Demetrious Johnson is the greatest flyweight in the history of the sport and one of the best mixed martial artists to have ever competed. He has held titles with both the UFC and ONE Championship and is set to defend the latter belt in Colorado later this year.
Johnson is rematching Adriano Moraes at ONE Fight Night 10 in what will be the promotion’s first ever fight card on US soil. It will also probably be the biggest pay day of his entire career although we don’t know exactly how much he will be getting.
What we do know is how the UFC used to pay him because he spoke about it in detail on a recent Twitch stream. Back in 2011 the promotion didn’t have a flyweight division so he found himself fighting Joseph Benavidez for the bantamweight belt.
Their bantamweight title fight headlined a card that took $706,775 at the gate but Johnson didn’t see much of this money,
When I fought Dominick Cruz I was on a contract, I think I was fighting for 14/14. I lost to Dominick Cruz, so I made $14k.
DJ TALKING ABOUT HIS UFC CONTRACT. HE WAS STUCK MAKING 30/30 IN HIS 3RD TITLE DEFENSE. pic.twitter.com/0HZV9Tjcza
— Chungus Supreme (@FightsCameraPod) January 18, 2023
The following year Johnson challenged for a UFC title again and this time he succeeded in winning the flyweight belt. This time he was the co-headliner of a pay per view card which took $1.9 million at the gate.
UFC 152 would have generated even more money from pay per view sales with 450,000 people paying $54.99 to purchase the pay per view. But once gain Johnson only received a tiny fraction of this revenue,
Then I fought Ian McCall in Australia. I was still on that same contract. And then I got a new contract when I fought Ian McCall the second time. I think I got bumped up to 20/20. So I beat Ian McCall, and then I fought Joseph Benavidez, and I was still on that 20/20.
While the television companies are clearly going to take a cut of the pay per view money UFC 251 must have generated in excess of $20mn. Despite being the co-headliner and winning a title on the card Johnson was paid just $40,000.
7 years ago today,
Demetrious Johnson def. Joseph Benavidez to begin his historic reign as the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion pic.twitter.com/6Ca3gWeDeH
— MMA History Today (@MMAHistoryToday) September 22, 2019
In 2018 Demetrious Johnson left the UFC to sign for ONE Championship with Ben Askren moving in the other direction. The American promotion no longer has the best flyweight in the world on its roster.
A similar situation has emerged in the heavyweight division. Francis Ngannou is now a free agent after rejecting multiple contract offers from the UFC.
Ngannou was the reigning UFC heavyweight promotion and had won his last six fights with five of those wins coming inside the distance. He earned $600,000 for his most recent fight, headlining a card which took $5.3mn at the box office alone and reportedly did 300,000 pay per view buys.
The heavyweight felt that the UFC was not offering him enough money and decided to walk away from the promotion while still at the pinnacle of his powers. Although the circumstances are not identical he is following in Johnson’s footsteps.
Johnson is now one of ONE Championship’s biggest earners, although we don’t know the exact numbers. Ngannou can expect to make even more with fighters clearly unhappy about the fraction of the UFC’s revenue which finds its way into their pockets.