ESPN the Mag story tabs Lesnar as highest paid fighter at $5.3 million in 2010

In the major sports, stories about athletes’ salaries generally draw derision and jealous reactions. In the case of mixed martial arts, fans probably have a more supportive stance for the fighters. The combatants aren’t making a killing relative to athletes from the NFL, NBA and MLB yet they’re putting their safety on the line.

According to ESPN the Magazine, the highest paid MMA fighter in 2010 was Lesnar at ONLY $5.3 million. Boxer Manny Pacquiao led the way in the other major combat sport at $32 million.

On the surface, that makes MMA look pathetic. Should MMA stars like Lesnar, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva be making $15 million-plus a year? Maybe, but the argument from MMA promoters is that the gap between boxing’s haves and have-nots is massive while MMA can boast of dozens of fighters making in excess of $500,000 per year.

The StarPhoenix’s Dave Deibert points out that Lesnar is actually a bigger draw than 99.9 percent of the fighters in the modern history of combat sports:

Lesnar has recently become the biggest pay-per-view draw in the world. In 2010, he joined Mike Tyson as the only athletes to twice draw more than one million buys on pay-per-view in a single year ? Tyson did it three times in 1996.

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