Of course, no one knows for sure, but rumors abound that the former UFC heavyweight champion is looking to leave the sport and possibly return to the WWE. Seems like a crazy decision to me—leaving one of the world’s most popular sports for a made-up one. When you take a closer look at the pay, however, you do have to wonder if all that punishment in training and the octagon is worth it.
“It’s no secret that Lesnar wants to accept an offer from the WWE to headline WrestleMania with The Undertaker,” Jeremy Botter writes in the Houston Chronicle. “Vince McMahon made him an offer somewhere between two and three million dollars for one match. That’s probably the easiest money in the entire world, and Lesnar wants to do it.
“But Dana White isn’t going to allow Lesnar, who is under contract to the UFC, to participate, and there’s a chance that Lesnar’s lack of communication with the UFC is due to his pouting over not being allowed to wrestle.”
That kind of payday would dwarf what Lesnar had made for UFC 121. The website mmajunkie.com does a tremendous job posting fighters’ salaries from their fights. According to records from the California State Athletic Commission, Lesnar earned $400,000 for his fight with Cain Velasquez.
In August, Anderson Silva, considered the sport’s best fighter, made $200,000 for his fight with Chael Sonnen, who made $35,000. The co-headlining fight was between Jon Fitch, who earned $108,000 (including a $54,000 win bonus) and Thiago Alves ($60,000).
The website notes that those are base salaries reported to the commission and not the entire compensation packages for each event.
Does it compare favorably with the WWE? It’s close.
Search the Internet, and there’s a report of the WWE’s payroll between October 2004 and February 2006. Its biggest stars earned seven figures: Triple H ($2,013,000) led the list, followed by the Undertaker ($1,811,000), John Cena ($1,743,000), Kurt Angle ($1,023,000) and Big Show ($1,000,000).
None of that compares with boxers. A Filipino newspaper reported that Manny Pacquiao earned $27.5 million on fights from March 2008 to November 2009. He also reportedly earned $10 million from his fight with Miguel Cotto. Floyd Mayweather Jr. also earned over $10 million for his fight with Oscar De La Hoya.
It will take a long time for MMA fighters to reach that level. The UFC is still in its infancy, and the sport continues to grow in popularity worldwide. As it gains a wider audience, the chance for a bigger payday has to come, since the fan base will increase along with advertising revenues. If Lesnar were to sit down and really examine this, he would see what a horrible decision it would be to leave the UFC.
Then again, maybe he’s lost his edge. Mixed martial arts is physically and mentally demanding, and when you are the champ, that pressure to stay on top only magnifies. Maybe it got to be too much for Lesnar, and maybe he doesn’t want to have to climb back to the top to become champ again.
Or maybe he’s just tired of small paydays and wants to bank again. I’ve got no problem with that. I just respect athletes who are honest enough to say that’s what it is.