ‘almost’ but not quite there.

18. Maurício Rua

Shogun Rua | UFC Greatest Hits

Total earnings from UFC $5.2 mill
Years Active 2002-2023
Birthplace Curitiba, Brazil, 1981
Fighting Record 27-14
Current net worth $ 6.5 mill

Maurício Rua is more famously known as Shogun Rua, a name inspired by the bravery of Shogun military commanders in Japanese history. Rua is Brazilian himself, but there’s no doubt he lives up to his moniker’s namesake.

Rua started out his martial arts journey by training Brazilian Vale Tudo and competing in several events. Early on, he was a talented and feared striker. However, Rua’s ascent to stardom truly began when he joined the Pride Fighting Championship and earned an epic knockout victory upon his debut.

Rua joined the UFC in 2007 and was immediately marked an up-and-coming heir to the UFC light heavyweight championship. Unfortunately, Rua’s UFC debut was a sobering event. Rua lost his UFC debut fight by an unexpected rear-naked choke at the merciless hands of Forest Griffin.

Rua wasn’t about to let his early loss in the UFC define his career, so he made a helluva comeback. Only two years after his UFC debut, Rua got his first shot at a UFC title in 2009. Rua fought Lyoto Machida at UFC 104 for the light heavyweight title. UFC fans and commentators alike would argue Rua clearly outperformed Machida, but the win was given to Machida in a controversial unanimous decision. Rua, however, got an immediate rematch against Machida at UFC 113. Shogun Rua did not make the mistake of leaving the fight outcome to the judge’s decision for a second time. Instead, he delivered a spectacular knock strike to Machida during round 1 of the rematch fight. Not only did Rua walk away from his rematch fight with a shiny new belt and the glory of a win, but he also earned his biggest paycheck to date of $315,000.

17. Jose Aldo

Top Finishes: Jose Aldo

Total earnings from UFC $5.2 mill
Years Active 2004-2022
Birthplace Amazonas, Brazil, 1986
Fighting Record 31-8
Current net worth $9 mill

Jose Aldo’s many achievements easily explain why he made the list of the top 20 highest-paid UFC fighters. Aldo is a UFC Hall of Famer and arguably a GOAT in the UFC featherweight division.

Aldo’s fighting moniker, ‘Scarface,’ comes from an easily distinguishable feature of his. Aldo was left with a distinctive facial scar after being dropped on a barbeque as an infant, giving him a tough and warrior-like appearance befitting his future UFC career. Even though Aldo wanted to be a professional football player growing up, he turned to training capoeira and defensive martial arts after being picked on in a few street fights. It may not have been the path he initially wanted, but little did Aldo know stepping into the world of martial arts was going to lead him to greatness.

Aldo joined the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). It wasn’t long before Aldo earned himself gold in the WEC featherweight division after facing Mike Brown in 2009. Aldo successfully defended his WEC title first against Uriah Faber and again against Manvel Gamburyan. In 2010, the WEC merged with the UFC, and Aldo became the inaugural UFC featherweight champion. Again, Aldo defended his title with passion and grit seven more times.

One of Aldo’s notable big-money fights was when he took on the Irish fighter Connor McGregor. After several weeks of hype, fueled by McGregor’s infamous trash talk, Aldo and McGregor stepped into the octagon together. Unfortunately for Aldo, the bright lights and the inevitable pressure of fighting a big name like McGregor seemed to weigh on him. Aldo put on a lacklustre performance that lasted all of 13 seconds before he was knocked out by an accurate hook from McGregor. However, we imagine the was bittersweet because while it must be devastating to lose in such a fashion, Aldo walked away from the fight with a whopping $2.5 million paycheck.

As McGregor moved up a weight class, Aldo never had the opportunity of a rematch fight, and the featherweight division was left short a champion. Aldo wasted no time in reclaiming his title, beating Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision, a fight which earned Aldo just over $1 million. In Aldo’s final UFC fight, he lost against Max Holloway. While Aldo’s final UFC fight ended in a defeat, his career on the whole is undoubtedly a win.

16. Brock Lesnar

Total earnings from UFC $5.29 mill
Years Active 2007-2011; 2016
Birthplace South Dakota, USA, 1977
Fighting Record 5-3
Current net worth $25 mill

When it comes to sports, Brock Edward Lesnar truly is a jack of all trades. A WWE superstar, a football player, and a mixed martial artist, he has certainly experimented over the course of his career.

