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How Much Do Boxers Make? UFC VS Boxing Breakdown

Wondering how much do boxers make? And who makes more money when it comes to boxing vs UFC? Well this is the post for you.

Boxers earn significantly more at the top end than UFC fighters, whereas average UFC fighters earn more than average boxers.

We have broken down top earners in each sport, which sport is more popular, which sport makes more money, and just why that may be.

Which Sport Makes More Money Boxing vs UFC –  Quick Comparison

  • Again, boxers earn significantly more at the top end than UFC fighters, whereas average UFC fighters earn more than average boxers (see table below)
  • The average professional boxer’s salary is: ~$40,000/year
  • The average UFC fighter’s salary is: ~$100,000/year
  • The highest grossing boxer is: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
  • The highest grossing UFC fighter is: Conor McGregor
  • Boxing is still much more popular than the UFC with over 20,000 professional boxers and only ~600 professional UFC fighters
  • However, it should be noted that the UFC is a single organization of MMA (mixed martial arts) whereas boxing has several different sanctioning bodies and promotions within it

Here’s a table comparing the top earners from each sport as you can there is a big discrepancy between the two:

UFC FightersEarnings (USD)Boxing FightersEarnings (USD)
Conor McGregor$20,102,000Floyd Mayweather Jr.Over $1 billion
Khabib Nurmagomedov$14,770,000Mike TysonOver $500 million
Alistair Overeem$10,204,500Wladimir KlitschkoOver $250 million
Andrei Arlovski$9,844,000Evander HolyfieldOver $230 million
Anderson Silva$8,732,000Manny PacquiaoOver $200 million
Jon Jones$7,230,000Canelo ÁlvarezOver $200 million
Michael Bisping$7,135,000Oscar De La HoyaOver $200 million
Junior Dos Santos$7,110,000Anthony JoshuaOver $200 million
Georges St-Pierre$7,037,000Lennox LewisOver $140 million
Donald Cerrone$7,024,800Tyson FuryOver $100 million

Breaking Down Boxing Revenue

How Much Do Boxers Make?

There’s really no set standard for how much boxers make as its purely based on name recognition, popularity, and viewership. A beginner professional boxer can expect to make any where from a couple hundred to a couple thousand early in their career. Like other spots, top drawing earners make most of the money whereas those less popular are making very little – often not enough to even be able to leave their day job.

Again, the most popular boxers make way more than the most popular fighters, but average boxers make less than average UFC fighters.

However, high prospects in boxing can make good money sooner and even for their initial debut. For example, Ray Leonard made $40k in his debut in 1977 (which translates to ~$160k today).

Keep in mind boxers also have to pay a percentage of their earnings to their team so consider the below expenses – all will take some of your winnings:

  • coach/trainers/team
  • manager/promoter
  • sanctioning bodies

How Much Do Boxers Make Per Fight?

The per-fight earnings of professional boxers can go from a few hundred to millions of dollars depending on the boxer’s professional standing, the chosen opponent, and the fight venue. Beginner boxers often settle for a a fee as low as $200 per match.

While many boxers can expect to make less than a thousand dollars in the early days of their career, the majority assembles in the 10k-100k bracket. Only a select few renowned names and reigning champions can expect to cross the million-dollar threshold, but these top earners still can expect to make way more per fight than UFC fighters.

For example, British boxer Anthony Joshua made $20 million from his victory over Vladimir Klitschko, followed by another $25 million for defeating Povetkin. However, these high-profile matches with exceptional paychecks are not frequent, and Joshua’s earnings before these fights were fairly in line with those of other professional boxers.

Boxers at the height of their popularity can also enjoy perks such as a share in the pay-per-view percentage. Conversely, undercard boxers typically earn anywhere between 10k to 100k dollars per bout, while newcomers might make less than a thousand dollars.

Who Is the Highest Paid Boxer?

The highest paid boxer of all time is none other than Floyd Mayweather Jr with total boxing earnings estimated to be ~1.2 billion dollars.

For example, here are some of his top earning fights across his career:

  • 2017 Mayweather vs Connor McGregorr: $275 million
  • 2015 Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: $250 million
  • 2021 Mayweather vs Logan Paul: $100 million
  • 2013: Mayweather vs Canelo Alverez $80 million
  • 2011: Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto: $32 million
  • 2013: Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero $32 million
  • 2014: Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana $32 million
  • 2015: Mayweather Jr. vs. Andre Berto $32 million

Highest Boxing Prize Money of All Time?

