ESPN Study: Brock Lesnar MMA's Top-Paid Star in 2010

Brock LesnarMoney always fascinates us. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is as American a saying as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Whether you think that's a good or bad thing, we have largely come to intertwine the intangible ambition of success with the more tangible goal of money. And in mixed martial arts, nobody made more money in 2010 than Brock Lesnar.

That's according to a report from ESPN The Magazine, which culled information from 30 different sports to determine the highest paid athlete in each one.

According to the Magazine, Lesnar made $5.3 million for the two fights he participated in during 2010. That number, however, is more than $800,000 off from the final figure estimated by MMA Fighting.

According to the story's methodology, final earnings represented "official base salary and earnings from the most recently completed season or calendar year" while excluding endorsements, sponsorships and other extra income. The chart gives Lesnar's final number as $5.3 million, including his estimated pay-per-view haul.

While individual pay-per-view bonus structures are rarely publicly revealed, in 2007, during a lawsuit between the UFC and Randy Couture, the promotion opened its books to refute some of Couture's claims, detailing its pay-per-view payouts to him in the process. Under the multi-tiered compensation system -- only available to select fighters -- the athlete would make money with each pay-per-view sold, earning a higher percentage of each buy as they reached each tier of buys.

Using the formula the UFC released at the time, Lesnar would have made just less than $2.5 million for UFC 121, and just over $2.8 million for UFC 116 just in pay-per-view bonuses. Add in his $400,000 base salary for each event, as well as a $75,000 Submission of the Night bonus for his win over Carwin, and Lesnar pulled in $6,170,000, according to MMA Fighting estimates.

This doesn't include any other sources of income, including discretionary bonuses routinely handed out by the UFC. Also, keep in mind the pay-per-view bonus chart the UFC released was over three years ago, and pay-per-view revenues have exploded since then, so Lesnar may have a better deal than the one Couture once had.

According to ESPN's research the average amount earned per athlete on the top 30 paid list was just over $5.5 million, putting Lesnar near the midpoint. Boxer Manny Pacquiao and baseball player Alex Rodriguez were the two highest-paid athletes on the list, each making $32,000,000. The lowest-paid athlete was women's bowler Shannon Pluhowsky at $40,300.

Among other notables listed were NBA star Kobe Bryant ($24,800,000), soccer icon Cristiano Ronaldo ($19,500,000), and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning ($15,800,000). The highest-paid female athlete was tennis player Kim Clijsters, at $5,035,060.

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