100 Highest Paid Athletes

The Forbes top 100 highest paid athletes has come out for this year (See list here), and once again as expected no MMA fighters has made the list. The list combines the salaries and endorsements of many of the best athletes around the world to see who is making the most. It is very interesting to see the difference in earnings as an athlete like Floyd Mayweather make zero dollars from endorsements, while a vast majority of Lebron James's salary is tied to sponsors. The lowest paid athlete in the top 100 is soccer player Luis Suarez at $17.3M. I think it is a fascinating look at the incredible amounts of money that are involved in major sports, and what a top athlete in his sport can look to make. Here is a quick look at the breakdown by sports, with the highest paid in each sport and their rank listed.


# of Athletes

Highest Rankings



30 - Cliff Lee $25.3M



3 - Lebron James $72.3M



10 - Matt Ryan $43.8M



2 - Cristiano Ronaldo $80M



6 - Tiger Woods $61.2M



1 - Floyd Mayweather $105M

Mens Tennis


7 - Roger Federer $56.2M



19 - Lewis Hamilton $32M



28 - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. $25.9M

Womens Tennis


34- Maria Sharapova $24.4M



22- Mahendra Singh Dhoni $30M



45 - Usain Bolt $23.2M

I did not really expect any fighter to make the list, when you do a double take, you realize that no Hockey players, a much more established sport than MMA made the cut. A little more surprising considering that some of the big names could have taken advantage of the Olympics this year to score extra endorsements. A breakdown of the boxers on the list has three (Mayweather ($105M), Pacquiao ($41M), and Klitschko ($28M)) in the top 25. Only one Mixed Martial Artist likely would have generated the revenue needed to get on this list, a man who lost both of his fights in the June 1, 2013 - June 1, 2014 time frame that they looked at, and that is Anderson Silva.

PPV Buys

Est UFC Revenue


UFC 162




UFC 168




I'm not an expert at this, but I'll try to put some numbers together based on things I've read and picked up over the years of following the sport. UFC only gets about ½ the PPV price that fans pay, so therefore, lets use the $23 per buy at $45, giving it a conservative mark and going roughly half way of the non-HD $45 price for a PPV. It is a conservative estimate IMO. I'm also not taking into account the amount that UFC earns from Sponsorship, Merchandising and concessions, likely another seven-figure total for each event.

Anderson headlined and was the big name on cards that generated roughly $46.65M. That doesn't take into account what UFC spent in promotion and for their base expenses for producing the shows. UFC 168 likely had PPV point payouts to Silva, Weidman, and Rousey cutting into the UFC's line. Weidman fought at UFC 162 on the last fight of old contract, meaning that he didn't really break the bank, while Anderson has signed several new contracts during his historic UFC run so I assume he has some of the most generous PPV points in the business and don't think it is a crazy in an ideal situation for the athlete that the star attraction for these two very successful events combined with his outside sponsorships could have earned $17.3M over the course of a year.

The big question I've gotten over the last few years is how would Forbes know what these guys make if UFC doesn't release the full numbers. To me the answer is... Forbes knows money, and they have sources all over the sports world to help them compile these list. The other option would be for a fighter's manager to leak the info. Being on this list, especially being the first MMA fighter on this list would carry a level of bragging rights and prestige.

Who will be the first MMA fighter on this list? I think the two best options are Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey.

Jones's next contract (if he keeps winning) should be the most fighter friendly contract in UFC history. He is young enough, and rich enough to play serious hardball with Zuffa if he chooses on that contract. He has three marketable and interesting fights lined up right now with Gustafsson, Cormier, and Rumble that all should do north of 500K PPV buys, and if promoted right the Gustafsson rematch should do much more. Also if he wins those three fights he will seriously be in the MMA GOAT discussion while only 27-28 years old, a selling point moving into the back half of his career. Jon also has blue chip sponsorship from Nike that could be very lucrative moving forward as he stands poised to be the face of UFC as it continues its international expansion.

Rousey is one of UFC's favorites, and she stays active. Her fight in July will be her third PPV fight since December. The UFC 175 card is stacked and should do a good PPV number, and then Ronda still has the potential for big fights with Cyborg, Holly Holm, and a challenging but less big hype match with Cat Zingano.

\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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