Move aside, Joe Lauzon. Step to the back, Nate Diaz. Bye, Donald Cerrone. Those were the UFC bonus kings of the old days. Now, there’s a new bonus king in the UFC these days, and his name is Justin Gaethje, the man who just knocked out James Vick in brutal fashion in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 135. Gaethje is arguably the most exciting fighter in the sport right now, and his bonus checks prove it.
In his UFC debut, Gaethje picked up the rare double bonus when he won a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus for knocking out Michael Johnson in the main event of the TUF 25 Finale and then added another $50,000 for his share of “Fight of the Night” for that war, for a total of a cool $100,000 in bonuses in addition to his show and win. In his second UFC bout, Gaethje picked up another $50,000 in bonuses when he split “Fight of the Night” with Eddie Alvarez at UFC 218, though he lost the fight via TKO. The same thing happened in his third UFC fight, when Dustin Poirier knocked him out but Gaethje still won another $50,000 for his part in the evening’s “Fight of the Night” at UFC on FOX. And he added to his collection of bonus money on Saturday with his knockout of Vick, earning himself another $50,000 for “Performance of the Night” for a total of a cool $250,000 just in bonuses alone in his first four UFC fights spanning the last 13 months. That’s in addition to his regular show and win purses, so Gaethje is raking in the money.
“The Highlight” is often criticized by fans and his opponents for his reckless, aggressive, do-or-die style inside the Octagon, and his UFC record of 2-2 isn’t amazing by any means, but at the end of the day Gaethje is a prize fighter and he’s been winning big prizes ever since moving to the UFC from WSOF last year. A lot of fighters don’t ever win one UFC bonus check in their entire careers, and Gaethje already has won five in the last 13 months alone. He’s made more money in pure bonuses than many fighters on the UFC roster will in their entire careers. So yes, his style likely means he won’t have a long career in this sport, but I believe Gaethje knows that, and he’s trying to get out as much from this sport as he can. And even though he’s going to get criticized for taking so much damage in his fights, when he looks in his bank account at night I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care what the critics say, knowing how much money he’s making.
When you talk about the most exciting fighters in the sport right now, Gaethje has to be at the top of the list. Every single time this guy fights it’s must-watch television, and he’s guaranteed action and violence for the UFC every time they book him and every time the fans tune in. He’s making a strong argument right now that he’s the new bonus king in the Octagon, and with the amount of extra money he’s been rolling in lately it’s hard to deny that. Every time Gaethje steps into the Octagon you know something exciting is going to happen. Either he knocks his opponent out in brutal fashion or he gets knocked out, but either way he’s always going to be in the running to win some extra cash. Even if you think his style won’t lead to a long career, you have to admit he’s a human highlight reel, and considering he’s still only 29, he should have a few more years of bonuses still to come.
Where do you think Justin Gaethje ranks among the most exciting fighters in MMA today?