As professional boxing seems to wane in terms of popularity, more sports fans are being drawn to the world of mixed martial arts. It’s exciting, it’s real, and there is no shortage of fighters to root for. Although professional MMA fighting may seem like a new thing, the UFC has actually been around since the early 90’s. So, who are the most successful MMA fighters right now? In this article, I’m going to break down the top ten highest paid MMA fighters. The fighters are listed in ascending order, based on projected 2016 earnings. (Keep in mind that the year is still young. There are still some fighters who have yet to be booked.) Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top ten highest paid MMA fighters in 2016.
#10 – Junior dos Santos ($410,000)
Junior dos Santos has played in the UFC since 2008, but hehas only recently jumped back into the game. The heavyweight fighter made his debut against Fabricio Werdum, winning by knockout in what was considered to be a major upset. The native Brazilian boasts quite the impressive record today, with 18 wins and 4 losses. (Twelve of those wins are wins by knockout, as well.) As of today, Sherdog ranks him as the #4 heavyweight in the world. His most recent fight took place in April of 2016, where he defeated Ben Rothwell by technical decision. He took a year off of the sport last year, but it’s safe to say that this young talent will continue fighting for the years to come, and he will continue to make money while doing so.
#9 – Michael Bisping ($495,000)
Bisping has been fighting since 2004, and he has fought in both the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions. In 2004, he won the Light Heavyweight Cage Rage Championship. (For those unfamiliar, Cage Rage is essentially the United Kingdom’s answer to UFC.) In 2006, he won The Ultimate Fighter 3’s Light Heavyweight Tournament. Bisping, thinking that he would do better as a middleweight, chose to drop down a weight division in 2008. And it turns out that he was right. He has had a considerably successful career, with 28 total wins and 7 losses. His most recent fight was against Gegard Mousasi in February of 2016, which he won with unanimous decision. He actually has the highest career earnings out of any other MMA fighter, having made over $6,000,000 to date.
#8 – Jon Jones ($530,000)
Jon “Bones” Jones’s personal life has been a little rocky lately. In 2015, due to a felony hit-and-run charge, was stripped of his title as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, removed from the UFC roster, and placed on suspension. This was quite the disappointment for a lot of people, seeing as he is widely thought to be one of the best MMA fighters in the world. Jones took home the Light Heavyweight Championship title in 2011, making him the youngest champion in UFC history, being only 23 years old at the time. Out of 23 fights, Jon has only lost one, a disqualification in 2009 against Matt Hamill. His most recent fight was against Ovince Saint Preux in April of 2016, and he is currently scheduled for a bout against Daniel Cormier later this summer.
#7 – Andrei Arlovski ($530,000)
Although he’s currently fighting with the UFC, Andrei Arlovski has quite a lot of experience with other promotion companies, as well. The journeyman started his career with the UFC in 2000, where he reigned as Heavyweight Champion for a time. In 2008, he left the UFC before moving on to companies like WSOF, EliteXC, and Strikeforce. However, in 2014, he made his return. To date, he is ranked as the #5 heavyweight fighter in the UFC. His most recent fight was not too long ago, against Alistair Overeem on May 8th of this year. Arlovski ended up losing in the second round. Outside of the arena, Andrei Arlovski also has some experience under his belt as an actor, which has served to add to his wealth. (The figure listed in this article, however, only counts his earnings as a fighter.)
#6 – Holly Holm ($540,000)
And so we’re brought to the only female fighter on this list. Holm is a highly versatile fighter, with experience not only in mixed martial arts, but also in boxing and kickboxing. As far as boxing goes, she is regarded as one of the greatest female welterweights in the world, with 33 wins and 2 losses. Her MMA record is also fairly impressive, with 10 wins and 1 loss. She made her UFC debut in early 2015, an found herself thrown into the spotlight in November of last year when she defeated Ronda Rousey, giving the MMA star the first loss of her career. Ronda Rousey would probably find herself very high on this list in a normal situation, but she doesn’t have any fights booked for 2016, due to a medical suspension issued by the UFC following the fight. You have to respect Holm for literally knocking out her competition, in this case.
