Demetrious Johnson has been at odds with the UFC during a large chunk of his stint as the organization’s undisputed flyweight champion. He was even in the middle of it all when upper management threatened to close down the division for good.
During one of his recent Twitch streams, “Mighty Mouse” opened the discussion about his salaries in the UFC. Some of these included fights when he’d already defended the title multiple times.
DJ TALKING ABOUT HIS UFC CONTRACT. HE WAS STUCK MAKING 30/30 IN HIS 3RD TITLE DEFENSE. pic.twitter.com/0HZV9Tjcza— Chungus Supreme (@FightsCameraPod) January 18, 2023
“When I fought Dominick Cruz [for UFC’s bantamweight title], I was fighting for 14k [to show] and 14k [to win],” Johnson said (quotes by MMA Mania). “Lost to Dominick Cruz, I made 14k.
“Then I was about to fight Eddie Wineland, but that didn’t go through so I fought Ian McCall in Australia. I was still on that same contract. And then, I got a NEW contract when I fought Ian McCall for a second time, I think I got bumped up to $20k/$20k.
“And then I fought Joseph Benavidez and I was still on that $20k/$20k,” he said. “When I fought John Dodson I made $23k/$23k, when I fought John Moraga it probably went $26k/$26k, and then when it was Joseph Benavidez [again] I think it was like $30k/$30k.”
Even as a champion, Johnson says he didn’t get to enjoy PPV points, something many of his fellow titleholders did.
“And then I finally got a new contract as champion, and I think it was $125k/$50k, but I didn’t get pay-per-view points and that’s where most champions get their bang for their buck, it’s in pay-per-view points. Because if you get on a card with a Conor McGregor and he does 2.1 million buys, then you just do the f—ing math, you’re going to make a s—load of money.
“I never got the opportunity to do that, so when they tried to stiff arm me for the fight against T.J. Dillashaw I was like ‘Pay me a f—ing million dollars and I’ll do it. This is a super fight, let’s make some super money.’
“They never wanted to do that. That’s why I came out like that, basically pushing back, like when does a champion have leverage, when does a champion get what’s due to him?”
Bloody Elbow’s business expert John Nash, however, noted some minor inaccuracies in Johnson’s statement.
DJ is off a little here. According to ACs the 2nd Benavidez was his first 125k/50k payout. The fight before that (Moraga) his purse was 29/29. https://t.co/HC2cZ6MHY2— John S. Nash (@heynottheface) January 19, 2023
Johnson earned $29,000 to show and $29,000 to win for his second title defense against John Moraga. It was only during his third title defense where he finally made six digits, earning $125,000 to show and $50,000 to win.
Athletic commission records also show that his purses didn’t improve much for the next several championship fights. Against Henry Cejudo at UFC 197, where Johnson continued his historic run with eight title defenses, the top pound-for-pound talent still earned just $135,000 to show and $60,000 to win.
Johnson’s disappointment only piled on after knowing how much C.M. Punk got paid for his fights.
“I’m going on my seventh or eighth title defense, you’ve got C.M. Punk over here and he’s making 500 bones [500k] and it’s his second fight in the UFC. That’s where the chip on my shoulder came from.”
In 2018, Johnson moved to Singapore to fight for ONE Championship, where he is currently the organization’s champion at 135 pounds.
About the author: Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments. (full bio)