Can I Get Paid to Fight? (Underground)

You might have considered entering the fighting scene if you’re looking for a new and exciting way to make extra money.

Is it possible, though, to get paid to fight underground?

Key Points

  • You can make a living as a professional athlete in combat sports like Boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), but the pay is often much lower than that for other athletes.
  • Most full-time fighters make a relatively low salary, with most boxers earning $22,000-$51,370 a year and MMA fighters making an average of $44,680 a year.
  • While some highly-successful athletes can make over $100 million for a single fight, most take home less than $1000 per fight.
  • Underground fighting rings across the United States sometimes pay individuals to fight in unsanctioned competitions.
  • In most states, these are considered to be forms of questionably legal street fighting.

In the rest of this article, you will find everything you need to know about getting paid to fight.

It will cover professional, amateur, and underground fighting and the potential pay you can make as a fighter.

Read on to discover more.

Can I get paid for fighting?

There are many ways to get paid to fight competitively, although most of the legitimate money is in professional combat sports. A few individuals have become very successful in combat sports, with some even earning enough to be amongst the highest-paid athletes in the world.

In 2018, Floyd Mayweather came out of retirement for a single fight with Conor McGregor that earned him $275 million, breaking the world record as the highest individual pay-out in sporting history.

With so much money on the line, it’s no surprise that many people dream of becoming professional fighters.

However, the truth is that very few individuals can make a career out of fighting.

According to Statista, the average salary of an MMA fighter in 2018 was $130,000. In contrast, the average salary of an NBA player was almost $9 million.

There are various competitive fighting sports in the United States in which participants can make money through amateur and professional fights, sponsorship deals, and prize winnings, including

  • Boxing
  • Mixed Martial Arts
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Wrestling
  • Muay Thai
  • Kickboxing

How much do you get paid to fight?

Most paid combat sports athletes receive a significantly lower salary than most people might expect. The average salary for professional fighters in boxing and MMA, for example, is considerably lower than that for high-profile team sports like soccer, American football, and basketball. According to Forbes, only 4 of the top 50 highest-paid athletes in 2022 were in combat sports.

Even within established competitions with high viewership, like the UFC, fighter pay is low, and there is a large discrepancy between the pay for individual competitors. In 2013, Bleacher Report received the pay figures for the main card fighters at UFC 157, which were as follows:

FighterPay-outWin Bonus (included in pay-out)
Ronda Rousey$90,000 $45,000
Liz Carmouche$12,000 
Dan Henderson$250,000 
Lyoto Machida$200,000 
Urijah Faber $100,000$50,000
Ivan Manjivar$17,000 
Court McGee$40,000$20,000
Josh Neer$16,000 
Robbie Lawler$105,000$10,000
Josh Koscheck$78,000 

The undercard fighters at the same event were paid around $8,000 each, with the lowest-paid fighter making just $6,700. 

The pay in other combat sports is not significantly better. The average salary for a professional boxer in the United States, for example, is estimated to be just $22,977 per year.

Do you get paid for amateur fights?

You can receive prize money in amateur fights, which does not necessarily affect your record or amateur eligibility in some combat sports. Often, however, payment is limited to small amounts of prize money.

There are few opportunities for paid fights in amateur combat sports competitions, and it is also much less common to find sponsorship deals and/or a cut of ticket sales. Most amateur fighters compete for the exposure and prestige of fighting, hoping to become professional in the future.

Is there prize money in amateur boxing?

The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) is the international governing body for amateur boxing.

An amateur is generally considered a person who pursues a particular activity or field of study independently of their source of income. Amateurs and their activities are popular, informal, self-taught, user-generated, DIY, and hobbyist.

In amateur boxing, there is no prize money.

Therefore, all boxers must complete a medical before being allowed to compete to ensure they are fit to fight.

Can you make money non-boxing amateur fighting?

While you can get paid as an amateur fighter, amateurs can rarely make a full-time career out of their chosen sport. Individuals that manage to make money through fighting often need to gain a lot of experience through unpaid or underpaid amateur competitions before working towards the professional level. 

There are many more opportunities for amateur fighters in training and teaching than in competitions.

As with most sports, only a tiny percentage of amateurs become professional or make a living off their sporting careers. There are thousands of amateur competitors in combat sports and very few professional fighters.