During his adolescence, Lesnar was a two-time state champion in amateur wrestling. Onlookers of Lesnar’s wrestling matches would comment that he was an absolute beast of a unit in the ring. Lesnar, a forever ambitious youngster, took his wrestling talents to the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) company. He soon became the youngest WWE champion – what an achievement! Perhaps feeling like he had already peaked in the WWE, Lesnar paused his WWE career to try his luck in the NFL. Impressively, Lesnar was signed by the Minnesota Vikings and played several pre-season games for them.

When Lesnar turned his sights to MMA, he already had a strong base in wrestling and was generally physically talented. Overall, he was the perfect candidate to excel at the sport. Lesnar joined the K-1 league and won his first fight against Min Soo Kim. This fight captured the attention of the UFC, and despite being a relative newbie to the world of MMA, Lesnar was brought over to fight in the UFC.

Lesnar’s popularity from his time in the WWE, in addition to his sheer, imposing physical size, proved to be a wicked combination when it came to generating ticket sales and hype from UFC fans. People were clamoring to watch Lesnar’s UFC debut. Unfortunately for Lesnar, his debut resulted in a loss against Frank Mir, an elite Jiu-Jitsu fighter. Despite securing 2 takedowns and showing promise, Lesnar was unable to overcome Mir’s jiu-jitsu skill, and the big fighter succumbed to a well-executed kneebar.

Lesnar’s defeat against Mir would not keep Lesnar down. Instead, the experienced wrestler went on to win two of his next fights, becoming the UFC heavyweight champion and bagging a cool $900,000 from the two fights combined.

Lesnar’s final fight in the UFC was stained in our memories by a failed drug test taken by Lesnar. Despite the drug test, Lesnar triumphed over Mark Hunt and earned $2.2 million from his fight purse. Brock Lesnar will always be remembered for his ferociousness and his intimidating physique. He also participated in many UFC fights with the most PPV buys, which explains why he was one of the highest-paid UFC fighters of all time.

15. Dan Henderson

How GOOD was Dan Henderson Actually?

Total earnings from UFC $5.4 mill
Years Active 1997-2016
Birthplace Carlifonia, USA, 1970
Fighting Record 32-15
Current net worth $8 mill

Dan Henderson’s path to the UFC was paved with gold… or rather, gold medals. Henderson, a star wrestler, won the Greco-Roman Wrestling National Championships three times and won the Brazil Open with two first-round victories.

When Henderson joined the UFC, his debut fight wasn’t your typical event. Rather than a one-on-one fight in the octagon, Henderson entered a four-man tournament, which was battled out in one night. Henderson emerged as the best fighter of the four men, which included Allan Goes and Carlos Newton.

Despite becoming one of the biggest names in the UFC, Henderson had a love-hate relationship with the fighting organization. Henderson rolled in and out of the UFC over the span of nearly two decades. However, even though Henderson had many attempts at UFC gold, he could not quite pull off the win. Henderson lost to Quinton Jackson, Anderson Silva, and Michael Bisping.

A notable big-money fight for Henderson occurred at UFC 199, facing off Hector Lombard. Henderson put on a spectacular performance and won using his signature knockout move, the spinning elbow. When Henderson stepped out of the octagon that fights night, he was richer by $860,000.

In addition, Henderson had a couple of profitable fights against Michael Bisping. Henderson emerged victorious from their first encounter, knocking out Bisping in round 2 with a devastating blow. However, Bisping won their second fight, which put Bisping, and not Henderson, in line for the UFC middleweight belt. At the end of the day, Henderson made just over $1 million from his two battles with Bisping.

However, his favorite opponent in terms of a big payday was Michael Bisping. Their first encounter went Henderson’s way; he landed a devastating blow, knocking Bisping out in round 2. Their second encounter did not have the same result. Bisping put on a solid performance and got his hand raised for the UFC Middleweight belt. Dan Henderson made just over $1 million from his two fights with Michael Bisping.

14. Vitor Belfort

EVERY Vitor Belfort Finish EVER

Total earnings from UFC $5.7 mill
Years Active 1996-2018
Birthplace Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fighting Record 26-14
Current net worth $5.5 mill

Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort is an elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner and an absolute viper in the octagon, wrapping himself around his opponents and ensnaring them in potentially bone-breaking locks.

Belfort’s start in martial arts was actually in boxing, which he started training at the young age of 12. Belfort moved on to training jiu-jitsu, attaining his black belt under the skilled Carlson Gracie. At only 19 years old, Belfort joined the UFC. He sure did stun the UFC crowds with a spectacular performance upon his debut, triumphing over two opponents in the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament.

