Ultimate Fighting Championship star Paige VanZant is one of the most popular professional fighters today and has earned an estimated $474,500 in her career.
Now, as she negotiates a new UFC contract, the 25-year-old says she wants to earn a salary that matches not only her talent, but also the earnings of her male peers. In a recent interview on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show on ESPN, the mixed martial artist said she currently earns more money through sponsored posts on Instagram than she does fighting.
"With endorsements, I make way more money sitting at home posting pictures on Instagram than I do fighting," says VanZant, who has 2.3 million Instagram followers. "If I were to stop everything I do outside of fighting and just fight, I would be at a loss financially by a long shot."
VanZant has been out for most of the year after injuring her arm in February. "If I'm gonna keep breaking my arm, if I'm gonna keep bleeding and sacrificing for this sport, I think that all fighters and all female fighters need to be recognized," she said.
According to MMA Manifesto, recently retired Conor McGregor was the highest-paid UFC fighter in 2018, having earned $3.03 million that year. His salary was nearly triple the salary of Cris Cyborg, who was the highest-ranking woman on the top-earners list, with a salary of $1.08 million.
VanZant, who has found fans beyond UFC over the years with appearances on "Dancing with the Stars" and "Chopped," says this time around she wants "a significant pay raise."
"I've just been extremely accomplished outside of the UFC, as well as inside of the UFC," she says. "Five wins in the UFC, four finishes, I've been main event twice, and I think someone with those accolades should be paid more."
Though the 25-year-old hopes to negotiate a nice raise, she is aware of the need to maintain several sources of income. She has endorsement deals with multiple brands, including Reebok, Monster Energy Drinks, Metro PCS and Harley-Davidson.
"The thing with fighting is you never know how long you have in the career," she told CNBC Make It last year. "I could get hurt and never fight again. It's all about setting yourself up for the successes outside of the cage as well."
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