How much do fighters make if they lose a fight?

Even at a professional level, competing in combat sports is not very well-paid for most fighters. Fighters often take home very little of their actual pay when you factor in the medical requirements of State Athletic Commissions, taxation, and fees for managers and trainers.

Depending on the state, fighters can be expected to pay over $500 to compete for medical tests, including

  • Physicals
  • Blood work
  • EKGs
  • Eye exams
  • Urinalysis
  • CT scans

A beginner in boxing makes an average of $1500-$2000 for a 4-round fight (even if they lose) but, after expenses, the take-home is usually around $600. In MMA, new fighters are often paid $400-$600 to fight, with a bonus available for a win.

The pay for individual fights in other combat sports, like kickboxing or Muay Thai, is generally lower.

Are there real underground Fight Clubs?

Outside of sanctioned professional and amateur competitions, there are many underground fight clubs across the United States. Some amateur fighting clubs are heavily promoted on social media, like Backyard Squabbles in Los Angeles and Rumble in the Bronx in New York.

The legality of underground fighting clubs is often brought into question, as these competitions are not regulated by an official sporting body or overseen by a State Athletic Commission. Although the laws around consensual fights are pretty vague in most states, fighters can still receive an assault charge for participating or be criminalized for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

Oregon is the only state that bans explicitly “mutual combat,” meaning any amateur fight clubs are illegal in the state. In two states, “mutual combat” is legal, but essential legal requirements are involved.

  • Washington: Mutual combat must be overseen by a police officer
  • Texas: Mutual combat must be overseen by a police officer and becomes illegal if a participant sustains serious injuries.

How much do underground street fighters make?


The actual pay involved in underground street fighting is, by definition, challenging to determine. Almost all fighters need to negotiate their fees, and most participants will only receive a payment if they win.

There are no regulations or official payment methods in underground competition, and most fighters will need to participate in multiple unofficial and unpaid fights, to become involved in a club.

Successful fighters may start earning a fee per fight of around $500-$750, which is often significantly less for a loss.

Underground street fighting is an exploitative industry not designed to provide financial rewards for the fighters involved. A large amount of money made in underground street fighting comes through illegal gambling. Fights are even rigged to benefit the gambling industry around these competitions.

However, there are many other ways to make money in the fighting industry that do not involve the gambling industry and going underground:

  1. A first way is to be a referee. Referees are paid to officiate the fights and keep the fighters safe. The amount of money a referee makes depends on how many fights they officiate and how well they do their job.
  2. A second way to make money in fighting is to be a promoter. Promoters are responsible for organizing the fights and finding the fighters. The amount of money a promoter makes depends on their fighters’ success and how much money they make from the fights.
  3. The third way to make money in fighting is to be a manager. Managers are responsible for managing the fighters and their careers. The amount of money a manager makes depends on their fighters’ success and how much money they make from the fights.
  4. The fourth way to make money in fighting is to be a trainer. Trainers are responsible for training the fighters and helping them prepare for their fights. The amount of money a trainer makes depends on how successful their fighters are and how much money they make from the fights.
  5. The fifth way to make money in fighting is to be a cornerman. Cornermen are responsible for helping the fighters during their fights. The amount of money a cornerman makes depends on how successful their fighters are and how much money they make from the fights.
  6. The sixth way to make money in fighting is to be a commentator. Commentators are responsible for providing commentary during the fights. The amount of money a commentator makes depends on their fighters’ success and how much money they make from the fights.
  7. Being a photographer is the seventh way to make money in fighting. Photographers are responsible for taking pictures of the fighters during the fights. The amount of money a photographer makes depends on how successful their fighters are and how much money they make from the fights.
  8. The final way to make money in fighting is to be a journalist. Journalists are responsible for writing articles about the fights and the fighters. The amount of money a journalist makes depends on how successful their fighters are and how much money they make from the fights.

Conclusion: Get Paid to Fight (Underground)

So, can you get paid to fight?

There is no legal or reliable way to make money in an underground fighting club in the United States, and most competitors are paid little to nothing. Even among regulated amateur and professional combat sports, pay is significantly lower than for most athletes.

Most money in competitive fights is made through sponsorship deals and large pay-outs for a few high-profile competitions.

The average fighter in MMA makes around $44,680, and the average professional boxer in the United States makes just $22,977 per year

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