Again with the Boxing vs. MMA Pay Comparison

Recently ESPN released a list of the best-paid athletes in 30 sports, sparking a discussion about the pay difference between Brock Lesnar and Manny Pacquiao, the two leaders in their respective sports. Weighing in on the matter was Kevin Iole, who when asked by  Steve Cofield if he "would argue that the 30th biggest MMA fighter makes a lot more than the 30th biggest boxer?”  gave an answer that caught my attention. “I would say yes. I would say that the 30th biggest MMA fighter, there is a middle class in MMA which does not exist in boxing. In boxing, you have I think probably, well just taking Mayweather & Pacquiao alone you could say two fighters earn over 90% of the money. But I think if you say you could probably say 10 fighters are earning 99% of the money in boxing and that would be very close to being accurate. And in MMA, it’s spread out much more. So, you know, I think that’s probably true. You have a good, solid middle class working in MMA that you don’t have in boxing.”  (Transcript taken from Fight Opinion)

Was that right, that the “30th biggest MMA fighter makes a lot more than the 30th biggest boxer”? Iole should know, he has covered both sports extensively for years, but this didn't seem accurate to me. I have been working on a pretty in-depth comparison of the pay between boxers and mixed martial artists (still compiling) and from everything I've learned, and counter to most peoples assumptions, boxing paid a lot better for a lot more fighters. (Of course, I am still talking about the upper echelons of the sport - the masses still make nothing - as well as solely about fight purses and not additional money to be made off sponsors)



My interest piqued I decided to investigate (thank god for Google). Using the scientific method of picking names of boxers from off the top of my head I was quickly able to generate a rough list of the top earners for 2010. What follows is that list with the names, the number of fights I am using for their data (I was unable to find the purse info for every fights), what their guaranteed purse payouts were, and what their estimated pay was when including their share of payperview, gate, television, or other auxiliary revenue sources. For example: Floyd Mayweather was guaranteed $22.5 million for his fight with Shane Mosely, but when one includes his cut of the gate and payperview it is estimated that he took in close to $40 million for that one fight.

Top 30 highest paid boxers of 2010:

  1. Manny Pacquia (2 fights): $27 million guaranteed / $45 million estimated
  2. Floyd Mayweather (1 fight): $22.5 million guaranteed / $40 million estimated
  3. David Haye (2 fight): $7.5 million guaranteed/ $18 million estimated
  4. Wladimir Klitschko (1 fight): $6.7 mil guaranteed/ $10 million estimated
  5. Shane Mosely (1 fight): $6.7 million
  6. Paul Williams (2 fights): $3.25 million
  7.  Antonio Margarito (1 fight): $3 million
  8. Vitali Klitschko (1 fight): $2.8 million guaranteed/ $6 million to $10 million estimated
  9. Juan Manuel Marguez (2 fights): $2.4 million plus Mexican television share
  10. Tomasz Adamek (4 fights): $2.1 million ($1.3 million on two fights other two fights based on previous purse (low) estimates)
  11. Samuel Peters (1 fight): $2 million
  12. Felix Sturm (1 fight): $2 million (based on a 5 fight $10 million dollar guarantee)
  13. Miguel Angel Cotto (1 fight): $2 million
  14. Amir Khan (2 fights): $1.975 million (does not include any payperview bonuses)
  15. Sergio Martinez (2 fights): $1.8 million
  16. Andre Berto (2 fights) $1.7 mil
  17. Audley Harrison (for a1 fight/ no purse info on other fight): $1.5 million guaranteed/ $2.3 million estimated
  18. John Ruiz (1 fight): $1.5 million plus possible Sky Box Office bonus
  19. Jean Pascal (1 fight): $1.5 million
  20. Mikkel Kessler (1 fight): $1 million guaranteed/ $2.7 million estimated
  21. Bernard Hopkins (1 fight): $1.3 million
  22. Juan Manuel Lopez (3 fights): $1.3 million ($750,000 on one fight, other two fights based on previous purses being no less than $275,000)
  23. Joshua Clottey (1 fight): $1.25 million
  24.  Rafael Marguez (2 fights): $1.125 million
  25. Carl Froch (1 fight): $1 million plus possible foreign television share
  26. Arthur Abraham (1 fight): $1 million/ $1.7 million estimated
  27. Andre Ward (1 fight); $1 million minimum
  28. Andre Dirrell (1 fight): $1 million minimum
  29. Chris Arreola (2 fights): $980,000
  30. Michael Katsidis (2 fights): $900,000 

So, roughly, the 30th highest paid boxer makes no less than $900,000 a year.  Where would that put Katsidis if he was an MMA fighter? 11th based on my calculations (using the estimates of Meltzer, Chiappetta, and others, of course):

  1. Brock Lesnar: estimated $7 million
  2. George St-Pierre: estimated $6 million
  3. Quinton Rampage Jackson: estimated $3 million
  4. Randy Couture: estimated $2.5 million
  5. Fedor Emelianenko: estimated $2.3 million - $3 million (based on Affliction lawsuit)
  6. BJ Penn: estimated $2 million – $2.5 million
  7. Anderson Silva: estimated $2 million - $2.5 million
  8. Chuck Liddell: estimated $1.5 million +
  9. Rashad Evans: estimated $1.4 million
  10. Lyota Machida : estimated $1 million 

(If you includes Alistair Overeem's K-1 pay - and if he actually got paid it - then he too would likely be in the top 10)


So Michael Katsidis would be the 11th highest paid MMA fighter, just ahead of Michael Bisping who took home somewhere in the neighborhood of $850,000 in 2010.  As for Bisping he would actually come in 32nd amongst boxers, behind Kermit Cintron, who receive $860,000 last year for his fight with Paul Williams, and just ahead of Isreal Vazquez, Yuri Foreman, and Shannon Briggs, who all had fights last year where they were paid $750,000 (at least everyone but Briggs was paid). And immediately following them is Kelly Pavlik, Allan Green, Juan Diaz, Paulie Malignaggi, and Marcos Maidana: all of them being paid $500,000 or more in 2010.  In fact when one continues to poor through the purses it's hard to find where  MMA gains the distinct pay advantage.  It's striking when sees a future champion like Jon Jones making less than half on his fights than what Brandan Rios made for any one of his undercard bouts that same year (and more than all four of Phil Davis's combined purses).

This discrepancy is even more shocking when one looks at the top payperviews of 2010:

1. Boxing: Floyd Mayweather vs. Shane Mosley, May 1, 1.4 million buys
2. Boxing: Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito, Nov. 13, 1,150,000 buys
3. UFC 116: Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin, July 3, 1,100,000 buys
4. UFC 114: Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans, May 29, 1,050,000 buys
5. UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez, Oct. 23, 1,000,000 buys
6. UFC 124: Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck, Dec. 11, 785,000 buys
7. UFC 111: St. Pierre vs. Dan Hardy, March 27, 770,000 buys
8. Boxing: Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey, March 13, 700,000 buys
9. UFC 107: Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen, Aug. 7, 600,000 buys
10. UFC 118: Frank Edgar vs. B.J. Penn/Randy Couture vs. James Toney, 535,000 buys*-+ 

Of course this shouldn't have come as a surprise to Iole, for he recently quoted Bob Arum explaining how :

On Ultimate Fighting Championship cards, Arum said, about 20 percent of the gross revenue is spent on talent. In boxing, he said that it is much higher and for a major card like Pacquiao-Mosley, around 80 percent.

It is surprising that someone as well-connected as Iole could make such an obvious misstatement.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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