Belfort’s first taste of UFC gold came with his fight against Randy Couture at UFC 46. Belfort finished the fight in a mere 49 seconds by brutally KOing his opponent. For his efforts, Belfort earned $130,000. An immediate rematch was set up between Belfort and Couture, which Couture took as an opportunity to get his revenge and win the fight.

Belfort switched up weight divisions and had the chance to fight for the title in the middleweight division, fighting the great Anderson Silva. The UFC middleweight belt eluded Belfort as the fight was stopped in the first round when Silva landed a vicious kick to Belfort. Returning to the heavyweight division, Belfort fought for a title yet again, this time facing off the one and only Jon Jones. Unfortunately for Belfort, he lost via a fourth-round submission. Belfort went on to have several mixed-result fights, but at least he walked away with some hefty paychecks.

13. Stipe Miocic

Top Finishes: Stipe Miocic

Total earnings from UFC $6 mill
Years Active Still active
Birthplace Ohio, USA, 1982
Fighting Record 20-4
Current net worth $4 mill

Stipe “Stone Cold” Miocic is widely considered the greatest UFC heavyweight champion of all time. He certainly isn’t someone we would want to step into the octagon with!

Believe it or not, Miocic hadn’t always wanted to fight opponents in the octagon. Rather, he wanted to fight fires as a professional fireman. Even though Miocic had wrestled in high school, his interest in combat sports only really took off later in his life.

Miocic’s family and friends convinced him to continue wrestling and take up boxing. His skills developed, and Miocic became the Cleveland Golden Gloves Boxing Champion and a Division I athlete in the NCAA. His success and natural affinity for combat sports is what ultimately led him to the UFC rather than the ranks of firefighters.

In Miocic’s first UFC title fight, he faced off against Fabricio Werdum. Miocic won the fight by knocking out his opponent in the first round, making a name for himself as an immensely talented fighter. Many fans commented that the Miocic vs. Werdum fight signaled the beginning of Miocic’s G.O.A.T. era. Where there’s fame, we can’t forget about fortune; Miocic earned $210,000 from Miocic vs. Werdum, excluding pay-per-view (PPV) buys. Miocic defended his title 3 times against the likes of Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, and Francis Ngannou, whom we will discuss more in-depth.

Miocic’s fourth title defense was expected to be a battle for the ages, and the crowds were hyped with anticipation. Miocic’s opponent was none other than Daniel Cormier, a member of the UFC Hall of Fame. Miocic suffered a shock first-round defeat to Cormier, leaving Miocic’s fans with their jaws hanging on the ground. The UFC wasted no time in setting up a rematch between the two fighters, which Miocic, in a merciless fashion, put an end to in the fourth round. The rematch fight left Miocic and Cormier with one win apiece, so the burning question on everyone’s mind was, “Who is really the better fighter?” A trilogy fight between Miocic and Cormier was arranged during the pandemic. It was a brutal and bloody dog fight that lasted the entire 5 rounds. While Miocic did win the trilogy fight, the momentous occasion was marred by the fact Cormier suffered a bad accidental eye poke and was compromised for the remainder of the fight. Across the 3 fights with Cormier, Miocic earned a whopping total of $2.4 million.

Miocic’s most recent opponent was the talented heavy hitter Francis Ngannou. In their first fight, Miocic managed to neutralize Ngannous’s powerful shots using wrestling techniques. However, Miocic could not win a second time as Ngannou had trained his takedown defense in advance of their rematch fight. Miocic is scheduled to fight the current heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, but until then, he is fulfilling his second passion, working as a firefighter.

12. Mark Hunt

MARK HUNT - The King of Knockouts Without a LAST HIT

Total earnings from UFC $6.3 mill
Years Active 2004-2006, 2008-2018
Birthplace South Auckland, New Zealand, 1974
Fighting Record 13-14
Current net worth $1-5 mill

Mark Hunt, also known as The Super Samoan, is a Kiwi-born fighter of Samoan descent. Hunt grew up fighting on the streets of South Auckland, New Zealand. It wasn’t long before his street brawls landed him a short sentence in prison. Upon his release, Hunt was fortunate enough to catch the eye of Sam Marsters, a professional fighting coach. Marsters took the young Samoan under his wing and trained him in Muay Thai and the art of discipline.

Training Muay Thai marked a turning point in Hunt’s life. He soon began his professional career fighting in the PRIDE organization with mixed results. In 2012, Hunt transferred to the UFC. Unfortunately for Hunt, ‘beginner luck’ never kicked in, and he lost his debut fight. Following his debut, Hunt went on a four-fight win streak, brutally tearing down his opponents.

