Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” UFC 148’s Puzzling Payout: Chael Sonnen Earns $50,000 – Less Than Undercard Fighter
Top UFC fighters earn much less than boxers in comparable events
By Joshua Molina
The Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen rematch topped every show the UFC has ever promoted, beating Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz II, in 2006, Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir in 2009, and all the other star-studded, stacked shows staged since 2001, when the Athletic Commission started sanctioning UFC fights.
So out of an essentially $7 million gate, how much money did Sonnen make for stepping into the cage? $50,000. That’s right $50,000.
Sonnen, like Silva and Ortiz, hopefully will get a cut of Pay-Per-View revenue, and take home more money. Still, it pales to boxing, a sport UFC boss Dana White claims UFC is superior to.
There’s one reason why UFC 148 did so well, and it can be explained in two words: Chael Sonnen. Sonnen hyped the fight like no other in UFC history with his trash talking and Shakespearean-like acting. A lot of guys trash-talk before fights, but Sonnen assumed a character and persona in the build-up before the fight, robbing from pro wrestling greats such as Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
Undercard fighter Melvin Guillard earned more than Sonnen, $36,000 for fighting and another $36,000 for winning, for a $72,000 purse.
The card also featured legend Tito Ortiz’s last fight. Ortiz used to be a big draw, but he’s not now. That’s why he wasn’t in the main event. He’s appeared in only two of the UFC’s 30 largest PPV gates in history. Ortiz earned $225,000 for his performance against Forrest Griffin. He will also earn an undisclosed share of the pay per view sales.
The night’s highest payee was Ortiz’s opponent Forrest Griffin, who earned $275,000, plus undisclosed money from the pay per view. Silva pocketed $200,000, but will take home much more than that through the large pay per view percentage he reportedly receives. (Nevada State Athletic Commission numbers do not include pay per view amounts or sponsorships).
Sonnen would have earned more money had he won, but it’s difficult to understand how Sonnen would have earned such a relatively paltry amount, considering he was responsible for sparking much of the fan and media interest in the card.
By the way, with all the talk about boxing dying, here’s something to keep in mind: UFC 148 wouldn’t even rank in the Top 20 of all-time boxing gates in the U.S. Boxing’s all-time top gate in Nevada was Oscar de la Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather, Jr., which took in $ 18,419,200, more than doubling UFC 148. Mayweather Jr vs. Miguel Cotto from May of this year drew a $12 million live gate.
UFC, however, continues to be a top pay per view draw. The Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II fight drew 1.6 million buys on pay-per-view, fourth on the all time list (No. 1 is Oscar de la Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.)
By the way, Mayweather Jr. earned $32 million in that fight. His opponent Cotto, who like Sonnen, lost to the champ? Cotto took home $8 million.
Sonnen’s pay was also less of Cung Le, who earned $150,000 at UFC 148. Le, an exciting kickboxer, has a record of 8-2. He has been knocked out twice, and will likely never challenge for a title in the UFC.
A final note: The largest non-Zuffa gate and live attendance for an MMA event was headlined by the legends Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mark Coleman, promoted by Pride Fighting Championships in 2006.