White should know. He is the one that signs the checks that make up the bulk of the income for the man known as Rush. GSP made roughly $9 million combined for his past two fights, according to multiple sources close to the fighter. His current annual income outside the octagon from endorsements, memorabilia and licensing adds another $3 million. St-Pierre’s total income of $12 million over the last 12 months makes him the top earner in MMA.
“Georges St-Pierre is our biggest pay-per-view star,” White said recently. The numbers back it up. UFC 158 in March where GSP pummeled Nick Diaz, racked up the sport’s biggest PPV numbers in three years with 950,000 buys. The ten other UFC events in 2013 averaged 350,000 buys, according to MMAPayout.com. With the HD version of UFC 167 costing $55, the addition of GSP can mean more than $30 million in PPV revenue compared to a non-GSP event. GSP also means a bigger gate, as well as added sponsorship revenue.
St-Pierre’s recent bouts have each included a $200,000 guarantee, plus a $200,000 win bonus for the fighter. He also earned “Fight of the Night” bonuses in two of his past four fights that were worth $70,000 and $100,000 respectively. But the big money is in PPV. Top UFC fighters receive a cut of PPV revenue on top of their guarantees and bonuses. By cutting the champion fighters in on the PPV action, White ensures that the stars of MMA will promote the UFC events to help drive up the PPV gross. St-Pierre is practically guaranteed $3 million per fight before stepping into the octagon based on his past PPV audiences, but the numbers can climb quickly. The 950,000 PPV buys for UFC 158 meant a $5 million payday for Rush. The six UFC PPV events featuring GSP since 2009 averaged 820,000 buys.
Rush is the best paid UFC star inside the octagon and out of it. His biggest endorsement deals are with Under Armour UA -2.44%, Hayaboosa for MMA gear and Coca-Cola KO -0.12% energy drink NOS. These deals are all multi-year contracts and each one is worth seven-figures. Under Armour exec Steve Battista described St-Pierre as the “Michael Jordan of MMA,” when the company signed Rush to a deal in 2009. Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg, who headed up a series of commercials for Under Armour, called GSP “one of the greatest athletes alive today,” in a behind the scenes look at a UA commercial shoot.
GSP is expanding his brand this year in a series of moves. He launched a health and fitness app, Touchfit: GSP, developed by Zolmo that includes an equity stake for St-Pierre. He released a book, The Way of the Fight, which covers his life story and training methods. The book hit No. 30 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestsellers list. He is finalizing a supplements deal, to be announced shortly, that will rank among his biggest endorsements. A feature length documentary, Takedown: The DNA of GSP, will be released in the spring.
GSP has built a staggering portfolio of endorsement partners in a sport that is still taboo for many marketers. The Quebec-born St-Pierre did not speak a word of English when he started his UFC career in 2004, but is now featured in commercials for major global brands. His appeal is worldwide with a massive following that includes 3.5 million Facebook fans.
Other Rush partners include Mission, 888poker, Affliction, Electronic Arts, Bacardi, and Royer. He showed his acting chops in an extended commercial last year for the Google GOOG -0.2% Nexus 7 tablet and he’ll be on the big screen in the 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier playing Batroc the Leaper. Look for GSP to add to his marketing income through licensing deals overseas in countries that are big on MMA like Russia, the Philippines and the UK.