#5 – Robbie Lawler ($590,000)
Robbie Lawler is another incredibly talented welterweight fighter. He made his UFC debut in 2002 against Aaron Riley, who he beat via unanimous decision. After suffering a few loses over the course of the next couple of years, Lawler moved on to dabble in other companies, where he would fight in the middleweight division. He spent a significant amount of time with places like Strikeforce and PRIDE, where he saw a great deal of success, winning fights and championships along the way. The Floridian returned to the UFC in 2013, and he won the UFC Welterweight Championship in December of 2014. Lawler’s most recent bout was against Carlos Condit in January of 2015, where he defended his title in a very close split-decision victory. His next fight will be taking place in July, against Tyron Woodley.
#4 – Alistair Overeem ($597,857)
Alistair Overeem has an extensive and prolific career as a mixed martial artist (and as a kickboxer), across an array of different companies. He has been fighting since 1999, and 41 wins out of 56 total bouts in mixed martial arts. He fought primarily in Strikeforce, where he would fight as a Heavyweight Champion. He came to the UFC in 2011, where his career has been rife with controversy. Although Overeem has been able to defeat several former heavyweight champions, he has also had issues with failed drug tests in 2012, which prevented him from having a shot at Junior dos Santos, who was UFC’s Heavyweight Champion at the time. His most recent bout was against Andrei Arlovski, who was mentioned earlier. In February of this year, Overeem signed a new contract with UFC.
#3 – Nate Diaz ($620,000)
Like Holly Holm, recent success has placed this fighter in the national spotlight. Nate Diaz has been fighting since 2007, where he made his professional debut on Ultimate Fighter 5, which he would go on to win. Diaz has competed in the lightweight division for the majority of his career, but he has also been known to bulk up every once in a while to compete as a welterweight. He has had a relatively successful time fighting in the UFC, Strikeforce, and Pancrase, having 20 wins out of 30 total fights. However, it wasn’t until fairly recently that Diaz exploded in popularity. For UFC 196 in March of 2016, Nate Diaz subbed in for lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos to fight against featherweight champion Conor McGregor, where he entered as a massive underdog. He shocked the world with a submission victory in round 2. Since then, Diaz has seen a substantial rise in both popularity AND wealth.
#2 – Anderson Silva ($665,000)
I don’t think that I could say anything about Anderson Silva that hasn’t been said already. The former middleweight champion is one of the most popular fighters to have played the game, and he is thought to be one of the best strikers in the sport’s history. He currently holds the record for most UFC title defenses, most UFC career knockdowns, and longest career winstreak. Silva is a gifted fighter, and so he is paid appropriately for it. In 2013, Silva was devastated by a broken leg, which forced him to drop out of fighting for a little while to recover. The Spider made his return in January of 2015, defeating Nick Diaz by unanimous decision. There was some controversy after the fight, with Silva facing accusations of illegal drug use. He was suspended for a year. He made in February of this year, facing off against Michael Bisping and losing by unanimous decision. Silva was meant to fight Uriah Hall earlier this month, but he pulled out a few days prior to the event.
#1 – Conor McGregor ($1,090,000)
Conor McGregor is kind of new to mixed martial arts, especially compared to some of the other seasoned vets that you can find on this list. He made his UFC debut in February of 2013, where he defeated Marcus Brimage by technical knockout. McGregor, for a time, was undefeated in the UFC. Perhaps his most notable bout was against Jose Aldo, the undefeated UFC Featherweight Champion. McGregor shocked the world when he knocked Aldo out in a mere 13 seconds. This victory earned McGregor the title of UFC Feathweight Champion, which he still holds today. McGregor has since become known for his offensive prowess. He remained undefeated until the UFC until he met his first loss against Nick Diaz, as mentioned before. (Still, he earned $1,000,000 in that fight, even in defeat.) The Irishman is currently scheduled for a rematch against Diaz in July of this year.