There aren’t many figures in the fight game who handled their careers more astutely than Georges St-Pierre.
St-Pierre, 40, is widely considered to be one of the greatest MMA fighters of all-time, a former two-division UFC champion who reigned over the welterweight division across two title runs from 2006-13, captured the middleweight strap in 2017 following a four-year hiatus from competition, and stands as one of history’s most bankable MMA stars. But St-Pierre’s path to financial success wasn’t always easy, and the future UFC Hall of Famer detailed some of the hurdles he had to overcome in his career for recent piece in Wealthsimple Magazine titled, “The UFC Won’t Pay You Fairly Unless You Make Them.”
In it, St-Pierre explained that he received a purse of $3,000 to show and $3,000 to win for his UFC debut against Karo Parisyan at UFC 46 in 2004. After defeating Parisyan and Jay Hieron in a subsequent bout, St-Pierre was then awarded a title shot against the UFC’s welterweight champion Matt Hughes later that same year, for which St-Pierre wrote that he was paid $9,000 to show after ultimately losing to Hughes via first-round submission.
However, by 2008, St-Pierre had twice defeated Hughes to win the trilogy between the two welterweights and establish himself as the preeminent 170-pound fighter in the world. With a title defense against Jon Fitch looming at UFC 87, and St-Pierre’s contract with his promotion set to expire, the Canadian legend wrote that he saw an opportunity to gamble on himself and dramatically change his pay scale within the UFC.
“There is no union in the fight game. So, for us in MMA, negotiations can become like a chess game,” St-Pierre wrote.
“Other organizations wanted to have me as their poster boy and UFC knew that. So, like a poker bluff, we said, ‘We don’t want to re-sign before the fight — we want to just finish the contract.’ We took a big risk. Because it’s like a stock market. Your stock might go up if you’re successful, but it can also go down if you lose. But that’s what we decided to do.”
According to St-Pierre, his risk paid off before he ever even reached fight night.
“I took a big gamble on myself and told UFC I was not going to re-sign with them. And then, the day before my fight with Jon Fitch, the UFC came back with a big, crazy contract because they didn’t want me to become a free agent,” St-Pierre wrote.
“You read I made $400,000 a match? No. I made a lot more than that. A lot more than that. Millions. When I was at the peak of my career, I was making many millions of dollars. Because you not only get the money to show and the money to win, but you also have a percentage of the gate and pay-per-view buys — the gate and the pay-per-views are where the real money is. That’s how fighters make their money. But you need to have the power to negotiate those terms.”
St-Pierre noted that rather than splurging his newfound winnings on superficial investments like “jewelry and bling,” he instead invested his money into himself, purchasing recovery tools like a personal ice bath and traveling the world in search of the best coaches and training partners to help stay one step ahead of his competitors. Had he not done so, St-Pierre wrote, the sport may have caught up with him and his window to earn life-changing money for his fights would’ve likely been much smaller.
“I would never have had the career that I had,” he wrote. “I knew my career was going to be too short for me to spend my money on luxury.”
St-Pierre also revealed financial details of his 2017 comeback against Michael Bisping, which saw St-Pierre return after four years on the shelf to challenge for the middleweight title at UFC 217. St-Pierre ultimately defeated Bisping via third-round submission before exiting from MMA entirely with his health and his legacy intact. It still stands today as one of the cleanest exits for an MMA legend in the sport’s history.
“There’s a lot of people buried in the desert for much less than what I made for that fight, my friend,” St-Pierre wrote. “For the fight with Michael Bisping, with the pay-per-views, the sponsorship and all that, I made about $10 million. Then in 2019, I got out. I’m very lucky and very privileged that I finished on top. The reality is most fighters finish broke and broken. They hang there too long. They get brain damage. They go broke.
“I’m very healthy and I’m wealthy. It’s very rare to find someone that hangs up his gloves and finishes on top like this.”