UFC Fight Night Bonuses: A Brief and Unofficial History

Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua, UFC 139

UFC has given out more than $22 million in award money

As he basked in the afterglow of UFC 139, Dana White seemed confident enough. That is, until Stephan Bonnar jumped in to set him straight.

The fights between Wanderlei SilvaCung Le and Dan HendersonShogun Rua were so good – the latter instantly talked about as the greatest fight in UFC history – that White had to go and do something crazy: two Fight of the Night bonus awards.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before – given two fights Fight of the Night,” White said at the podium to open the post-fight press conference at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday.

Bonnar couldn’t resist interjecting, telling White that, sure enough, he most certainly had given multiple Fight of the Night bonuses before. And Bonnar knew, because he was on the winning end one of those times.

“I did?” White asked Bonnar. “I didn’t know – you just clarified it for me.”

The reality is, UFC 139 wasn’t the first time White had given out two Fight of the Night bonuses. It wasn’t the second. Or the third or fourth. It was the sixth. Heck, White once gave out three Fight of the Night awards in one show at the TUF 9 Finale in 2009.

The fact that White had forgotten about the first five times probably speaks more about the sheer volume of bonuses he’s given out – 87 events worth since 2006. In White’s defense, all the cities, all the events, all the fights, all the checks – they probably start to blend together just a little bit.

Before UFC 139, the last time White gave out multiple Fight of the Night bonuses was at UFC 119 in Indianapolis, and that night came with an asterisk attached. White gave $70,000 Fight of the Night bonuses to Indy resident Matt Mitrione and Joey Beltran, plus one to Sean Sherk and Evan Dunham, the latter of which White – and most who saw the fight – believed likely got hosed out of a win by bad judging. But White was so annoyed with the main event between Frank Mir and Mirko Cro Cop that he didn’t give Mir a Knockout of the Night bonus, even though he turned Cro Cop’s lights out.

Bonnar got his shared FON bonus at UFC 116 for his rematch with Krzysztof Soszynski, and Chris LebenYoshihiro Akiyama also pocketed $75,000 that night. At the TUF 9 Finale, Diego SanchezClay Guida, Joe StevensonNate Diaz and Chris Lytle-Kevin Burns each took home $25,000 for their Fights of the Night. And in January 2009, White even gave out multiple FON awards in back-to-back events at UFC 93 (Marcus Davis-Chris Lytle, Rua-Mark Coleman) and 94 (Guida-Diaz, John Howard-Chris Wilson).

Since White and the UFC began handing out public bonuses with regularity at UFC 70 in 2007, UFC fighters have taken home more than $22 million in disclosed award money alone. Not surprisingly, each year the total rises.

Over 10 events with bonuses in 2007, 38 fighters made $1.58 million in bonus money. For 18 events in 2008, 71 fighters took home $3.46 million. In 2009, 20 events, 86 winners, $4.405 million. In 2010, 24 events, 103 winners, $5.9 million. And so far in 2011 – so far, with three shows to go – 24 events, 97 winners and a whopping $6.776 million in bonus money handed out.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the 10 fighters in UFC history who are the most thankful for Dana White’s official fight night awards*:

1. Chris Lytle: UFC record 10 bonuses (6 FON, 3 SON, 1 KON), $515,000
2. Anderson Silva: Eight bonuses (3 FON, 3 KON, 2 SON), UFC record three multi-award nights, $475,000
3. Joe Lauzon: Seven bonuses (4 SON, 3 FON), $365,000
4. Josh Koscheck: Five bonuses (2 FON, 2 KON, 1 SON), $340,000
5 (tie) Nate Diaz: Seven bonuses (4 FON, 3 SON), $305,000
5 (tie) Clay Guida: Seven bonuses (5 FON, 2 SON), $305,000
7. Rampage Jackson: Five bonuses (3 FON, 2 KON), $295,000
8. Wanderlei Silva: Four bonuses (3 FON, 1 KON), $255,000
9. Lyoto Machida: Three bonuses (3 KON, including $129,000 at UFC 129), $254,000
10. BJ Penn: Four bonuses (2 SON, 1 FON, 1 KON), $250,000

*Totals are disclosed official bonuses only, not non-disclosed “locker room” bonuses. Plus, we think we got all the numbers right. But if by some chance we didn’t, cut us some slack – math is hard.

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