Demetrious Johnson reveals how much money he’s made from EA UFC games

Demetrious Johnson didn’t make a king’s ransom from the EA UFC games, but he’s happy with what he received.

A seemingly ever-present topic of conversation in the MMA world is the topic of fighter pay in the UFC. But while that conversation primarily focuses on fighters’ show money, win money, bonuses, and pay-per-view points, there are other instances that don’t immediately jump to mind, like likeness rights. And while UFC is primarily a fight promotion, the company also has a longstanding licensing deal with EA Games to produce the UFC video game series. So how does that work for the fighters?

Well, Johnson recently described the entire thing on his YouTube channel.

“One day I’m at home, I’m playing video games, and I get an email stating that, ‘Hey, since your likeness is being used a lot in the video game, we are sending you a check,’” Johnson said. “Now, the very first check I got for being in the UFC video game was $25,000. A lot of you guys are like, ‘That was it?’ Guys, think about this, $25,000 to just be in a video game. I don’t think Ryu [or] Ken has ever gotten a check for $25,000. [It’s] $25,000 for not getting punched in the face, $25,000 for just being in a video game because you people love using me as a character. So I was ecstatic.

“How do they dictate how much money you’re going to get paid? I can’t dictate it. You guys actually dictate how much I get paid by how often you guys use me in the game. When you log onto your game, let’s say you’re playing offline mode or you’re playing online mode, each character you pick, it does a little tick and sends the data to the mainframe computer. That’s how they keep track of it. … They do it for all the games out there because they want to see what characters are being played the most and what game modes you like the most. They’re always tracking your data and keeping all the analytics.

“I think that’s fair. It’s based on your popularity in the game. So if everybody and their mom keeps playing me, I will get a bigger check.”

Johnson is widely considered to be one of the greatest fighters in UFC history, so it’s not surprising that he’s a popular character choice for fans. In fact, Johnson was so popular that he also served as the cover athlete for a specialty edition of EA UFC 3, which “Mighty Mouse” explained came with a little extra money for him.

“So let’s fast forward: The next one that came out was UFC 3, and for this bad boy, the next check that I ended up getting was $12,500,” Johnson said. “Now, it’s a little bit lower, but I was OK with that because the timeframe of the checks was coming every year or quarter. I wasn’t too worried about it, because once again, it’s free money just coming to me.

“Now, after I did something, after my Ray Borg fight, they offered me the opportunity to be on the front cover. That’s when they came out with the Icon Edition with me on the front. … So in order for me to be on the cover, I signed an agreement to be on the front cover and with me signing, I got a whopping $10,000 — $10,000 to be on the front cover and it’s pretty dope. I love every bit of it.”

There are currently five iterations of the EA Sports UFC titles, with the most recent released this past October. Johnson has been in all of them aside from the first, even after leaving the promotion in 2018. Johnson said he has yet to receive his check from the latest edition, but for the three version of the game he has been in, including his time as a cover athlete, “Mighty Mouse” revealed his grand total of payouts comes to just under $75,000.

“Let’s fast forward: UFC 4 comes out,” Johnson said. “I leave the UFC, I’m not part of the company anymore, but my character is still in the game and you guys are playing as my character. The next check I get in the mail is another whopping $25,000. For being in a game! And it’s absolutely amazing, because to me, it’s something where your likeness is being used, and I think it’s cool where the UFC or EA keeps on paying the athletes for their likeness, and that people are using me.

“Now, after all that, from the first iteration of me being in the game in 2014 all the way to 2024, the total money I have made is a whopping $72,500. I think it’s absolutely amazing for me to make that type of money without getting punched in the face.

“Now, I have not gotten a check yet for UFC 5, which, I’m in the game. … Obviously, when you guys use me as a character and my popularity is still good, I will also receive another check from EA or Zuffa or whoever the hell is in charge of the UFC now. So I think it’s pretty cool.”

Likeness rights in sports video games can be wide-ranging. For instance, the NFL Players Association struck a deal with the Madden franchise that reportedly paid the players $500 million over a five-year extension, while the NBA 2K deal was reportedly for $1.1 billion over seven years. Conversely, EA Sports College Football 25 will reportedly only offer athletes featured in the game $600 and a copy of the game.

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