Throughout his UFC career, Hunt only had one shot at fighting for gold, which proved an unsuccessful venture. However, even though Hunt never made it to champion status, his fights were as entertaining as they come, and he had the crowds roaring with excitement. For the UFC, ticket sales and pay-per-view sales, a.k.a. ‘butts in seats’ is how they generate revenue. Any fighter who helps generate revenue, regardless of champion status, is therefore handsomely rewarded. This was the case for Hunt as during his last fight, a loss by unanimous decision to Justin Willis, Hunt earned $965,000 excluding pay-per-view buys.

11. Daniel Cormier

Free Fight: Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier 1

Total earnings from UFC $6.5 mill
Years Active 2009-2020
Birthplace Louisiana, USA, 1979
Fighting Record 22-3
Current net worth $6 mill

Many say that Daniel Cormier was built for wrestling; he’s strong, he’s big, his cardio is outmatched, and he’s aggressive.

During his high school years, Cormier won 3 Louisiana State Championships for wrestling, already showing himself to be a prodigy. After graduating college, Cormier pursued freestyle pro wrestling and represented the USA at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.

Daniel joined Strikeforce, and after brutally dominating 100% of his fights, he moved on to the UFC. His 2013 UFC debut was an outstanding success as were his succeeding fights. The crowds could not get enough of Cormier, a man who seemed unbeatable. However, there was one potential fight that had fans and UFC commentators heatedly debating who would win. That fight was none other than Cormier vs. Jon Jones fighting for the light heavyweight title.

Cormier vs. Jones saw bad blood being spilled before the two men even stepped into the octagon. The two hated each other to the point an altercation broke out at the press conference, which only added to the pre-fight hype. Cormier lost to Jones. However, the fight was so successful at generating sales that Dana White awarded Cormier an additional $1 million on top of the $1.2 million fight purse.

Cormier fought for the light heavyweight title again, this time against Anthony Johnson. Cormier dominated Johnson and went on to defend his new belt several times. However, now that Cormier was crowned champion, the fight everyone wanted to see was the rematch between Cormier and Jones. Although Jones won according to the judges’ scorecards, the fight was ruled a non-contest when Jones failed a drug test. Cormier’s light heavyweight title was reinstated, and he earned a cool $2.2 million for his troubles.

Moving up to the heavyweight division, Cormier bravely stepped into the octagon with Stipe Miocic. With a shocking first-round victory, Cormier became the first person ever to hold two belts simultaneously and attain the coveted double champ status. Cormier had several more ups and downs throughout his career. However, he is now retired from fighting but not from the UFC! Cormier is thriving in his new role as a UFC commentator.

10. Donald Cerrone

Top Finishes: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone

Total earnings from UFC $7 mill
Years Active 2005-2022
Birthplace Colorado, USA, 1983
Fighting Record 36-17
Current net worth $9 mill

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is a UFC Hall of Famer, and with his skillful and borderline theatrical fighting style, it is easy to see why fans adore him.

In 2006, Cerrone joined the Freedom Fighters gym, marking the beginning of his long and profitable MMA career. After signing a contract with the UFC, Cerrone’s fight outcomes were a mixed bag. However, he famously fought any opponent the UFC put in front of him, and fans loved him for it. Cerrone had one shot to fight for the belt, which was a highly anticipated match against Rafael Dos Anjos. Unfortunately for Cowboy Cerrone, he lost in the first round by TKO.

While Cerrone never had a belt to show for his time in the UFC, he certainly has many bonuses to boast about. The showman fighter recorded 5 Performance of The Night bonuses, 3 Knockouts of The Night honors, and 2 Submission of The Night honors. Cerrone’s biggest paycheck, however, followed his bout with Al Laquinta and totaled $410,000. Now that Cerrone’s fighting days are behind him, he’s tried his hand at acting and has a lot to look forward to.

9. Georges St-Pierre

Georges St-Pierre | UFC Greatest Hits

Total earnings from UFC $7 mill
Years Active 2002-2013, 2017
Birthplace Quebec, Canada, 1981
Fighting Record 26-2
Current net worth $30 mill

Georges St-Pierre, “also known as GSP,” is a shining example of how training martial arts can change your life for the better. GSP had a troubled childhood and was often a victim of severe bullying. However, in an attempt to learn defensive moves and grow his confidence, GSP began Kyokushin Karate at 7 years old. By the age of 16, GSP was immersed in the rich world of martial arts, training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing, and Karate, and going pro in 2002.

