Forbes 100 Highest Paid Athletes... an MMA fan perspective

A while back I wrote an article based off the Forbes Magazine article listing the 50 highest paid athletes. My points in that post was that UFC should make getting someone on this list a priority if it wants to increase it's mainstream acceptence. This year, Forbes followed up with the 100 highest paid athletes from June 2011 - June 2012... once again there was not a single Mixed Martial Artist on the list. In reality there was only one fighter who I thought had a chance, and that was UFC Light-Heavyweight Champ Jon Jones. In this time measured Jones as Champion defended his title three time, all bringing in above average PPV buy rates for recent UFC events.

UFC 135 - Rampage Jackson - 520K PPV buys - $2.1 Million Gate

UFC 140 - Lyoto Machida - 485K PPV buys - $3.9 Million Gate

UFC 145 - Rashad Evans - 700K PPV buys - $2.2 Million Gate

Total: 1.705 Million PPV - $8.2 Million Gate

During this time Jones also signed multiple sponsorship deals with companies such as K-Swiss, Bud Light, and also the parent company UFC. I did not think that Jones would make a top 50 list, but when I saw the list was expanded to the top 100, then I thought he might sneak into the back end.

I guess that wasn't enough to earn more than the $16.6 million that the 100th highest paid athlete, Chicago White Sox Pitcher Jake Pevey made. At this point, I think it will be a few years before any MMA athlete cracks the list, but my two bets for the first MMA fighter to get there is Jon Jones, and Junior Dos Santos.


I wonder if it sticks in Dana White's craw that Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao are the two highest paid athletes, even if they continue to hand pick opponents and avoid what would be one of the biggest fights in the history of the sport. Wladimir Klitschko, and Miguel Cotto also made the list... pretty much spitting in the face of many people who say that boxing is close to dead.

A Look at the List

To put this in a little more perspective, let's look at the breakdown of the 100 highest paid athletes by sport. The NFL numbers are much higher this year due to last season's lockout that prevented bonuses that would have been paid in March from being paid until July/August after the lockout was settled.

A look at the representation by sport:


# of Athletes

Highest Rankings



10-Peyton Manning



18 Alex Rodriguez



4 Lebron James



8 David Beckham



3 Tiger Woods



1 Floyd Mayweather



23 Dale Earnhardt Jr.



19 Fernando Alonso

Mens Tennis


5 Roger Federer

Womens Tennis


26 Maria Scharapova



31 Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Motorcycle Racing


20 Valentino Rossi



63 Usain Bolt

If I was Dana White... he who claimed that UFC is already bigger than the NFL on a worldwide perspective... I would take it as a personal insult that two Cricket athletes are on this list, and not your most marketable champ. Cricket

Now let's look at the Cricket thing from another perspective... These two Athletes, #31 - Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and #78 Sachin Tendulkar both play in the Indian Premier leaguer. Is there any wonder that Dana White is rushing to get TUF:India underway? There is money... big money to be had by finding a Indian fighter that can reach a level to be a headlining star in India... Much less the fact that if MMA catches on big in a country with 1.2 Billion people, the financial windfall would be massive for UFC an MMA.

Cricket is also not a popular sport outside of the former members of the British Empire, and has almost zero following in the United States. If I hadn't happened to be in London a few years ago during "The Ashes" contest, I would have had no clue about the play on words for the upcoming TUF:The Smashes between Australia and England. That it can draw such revenue for it's top athletes in what is a sport with limited world-wide appeal is amazing.


Now to another athlete that needs to be looked at on this list... the #11 ranked Women's tennis player in the World. There is only one reason that Li Na is on this list is because she is Chinese. She made two Grand Slam finals in 2011, winning the French Open, but it is the seven Multi-million dollar endorsement deals that she signed following he success early last year. Just like the 1.2 Billion Indians, the 1.3 Billion Chinese are a market that every sponsor wants to get in on. I fully expect that TUF: China is not too far away.

All my MMA related thoughts end up here

\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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