The highest boxing prize money of all time was in the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Manny Pacquiao in 2015 which earn Mayweather $250 million and Paquiao earning $125 million.

Billed as the “Fight of the Century,” it generated total revenues approaching $600 million. Floyd Mayweather Jr., who emerged victorious from the boxing ring, secured a massive payday of around $250 million. Despite the defeat, Manny Pacquiao also walked away from that day substantially richer, pocketing more than $100 million for his effort.

Keep in mind, these cash figures are not just from the prize money, but they include comprehensive earnings calculations—taking into account factors like ticket sales, sponsorships, and pay-per-view revenue.

How Much Do Boxers Make a Month?

Again, the earnings of boxers can fluctuate widely, primarily because they don’t earn a stable monthly income like most other professionals. Instead, they are paid per fight, and the amount depends on factors like the boxer’s reputation, the profile of the match, and negotiations with the opponent and the promotional company.

The average monthly earnings for mid range boxers can go between $1,500 and $5,000.

A boxer just starting out might make as little as $200 a month (if they only fight once). Remember, though, this isn’t a set rate; it’s purely dependent on whether they have a fight that month and what the agreed amount is.

However, for a top-tier boxer like Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, the amount can escalate into millions of dollars per match, and thus per month, if they happen to fight in a given month. As we mentioned, when Mayweather fought against Manny Pacquiao in 2015, he made as staggering $250 million.

How Much Do Boxers Make Per Year?

As always the earnings of a professional boxer range widely depending on many factors: the number of fights they participate in during a year, the stature of those events, and the boxer’s relative skill and popularity.

A 2012 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States concluded that the median annual income for professional athletes (which includes boxers) was $40,060, although boxers’ salaries can fluctuate on either side of that figure significantly.

An amateur boxer turning professional may earn only around $15,000 to $20,000 in their first year. On the opposite end of the spectrum, elite boxers can make millions per year. As of 2021, the highest-paid boxer, Canelo Alvarez, earned $58 million in a year, mostly due to his exclusive deal with the streaming service DAZN.

How Much Do Main Card Boxers Earn?

Main card boxers, also known as ‘headliner’ or ‘headline’ boxers, are usually the ones that earn the majority in boxing.

Main card boxers can earn anywhere from $30,000 to several million plus, depending on the boxer’s popularity, the significance of the fight, venue, opponent’s reputation, ticket sales, and the projected pay-per-view (PPV) buys.

The more the attention these fights gather, the larger purse. For an astronomical example, Floyd Mayweather Jr reportedly earned around $275 million from his high-profile fight against Conor McGregor.

What About Prelim Card Boxers?

An average undercard boxer’s earnings can range anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to about $100,000 plus for high-stakes international bouts. This variation in earning is, of course, contingent upon the boxers’ experience, reputation, negotiation ability and, importantly, their marketability.

Famous bouts like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao have seen undercard fighters earn up to $150,000, but those are outliers in the general trend.

It’s essential to bear in mind that even though all undercard boxers share a paycheck that is comparatively lower than main card fighters, there is still a large disparity within this group.

The top-tier undercard fighters, often previous champions or boxers with a considerable following, can earn significantly more than the lower-tier or less experienced boxers.

Why Do Boxers Make More than UFC Fighters?

Simply put, the world of boxing has been around for centuries; it has an established tradition, a massive following, as well as many more participants than those in the UFC.

Many professional boxers operate as independent contractors, negotiating their own fight fees. This autonomy often results in a larger chunk of the prize money being taken home by the athlete.

Contrarily, the UFC is a relatively young organization. Operating under the UFC’s monopolistic umbrella, fighters have less control over their earning potential. The UFC holds more control over the negotiating power in terms of fighters’ contracts and a significant portion of the sport’s profits. Thus, there’s a considerable difference in financial distribution, which tips the earning scales in favor of boxing professionals.

Lastly, boxers earn significantly more at the top end thatn UFC fighters whereas average UFC fighters earn more than average boxers

Top Ten Highest Paid Boxers of All Time

As expected topping the list is Floyd Mayweather, whose undefeated career and high-profile bouts have earned him a total of $700 million, notably against Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor.

