5 UFC fighters that went from broke to millionaires

Rags to riches stories are usually clichéd, but in some cases, they are true.  

Thanks to the UFC’s 4.2 billion valuation, MMA fighters are paid pretty decently today. Yes, some fighters still have a gripe about the UFC underpaying them but generally speaking, if you’ve ‘made it’ in the UFC – you’re on pretty solid money.

But that wasn’t always the case, as many of these fighters have had to scratch a living at some point in their lives. But eventually, they would have gotten their break and overturned abject poverty to emerge as freshly minted millionaires.

This is a list of 5 such UFC fighters.

Conor McGregor

One of the reasons why Conor McGregor is a poster boy for the UFC and has amassed such an ardent fan following the world over also has to do with his inspirational rise from collecting welfare checks to becoming a multi millionaire and the highest paid UFC fighter ever.

And he accomplished all of that within the span of 5 years. Today, he’s worth close to $150 Million, after the UFC 229 paycheck and the wild success of his whiskey line, Proper 12.


Derrick Lewis

As Daniel Cormier kept repeating in the lead up to their UFC 230 fight, Derrick Lewis had already won at life and didn’t need to beat him for the UFC Heavyweight Title to accomplish his life’s goal.

That was because Derrick Lewis was once sentenced to 5 years in jail and ended up serving three and a half for being in violation of probation for an aggravated assault charge he picked up fresh off high school.

From being broke, in jail and with no future prospects, Derrick Lewis managed to turn his life around and pocketed a cool couple of million after headlining at UFC 230.

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Ronda Rousey

The Judo Olympic bronze medalist went on to become the first ever female athlete in the UFC, only months after Dana White announced that women will never fight in the UFC. She then went on a dominant tear, racking up six Title defences there before being dethroned by Holly Holm.

Another loss to Amanda Nunes saw the Rowdy One transition to the WWE, where she’s their biggest star too. But before all of this fame and money, there was a time when she was only dependent on her Judo skills for a living – and was living in the back of her car because of that.

From not even having a roof over her head to being arguably the second biggest UFC star of all time and a multi millionaire – it’s been quite a ride.

Jose Aldo

Jose Aldo was undefeated for over a decade before Conor McGregor wrecked him in 13 seconds. And that high profile loss has followed him around ever since – which is a pity because Aldo was and still is a fantastic fighter.

The respect he commands only deepens when you hear about the fact that he grew up in abject poverty in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro and fought his way to the top of the UFC.  Whether he gets a rematch with Conor McGregor or not, at least he enjoyed a sweet payday at UFC 194 that probably sets him up for life.

Daniel Cormier

The double champ Daniel Cormier is about to enjoy one of the most settled post UFC careers after his retirements – as a FOX analyst, UFC colour commentator and possibly a WWE commentator too.

Even as a fighter, he’s made millions after repeatedly headlining events with the likes of Jon Jones, Anthony Johnson, Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis. If it happens, the Brock Lesnar fight will net him another bumper payday.

But it wasn’t always so smooth sailing for the Olympic wrestler. There was a time when Cormier was living out of his car and coaching wrestling – before he decided to make the jump to MMA.

I think I can speak for the collective MMA universe, that we’re all glad he did.