The biggest purses in professional combat sports are provided to boxers. Headlining pugilists like Floyd Mayweather can pull down close to $100 million for just one fight. MMA purses don't quite approach that number, but they're getting there.
The biggest stars in mixed martial arts can raise their fee through being great fighters, and by a few other means as well. Brock Lesnar was a WWE star. Quinton Jackson is in movies. Matt Hughes hosts an outdoor living show. Below are the top earners in the sport of MMA.
Frank Shamrock - $3 Million
Frank Shamrock is one of the sport's oldest and most accomplished competitors. He began his career all the way back in 1994, scoring a victory over another MMA legend in Bas Rutten.
He was also one of the first stars of the UFC. He became the promotions first light heavyweight champion in 1997 by defeating Kevin Jackson in Japan. Over his career, he won 23 fights, lost 10, drew twice and made around $3 million.
Chuck Liddell - $12 Million
While the UFC of the late 1990s had a fine cult following, the promotion really began to become prominent during the early part of the 2000s. One of the biggest stars of the UFC boom was Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell.
Liddell, who went 21-9 over his career was a main figure of the light heavyweight decision. He participated in multiple blockbuster fights. He beat Randy Couture to win the belt, then defended it against Tito Ortiz before losing to Quinton Jackson.
BJ Penn - $4 Million
Hawaiian-born BJ Penn has fought in more matches than almost any other UFC fighter. And he's also proven that there's some real money to be made when you have a long career. Penn has raked in an estimated $4 million during his career.
The fighter won the light heavyweight championship with a win over Joe Stevenson in January of 2008. Penn also took home the welterweight champion in January of 2004 by defeating Matt Hughes.
Tito Ortiz - $20 Million
Tito Ortiz came into the UFC in 1997 at just 22 years of age. He was in the perfect spot to have a long and financially successful fighting career.
The grappler initially won the light heavyweight championship in 2000 by defeating MMA legend Wanderlei Silva. He would stay in the champion picture throughout the length of his career. Ortiz has also made money by creating his own fashion brand and a number of company endorsement deals.
Junior Dos Santos - $10 Million
Junior dos Santos, who began his martial arts training in capoeira, began practicing jujitsu at age 21. By age 22, he became a professional fighter. And the Brazilian was quite successful right away.
Dos Santos has one UFC Heavyweight Title reign and has won Fight of the Night on 3 occasions and was awarded the Knockout of the Night honors 3 times as well.
Matt Hughes - $8 Million
Matt Hughes had to work his way up to success in the UFC. He didn't start with the promotion until he had his 19th professional fight. In his second UFC fight, he won the welterweight title and successfully defended the belt in five consecutive matches.
Hughes has also found financial success since his career has ended. The grappler wrote a best-selling book in 2008. In 2011, he became one of the hosts of the Outdoor Channel show Trophy Hunters TV.
Quinton Jackson - $4 Million
Not only was Quinton Jackson one of the best fighters in MMA history, but he also had one of the best nicknames. Rampage fought at the top of the card for much of his career and raked in plenty of cash.
During his career, Jackson scored wins over fighters like Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, and Lyoto Machida. His build and persona also served him well in a second career. In 2010 Rampage starred as B.A. Baracus in the movie adaptation of The A-Team.
Wanderlei Silva - $18 Million
Wanderlei Silva grew up in Brazil doing a little bit of everything. He practiced muy thai and kickboxing. The grappler also took part in bare-knuckle boxing fights. His experience in a variety of fighting styles has served him well in MMA.
Silva has primarily fought in US-based UFC as well as the Japan-based Pride promotion. And he's done very well for himself with a career record of 35-14 and a career purse of $18 million.
Ronda Rousey - $13 Million
There have been some MMA prospects who were just perfect for the sport, but no female mixed martial artist was ever better suited than Ronda Rousey. An Olympic medalist in Judo, Rousey began her professional career in 2011.
She was seemingly unbeatable and began her professional career 12-0 and held the bantamweight championship belt. Rousey then left the sport to join Vince McMahon's WWE.