Here is a full list of the top ten highest paid boxers of all time
(this also includes related boxing partnerships, sponsorships, and brand deals and may not calculate for inflation):

  1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (over $1 billion) – Over the course of his career, Mayweather was known for his massive paydays, particularly for his fights against Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor. His estimated career earnings are well over $1 billion.
  2. Mike Tyson (over $500 million)– In his prime, “Iron Mike” was one of the biggest draws in boxing. Despite some financial troubles, his career earnings from boxing were immense.
  3. Wladimir Klitschko (over $250 million) – The Ukrainian Klitschko brothers dominated the heavyweight division for years and had several high-paying bouts.
  4. Evander Holyfield (over $230 million)– Holyfield had several lucrative fights, especially his bouts with Mike Tyson.
  5. Manny Pacquiao (over $200 million)– The Filipino legend has had a storied career with numerous big paydays, including his mega-fight against Mayweather.
  6. Canelo Álvarez (over $200 million) – The Mexican superstar has had multiple big fights and signed one of the most lucrative contracts in sports history with DAZN.
  7. Oscar De La Hoya (over $200 million) – “The Golden Boy” not only made money inside the ring but also became a successful promoter outside of it.
  8. Anthony Joshua (over $200 million) – The British heavyweight had big fights against the likes of Wladimir Klitschko, Andy Ruiz Jr., and others.
  9. Lennox Lewis (over $140 million)– The British heavyweight champion had many significant paydays throughout his career.
  10. Tyson Fury (over $100 million)– The “Gypsy King” has had multiple lucrative fights, especially his bouts against Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua.

Understanding UFC and UFC Fighter Revenue

How Does the UFC Structure Affect The Earnings of An Athlete?

The structure of the UFC impacts the earnings of an athlete rather significantly. Unlike the boxing world, athletes in the UFC essentially work under the organization itself. UFC maintains control over marketing and contract negotiations, which implies it retains a hefty portion of the profits.

Whereas, boxers have way more control and are able to directly negotiate their salary and earnings.

In UFC, even the top fighters are placed under binding contracts and cannot simply walk away. The organization wields quite a deal of power over the earnings distribution. In 2022, for instance, only two UFC fighters’ purses exceeded a million dollars.

What’s the Average Salary a UFC Fighter Earns?

On average a UFC fighter rakes in approximately $100,000 per year which is a decent income to a majority of fighters (especially when compared to their boxing counterparts – who make quite a bit less).

For some specific numbers and fighters, the top five earners per fight in the UFC of 2022 include

  • Israel Adesanya ($1,956,000)
  • Alexander Volkanovski and Aljamain Sterling (both at $884,000)
  • Jared Cannonier ($864,000).

However, many fighters, especially those starting, still struggle to make ends meet, with earnings as low as a few tens of thousands.

These numbers are also quite low consider that these fighters enter the UFC often already pretty established in the fighter career with anywhere from 3-20 fights under their belt (compared to boxers who typically have less).

How much does the UFC pay fighters?

Pay in the UFC varies. It’s determined by a mix of factors: the fighter’s skill level, popularity, and the significance of the event they’re competing in, but ultimately, the UFC has a lot more control on what it pays its fighters especially when compared to pro boxing competitors.

For starters, every athlete signed with UFC is paid a base salary to show up and fight. These initial figures tend to be quite modest, often starting somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000. On top of this, there’s a win bonus, typically the same amount as the base salary. So, if a fighter is victorious, they could double their earnings.

On average, the UFC pays its lower and middle tier fighters much better than those middling fighters in boxing.

Plus high-profile UFC fighters often negotiate contracts that involve pay-per-view points, which can significantly boost their earnings. For example, if a PPV event sells exceptionally well, a headlining fighter could take home additional six-figure bonuses.

How Much Do UFC Fighters Make for a Title Fight?

For a title fight, the pay a fighter receives can also vary.

Primarily, headlining fighters in championship bouts are guaranteed a base salary, often ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. To further sweeten the pot, there’s a win bonus up for grabs. Winners can stand to double their base pay – a tremendous financial incentive for coming out on top.

The variance really comes into play when it comes to pay-per-view shares. Headlines of PPV events can net percentages of sales.

As example, Conor, McGregor is rumored to have earned more than $3 million for his title bout at UFC 246 against Donald Cerrone.

Who Is the Highest Paid UFC Fighter?