In 2004, GSP made his UFC debut. It wasn’t long before GSP earned his first welterweight title shot against Matt Hughes. While GSP held his own against the more experienced fighter, he was unluckily caught in a nasty armbar and submitted to Hughes 10 seconds before the end of a round. However, GSP later said his submission loss to Huges was one of the best things to happen to him in his early UFC career, teaching him resilience and grit. When the rematch fight between GSP and Hughes rolled around 2 years later, GSP landed a beautiful karate-style kick, KOing his opponent and staking his claim to the belt. In addition to the glory of a win and a title, GSP went home with the Knockout of The Night bonus, bumping his total earnings up to $85,000 (excluding pay-per-view buys).

After an unexpected defeat to Matt Serra at UFC 69, GSP tore through many opponents on a blazing-hot 13-fight win streak. During that time, GSP regained his title in a trilogy fight with Hughes and defended it in a rematch fight with Sera. GSP vs. Sera 2 happened to be a fat paycheck for GSP, roughly $160,000.

In 2013, after beating Johnny Hendricks by a split decision, GSP announced he would take some time off from the cage. However, like a moth to a flame, GSP returned to the UFC to fight Michael Bisping in a higher weight class. It was a thrilling fight, and the two MMA athletes exchanged thunderous blows and lightning-fast strikes. In the end, GSP caught Bisping in a rear-naked choke, earning him championship status in a second weight class and $2.5 million. Post-UFC, GSP has shown an interest in acting, including a few Marvel roles, so it’s likely not the last time we’ll see GSP on a big stage.

8. Junior Dos Santos

How GOOD was Junior Dos Santos Actually?

Total earnings from UFC $7.1 mill
Years Active Still active
Birthplace Santa Catarina, Brazil, 1984
Fighting Record 21-9
Current net worth $10 mill

Junior “Cigano” dos Santos, or Junior “The Gypsy” dos Santos, when translated from Portuguese, is a fighter who proves the utility of capoeira. For the curious minds reading this article, capoeira is a rhythmic martial art of Brazilian origin, often said to be similar to a dance style. However, the fluid and performative movements of Capoeira are not only beautiful to watch, but they also teach the precise and deadly techniques of different strikes and footwork. Dos Santos picked up capoeira in his adolescence, which led him on a path to UFC greatness.

In Dos Santos’ UFC debut, he knocked out Fabricio Werdum within the first minute and 20 seconds. If that’s not impressive enough, that knockout earned the Brazilian fighter the Knockout of The Year accolade – hats off to young dos Santos! Following his debut, dos Santos went on a 7-fight win streak, including 5 wins by stoppage, earning him a combined total of $575,000, excluding pay-per-view buys.

Dos Santos’ first chance to fight for the heavyweight title saw him stepping in the ring with Cain Velasquez. Dos Santos wasn’t about to let Valesquez put a stop to his impressive run, so within 1 minute and 4 seconds, dos Santos knocked out Velasquez using capoeira-inspired techniques. Dos Santos bagged a hefty $285,000 from the fight. The two men were matched up a second and third time at UFC 155 and 166. Unfortunately, dos Santos wasn’t able to win the judge’s favor and lost both his fights. At least he made a combined total of $530,000, excluding pay-per-view buys for his efforts.

After a mixed bag of fight outcomes, dos Santos faced the G.O.A.T. of the heavyweight division, Stipe Miocic himself. As karma would have it, dos Santos received a taste of his own medicine when he suffered a defeat in this first round. However, the fight was dos Santos’ biggest payday to date, a whopping $830,000.

Currently, dos Santos is on a 4-fight losing streak, so we suspect this legend might not be too far from retiring the fight game.

7. Michael Bisping

Crowning Moment: Michael Bisping Claims Middleweight Title in Rockhold Rematch 👑

Total earnings from UFC $7.13 mill
Years Active 2004-2018
Birthplace Akrotiri, Cyprus, 1979
Fighting Record 30-9
Current net worth $9 mill

As tough as nails and with the talent to match, Michael Bisping is certainly someone you’d rather have in your corner than face in a fight. Bisping was born in Cyprus as a “military brat” to a father who worked in the British Army. Judging by Bipsing’s dedication to martial arts, his father had clearly instilled that military discipline in him from a young age. At just 15 years old, Bisping was already competing in MMA.

Bisping won a UFC contract through competing in The Ultimate Fighter (Team Ortiz vs. Team Shamrock series). The talented young athlete only lost 4 of his first 16 UFC fights, a commendable record. During this time, Bisping earned a combined total of $3.1 million.