Connor McGregor is the highest paid fighter in the UFC. Here are some estimated figures from his highest paying fights:

  • 2017: McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather: $130 million
  • 2020: McGregor vs Donal Cerrone: $5 million
  • 2021: McGregor vs Dustin Poirier: $5 million
  • 2018: McGregorvs Khabib Nurmagomedov: $3 million

While Conor McGregor hasn’t been active since his rematch with Dustin Poirier, there really hasn’t been a UFC fighter who has reach the same level as popularity as McGregor.

We will see over the next couple years if he fights again or if someone else takes his title as the UFC’s highest earner.

Top Ten Highest Paid UFC Fighters of All Time

The top ten highest paid UFC fighters of all time with their estimated earnings are:

  1. Conor McGregor ($20,102,000)
  2. Khabib Nurmagomedov ($14,770,000)
  3. Alistair Overeem ($10, 204,500)
  4. Andrei Arlovski ($9,844,000)
  5. Anderson Silva ($8,732,000)
  6. Jon Jones ($7,230,000)
  7. Michael Bisping ($7,135,000)
  8. Junior Dos Santos ($7,110,000)
  9. Georges St-Pierre ($7,037,000)
  10. Donald Cerrone ($7,024,800)

As you could probably expect Conor McGregor is at the top of the list.

Comparing Top Athletes and Their Earnings from Each Sport

If you compare this to the top earners in boxing you can see that there is a pretty big discrepancy between the top earners of each sport:

UFC FightersEarnings (USD)Boxing FightersEarnings (USD)
Conor McGregor$20,102,000Floyd Mayweather Jr.Over $1 billion
Khabib Nurmagomedov$14,770,000Mike TysonOver $500 million
Alistair Overeem$10,204,500Wladimir KlitschkoOver $250 million
Andrei Arlovski$9,844,000Evander HolyfieldOver $230 million
Anderson Silva$8,732,000Manny PacquiaoOver $200 million
Jon Jones$7,230,000Canelo ÁlvarezOver $200 million
Michael Bisping$7,135,000Oscar De La HoyaOver $200 million
Junior Dos Santos$7,110,000Anthony JoshuaOver $200 million
Georges St-Pierre$7,037,000Lennox LewisOver $140 million
Donald Cerrone$7,024,800Tyson FuryOver $100 million

Again, as you can see the biggest discrepancy between how much fighters earn in each sport are that:

  1. Lower and mid tier fighters earn more in the UFC than boxing
  2. Top earners in boxing make way more than the top earners in the UFC

Boxing vs UFC Viewership Breakdown

So if we compare the viewership with boxing vs UFC we can answer a few questions:

  • There are approximately over 20,000 professional boxers and only ~578 fighters under UFC contract as of last year
  • Boxing is way more popular than the UFC in terms of participants and viewers
  • The UFC and MMA as a whole is still very new when compared to boxing
  • The UFC is rapidly growing, but it still has a long way to go in order to catch up to boxing
  • For example, here are the two biggest PPV events from each sport and their PPV buys:
    • Boxing: (2015) Mayweather vs. Pacquiao / 4,600,000 total PPV buys
    • UFC: (2018) Khabib vs. McGregor / 2,400,000 total PPV buys

As you can see, boxing still gets more viewers on average and has way more participants in the sport which could lend to the amount of pay lower or mid tier level pro boxers get since there’s just overall way less of them when compared to the amount of UFC fighters.

How Much Do Youtube Boxers Make?

Recently, there’s been a rise of Youtubers and people from non fighter backgrounds that are making waves in the ring.

Most notably Jake and Logan Paul have been participating in more and more boxing matches over the recent years and are actually make quite a bit of many for themselves and their competitors (some of whom include retired MMA fighters).

Here’s a quick breakdown of some earnings for fighters with YouTube participators:

Number of Fights, Average Pay Per Fight, Opponent, Date of Fight, and Pay Per Fight:

YouTube BoxerNumber of FightsAverage Pay Per FightOpponentDate of FightYouTube Boxer’s Pay Per Fight
Jake Paul6$2 millionAli Eson GibJan 30, 2020$900,000
Nate RobinsonNov 28, 2020$900,000
Ben AskrenApr 17, 2021$1 million
Tyron WoodleyAug 29, 2021$1.5 million
Tyron WoodleyDec 18, 2021$2 million
Anderson SilvaOct 29, 2022$5 million
Logan Paul3$1.5 millionKSIAug. 25, 2018$700,000
KSINov. 9, 2019$900,000
Floyd Mayweather JrJune 6, 2021$900,000
KSI6$1 million

Other Comparisons to Be Aware of

UFC vs Boxing Which Is More Dangerous?