However, Bisping’s seventeenth fight in the octagon facing Vitor Belfort was nearly career-ending. Belfort landed a brutal head kick, which not only knocked out Bisping but damaged the retina in his right eye so badly that Bisping was later declared legally blind. It must have been a devastating injury, but with grit and determination (and a few sneaky tactics employed to pass the UFC physicals), Bisping continued his MMA career without missing a beat.

Bisping got his title fight in a rematch against Luke Rockhold. The press conference was heated, remarks were flying between the athletes, and it was very clear Bisping wanted the win. Come fight night, Bisping’s wishes were met when he spectacularly knocked out Rockhold in the first round, winning the middleweight title and a cool $330,000.

Bisping managed to defend his belt once before losing it to Georges St-Pierre. Today, Bisping is a popular UFC commentator and still a fan favorite.

6. Jon Jones

Jon Jones - Bones (Original Bored Film Documentary)

Total earnings from UFC $7.2 mill
Years Active Still active
Birthplace New York, USA, 1987
Fighting Record 27-1
Current net worth $3-15 mill

Jon “Bones” Jones; according to many, he is one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time but also one of the most controversial.

Jones displayed prodigious skill in his high school wrestling days and took his MMA career pro in 2008. He was an exciting up-and-comer in the UFC rank, only losing once to Matt Hamill by disqualification for illegal blows. Standing tall at 6’4”, Jones knows how to utilize his frame and reach. His height, combined with his incredible technical skill, means he is almost unmatched in the octagon.

In 2011 at UFC 128, Jones stood in the cage staring down his opponent, Maurício “Shogun” Rua. The way Jones fought, any onlooker would think he had fire in his veins and fury in his fists. Impressively, Jones won with a vicious knee in round three of the fight, becoming the youngest UFC champion. Jones received $140,000 for the fight, but with pay-per-views and additions, his take-home earnings were almost double that.

Jones successfully defended his belt multiple times and was seemingly unbeatable. According to Jones, his toughest fight was against the Swedish fighter Alexander Gustafsson, a fight Jones won via a controversial unanimous decision.

Down the line, Jones himself made it crystal clear he wanted to face Daniel Cormier. Cormier, never one to back down from a fight, agreed to the match. Animosity and tension built up as the fight neared, and a dirty brawl even broke out at the press conference. Jones won the fight and bagged $1.6 million. However, Jones was later arrested and given an 18-month probation, forcing the UFC to strip him of the light heavyweight title and suspend him indefinitely.

Following his suspension, Jones returned to the octagon, beating Ovince Saint Preux via unanimous decision. Jones called for a rematch with Cormier, a fight he technically won but was ruled a no-contest when Jones failed a drug test. Regardless, Jones made $1.8 million from rematching Cormier.

After successfully defending his belt several times, Jones decided to move up to the heavyweight division. Jones took 3 years away from fighting to bulk up before facing Cyril Gane for the vacant heavyweight title. Jones made light work of Gane, submitting him in the first round. One fight fans would have loved to see but will likely never get the chance to is Jones vs. the heavy-hitting African King, Francis Ngannou, who has now left the organization.

5. Anderson Silva

Every Anderson Silva Finish

Total earnings from UFC $8.7 mill
Years Active 1997-2020
Birthplace Sāo Paolo, Brazil, 1975
Fighting Record 34-11
Current net worth $8 mill

Anderson “Spider” Silva is considered the greatest of all time by many. He is certainly one of the greatest strikers in UFC history. Silva holds many records, including The Longest Title Streak, lasting 16 fights and 10 title defenses. He is also near the top of the list in terms of UFC fighters with the most knockouts.

In the early days, Silva had a passion for martial arts but could not afford to take up classes. However, he later managed to join Chute Boxe Academy and earn his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. He would later become one of the best Jiu-Jitsu fighters to ever enter the Octagon.

Silva made his UFC debut against Chis Leben, and it wasn’t long before he won the middleweight title against Rich Franklin. Silva vs. Franklin marked the beginning of Silva’s blazing-hot 16-fight win streak. During his streak, Silva accumulated just over $3 million, excluding pay-per-views.