The truth is each sport hosts its own unique threats and perils.

  • Boxing, since it focuses primarily on blows to the head and upper body. These repeated hits to the skull can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated brain traumas.
    • A study conducted by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons noted that 90% of boxers will experience some form of brain injury in their lifetime.
  • On the other hand, UFC rules allow blows to all regions of the body, meaning fewer punches to the head but increased risk of harm to the rest of the body. Broken bones, bruised organs and torn ligaments are common. The risk of concussions might be less than in boxing, but that doesn’t mean it’s non-existent.

In totality, the danger inherent in each sport depends largely on the skills, fitness, and protective measures taken by the fighters themselves. Neither sport is “less dangerous” across the board, but the specific risks involved do vary.

How Many Boxers Suffer Serious Injuries or Death Yearly vs UFC/MMA Fighters?

Given the brutal and violent nature of both boxing and UFC, injuries and even fatalities are an unfortunate reality of these contact sports.

For boxing, the Journal of Combative Sport compiled data showing that, between 1890 and 2007, there were 1,468 boxer deaths ascribed to injuries from in-the-ring action. This means up to 13 fatalities per year, an alarming number no doubt.

In comparison, while mixed martial arts and UFC-style fighting are perceived as more violent, they reported fewer serious injuries or deaths. According to a study in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, the sport’s rate of serious injury is about 16.3 per 1,000 athlete exposures, which is lower than for several other intensely physical sports.

Fortunately, fatalities are a rare occurrence in the UFC. Officially, according to data from a CNN report, only 7 deaths have been directly linked to sanctioned MMA matches from 1981 through 2020.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Boxer vs UFC Fighter?

Boxers, on one hand, require a fluid movement of feet, the precision of punches, and the proficiency to master defensive stances. A keen sense of timing, along with the ability to swiftly react and adapt, is imperative for boxing. Evading punches, utilizing counter punches, and managing stamina are additional skills that a boxer needs to maintain throughout a fight.

Boxing polymaths like Floyd Mayweather exemplify these tactics by integrating defensive, offensive, and strategic elements seamlessly.

On the other hand, UFC fighters need a diverse blend of martial arts and combat skills. UFC is inherently complex, requiring proficiency in multiple forms of martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing, and Muay Thai.

A good UFC fighter needs the ability to transition easily between these forms, exhibiting strength, agility, endurance, and flexibility. Handling grapples, executing effective kicks, and mastering the art of submission holds are undeniably fundamental. UFC champions like Jon Jones typify this skill blend, bringing both stand-up and ground game into action dynamically.

Is It Harder to Be a Boxer or a UFC Fighter?

Determining which is harder – becoming a professional boxer or a UFC fighter – is, of course, largely subjective.

However, we can certainly draw some parallels.

  • In boxing, the primary focus is mastering specific skills, including foot movements, punches, defense mechanisms, and stamina management.
  • The conditioning required for a boxing match, often conducted over 12 three-minute rounds, is intense.
  • Boxers must maintain their focus and technique and concurrently devise their approach throughout these fiercely contested rounds.

Contrarily, UFC fighters face a different set of challenges.

  • The facet of grappling and ground game presents an extra dimension of complex physical engagement.
  • UFC rounds are longer, at five-minute durations. Hence, UFC fighters must maintain peak physical and mental focus for extended periods.
  • Also, the stakes are raised concerning potential injuries, considering the multitude of attack and defense forms.

Related Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Highest Paid Combat Sport?

Floyd Mayweather Jr is the highest paid across all combat sports. He has earned over 1 billion dollar through his boxing career and related businesses.

Specifically in the UFC, Conor McGregor is the highest paid UFC fighter as of this writing. While he hasn’t amassed nearly as much wealth as Mayweather, he has earned ~500 million from the UFC and other related businesses.

What’s the Highest Paying Professional Sport?

In terms of the highest paying professional sport, it happens to be basketball with the NBA leading the pack. NBA players are reported to earn an average salary of about $7.7 million per year according to a 2019 Forbes report. One cannot overlook the remarkable contracts of players like Stephen Curry or LeBron James who are raking in over $30 million per season.

Following closely behind basketball is baseball. The prime example would be the contract of $330 million over 13 years that Bryce Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The average player salary in Major League Baseball is just above $4 million.