Silvas’s impressive run was unfortunately halted when he faced Chris Weidman in the octagon. Silva’s showboating got him caught by a knockout punch in round 2. It’s a safe bet to say after so long winning fights. The defeat must have come as a real shock! The highly anticipated rematch at UFC 168 also held brutal surprises for Silva and his fans. Silva threw a leg kick, which Weidman checked. Much to the horror of onlookers, particularly the squeamish ones, the exchange snapped Silvas’ leg in two. The fight was scored a TKO. In total, Silva made $1.2 million plus pay-per-views from fighting Weidman; however, we speculate that the money was likely not worth the injury as Silvia never performed the same, winning only 1 of his last 7 fights.

4. Andrei Arlovski

Fighter Timeline: Andrei Arlovski

Total earnings from UFC $9.8 mill
Years Active Still active
Birthplace Belarus, 1979
Fighting Record 34-22
Current net worth $6 mill

Andrei Arlovski is a Belarusian mixed martial artist. Arlovski joined the Police Academy but soon found his true calling, becoming a pro martial artist at the age of 20.

Arlovksi’s start in the UFC wasn’t the most promising, losing 2 out of 3 fights. However, once Arlovski found his footing, he blitzed through opponents and quickly earned a title shot. That title shot came at UFC 51 against Tim Sylvia. Within 47 seconds, Arlovski caught Sylvia in an ankle lock and won by submission. If you looked away for a minute, you would have missed it! Arlovski successfully and stylishly defended the belt several times against the likes of Justin Eilers and Paul Buentello, earning over $260,000.

In the shadows of Arlovski’s career, Sylvia worked hard to earn a rematch fight. Sylvia won the rematch and beat Arlovski a second time in their immediate trilogy fight. Arlovski vs. Sylvia 3 ended up being Arlovski’s last fight for the heavyweight title, though he still had a respectable (and profitable!) career.

3. Alistair Overeem

Top Finishes: Alistair Overeem

Total earnings from UFC $10.2 mill
Years Active 1999-2023
Birthplace London, England, 1980
Fighting Record 47-19
Current net worth $10 mill

Alistair Overeem is yet another fighter who took up martial arts to deter his bullies, but his passion for fighting only grew from there.

Coming from kickboxing, Overeem was signed by the UFC in 2011 and was scheduled to fight Brock Lesnar, a former WWE great and UFC heavyweight champion. With such a big-name opponent, Overeem really did enter the fighting organization with a bang. Overeem lived up to the hype he received in kickboxing, landing a devastating kick that knocked out Lesnar and earning himself a fat paycheck of $425,714.

As luck would have it, Overeem went on to win only 1 of his next 4 fights, significantly dampening the hype surrounding his debut. In a quick turnaround, Overeem scheduled his sixth fight 4 months after his fifth and used that opportunity to make a bold statement that he wasn’t a fighter people should underestimate. He knocked out his opponent, Stefan Struve, in an outstanding display of MMA talent and went on to have a 4-fight win streak.

At UFC 203, Overeem was awarded his first and only title shot against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. However, the big stage and bright lights of a title fight seemed to overwhelm Overeem as Stipe dominated him during the first round and put a stop to the fight before there could be a second round. At least Overeem walked away with a handsome $829,500.

While Overeem certainly made bank during his time with the UFC, he didn’t live up to the hype and anticipation and was ultimately cut from the UFC.

2. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Newest interview with Khabib Nurmagomedov: Life after UFC career

Total earnings from UFC $14.7 mill
Years Active 2008-2020
Birthplace Dagestan, 1988
Fighting Record 29-0
Current net worth $40 mill

Khabib Nurmagomedov is a Russian UFC fighter that almost every MMA fan knows by heart. Whether you love him or hate him, you’ve got to admit he’s one of the greats. In fact, Nurmagomedov is the only man to have stepped out of the octagon as the victor after every single fight.

Nurmagomedov was trained by his father, and under his father’s tutelage, he developed unmatched wrestling skills in a style known as Dagestan wrestling. Nurmagomedov took his skills to the UFC, debuting in 2012.

One of Nurmagomedov’s early stand-out fights was his match against Abel Trujillo, where he set a takedown record of 21 successful takedowns out of 27 attempts. However, in an unfortunate turn of events for UFC fans, Nurmagomedov canceled several of his fights between September 2014 and 2015, including pulling a raincheck on Tony Fergeson 5 times.

Nurmagomedov returned to the UFC consistently in 2016, making light work of his competition in order to earn a title shot against Al Iaquinta. He won against Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision, much to the delight of the Dagestan camp.

A highly anticipated fight was then set up against Connor McGregor. In classic McGregor fashion, there was plenty of trash-talking largely instigated by McGregor. However, Nurmagomedov took McGregor’s words personally and planned to avenge himself during their fight. By the time fight night rolled around, the crowds were in hysterics, their roars reverberating through the stadium. McGregor had a fast start, as expected, but as the fight progressed, Nurmagomedov took control and wrestled McGregor to the floor. When you’re facing a Dagestan wrestler, going to the ground is like entering their home turf, and you may as well say your prayers. Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round, silencing the disrespect that had been spewing from McGregor’s mouth. In the few minutes post-fight, Nurmagomedov even tried to silence McGregor’s corner by jumping the fence to start a brawl. In the end, Nurmagomedov went home a champion and $6.6 million richer.

Nurmagomedov defended his belt two more times against high-level strikers Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. On both occasions, Nurmagomedov earned submission victories and made a combined total of $13.7 million. However, Nurmagomedov would hang up his UFC fight kit after the Gaethje match due to the tragic passing of his father, Abdulmanap. When his father passed, Khabib Nurmagomedov made a promise to his mother that he would not fight again.

1. Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor’s best trash talk | ESPN

Total earnings from UFC $20.1 mill
Years Active Still active
Birthplace Dublin, Ireland, 1988
Fighting Record 28-6
Current net worth $200 mill

The infamous Conor McGregor is sometimes referred to as the UFC’s cash cow because of how much he generates in ticket sales and pay-per-view revenue. The Irish man is slick on the mic, and he knows how to provoke his opponents.

Despite being the highest earner in the UFC, McGregor’s life wasn’t always as glamorous as it is today. McGregor worked as an apprentice plumber before his MMA career started rolling. When McGregor signed up with the UFC, he was young and determined to make a name for himself. Fresh out the gate, at his UFC debut, McGregor put his determination to work, getting a KO against Marcus Brimage in minute 2 of round 1.

McGregor’s next fight was with the legend Max Holloway. McGregor wasn’t intimidated by Holloway, putting on a dominant performance and winning by unanimous decision. Following the Holloway fight, McGregor won an additional 5 fights, including against Dustin Pourier, and earned himself a title shot.

McGregor’s first title shot was against Chad Mendes at UFC 189. McGregor never shied away from the spotlight. In fact, he embraced and got the crowds riled up in anticipation of the match. The whole of Ireland and many more fans were supporting McGregor when he stepped into the ring with Mendes. Connor put on a brilliant performance, winning the featherweight belt via KO and earning himself $2.6 million.

McGregor’s next fight was a title defense against Jose Aldo. Full of confidence, McGregor burst into the octagon. Within 13 seconds of the ref’s call to start, Aldo was lying knocked out on the canvas.

Following the win, McGregor jumped up to welterweight class to fight Nate Diaz. It seemed that McGregor’s bubble finally burst as Diaz submitted McGregor with a rear naked choke in round two. However, McGregor’s confidence and eagerness to fight was undying as he immediately called for a rematch. The second fight lasted the distance and was an absolute war. McGregor got his revenge against Diaz, winning by majority decision. From the two fights with Diaz, McGregor an eye-watering $9.6 million.

McGregor switched weight classes again, this time dropping to lightweight to fight Eddie Alvarez. With elite striking, McGregor dominated Alvarez and put him to sleep in the second round. Not only did Connor earn $5.4 million from the fight, but he also earned the coveted double champion status.

Unfortunately, McGregor was stripped of his titles due to inactivity and subsequently took a hiatus from the UFC. When McGregor returned, he fought in several more exciting match-ups until suffering a bad leg injury during the trilogy fight against Poirier. We’re now excitedly waiting for McGregor’s return to the octagon, as he’s one of the most entertaining fighters in the biz! His fame and skill have earned him the crown as one of the highest-paid and richest UFC fighters of all time.

Wrap Up:

Highest paid UFC fighters ranked infographic

Conor McGregor is the highest-paid UFC athlete of all time. With a net worth in excess of $200 million, he is among the wealthiest athletes in the world. Out of the top 10 highest-selling UFC PPV fights of all time, McGregor participated in 8. That means he’s responsible for 80% of the highest-selling UFC fights in history. He’s the face of the UFC brand and one of the reasons the sport became so popular.

Khabib trails close by with a net worth of $40 million. These two greats dominate the UFC in terms of earning potential. When Khabib fought McGregor in 2018, they raked in 2.5 million PPV buys and set the record for the highest-grossing UFC fight with over $180M in revenue.

Other legendary fighters like Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones have also cashed-in over $10 million in fight earnings. Besides fighting, these fighters also make an income through sponsorships and brand deals.

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