Top 15 MMA Fighters Who Were Broke When They Started Their Careers

One of the most beautiful aspects of sports in general is that anyone from any background can participate and excel in almost every sport. It does not matter if you are rich or if you are poor, but all that matters is whether or not you have practiced a lot and have become better than most of your competition. We have seen in every professional league examples of athletes who grew up in tough situations and overcome these situations to excel at their sport. Mixed martial arts have proven to be a gateway for athletes from all different backgrounds.

A select few fighters gave up everything in life to concentrate on fighting, and they have done so in hopes of making it into MMA associations such as the UFC and Bellator. The payouts especially in the UFC can be very rewarding. There are also bonuses awarded to fighters who have performance of the night honors or fight of the night honors. These payouts make all the hard work that these fighters who came from rough backgrounds worth it, and these generous payouts can help some fighters with getting their families out of the rough situations that they were brought up in.

16 Mark Hunt

Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports


15 Ian McCall

ayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

14 Jeremy Stephens

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

13 Jacare Souza

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

12 Tyron Woodley

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

11 Tito Ortiz

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

10 Ken Shamrock

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Shamrock grew up in an impoverished neighborhood close to Atlanta, Georgia. He got into a lot of fights growing up, and did not fit in whereever he went. Team sports allowed Shamrock to control his anger and not fight as much on the streets. Fighting on the streets got Shamrock in trouble, and during the late eighties and early nineties he got in legal trouble for fighting. He would get in fights when he worked as a bouncer. This started to become costly because he would always have to pay some kind of fine.

9 Junior Dos Santos

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

8 Glover Teixeira

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

7 Rampage Jackson

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

6 Ronda Rousey

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Ronda Rousey's life was turned upside down when at the age of eight, her father Ron committed suicide. From there, her mother was left to raise Ronda and her sisters by herself. Rousey spent much of her teen years dedicated to judo. Her judo career culminated with a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing games. She spent several years tring to make ends meet, as all her time dedicated to judo wasn't paying any bills. She's reflected in her autobiography how she had to sleep in her car when she was at her lowest.

She eventually began to pursue her MMA career at 22 when she realized she didn't want to spend her life living paycheck to paycheck in a conventional line of work. She made her debut as an amateur in 2010 and in six years, she has become not just the biggest female star the sport has ever seen, but one of the biggest stars of all time. She's even transcended MMA, landing herself roles in movies and gracing magazine covers. Let's just say she never has to worry about sleeping in her car again.


4 Eddie Alvarez

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Eddie Alvarez came from an extremely rough neighborhood within the city of Philadelphia. He was raised in Kensington, which is known as a section of Philadelphia with a large amount of violent crimes, and it is hard not to get sucked into the criminal lifestyle when coming through this section of Philadelphia. Kensington is also well known for its narcotics problem. Alvarez was determined to make it out of Kensington, and boxing and mixed martial arts provided an avenue into the spotlight. Alvarez’s first fight came only eight months after he started training in mixed martial arts.

3 Conor McGregor

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Before Conor McGregor was a household name, he could be found in houses fixing toilets and other plumbing issues throughout his native country of Ireland. McGregor spent a year as a plumber before he gave up the craft to pursue the art of fighting, as he was sick and tired of doing something he didn't love. He burst onto the fighting scene, and was beginning to become a crowd favorite, and his knockout ability allowed him the chance to accumulate unforeseen amounts of wealth. During his last fight in which he was defeated by Nate Diaz via submission, McGregor earned an astounding one million dollars.

2 Anderson Silva

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson Silva had an extremely rough upbringing in Brazil. He was a product of a poverty stricken family, and did not even have a mother and father to look after him for the majority of his childhood. Silva’s aunt and uncle were forced to look after him and four others on a police officer’s salary, a job that wasn't able to help the family all that much. Silva did not have the money to get formal martial arts training at a young age, and jiu-jitsu was seen as a martial art of elite families in Brazil. Silva was determined to make an honest living as a fighter, so he did everything he could to make it happen.

1 Jose Aldo

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Jose spent his early years in Manaus, Brazil getting beat up on the streets. This triggered his desire to become a fighter, and he began practicing the martial art of capoeira to help his habit of brawling. He tried out jiu-jitsu and became very fond of the martial art. He left Manaus for Rio de Janeiro to pursue a career in fighting, and all that he brought with him were clothes. He started doing mixed martial arts fights in Brazil, then he joined WEC, and when WEC merged with the UFC he became the inaugural UFC featherweight champion in 2011. He held onto that belt until his loss to Conor McGregor in December of 2015, which was his first professional loss in over 10 years. Aldo was extremely poor growing up, but he has become a rich man due to his fighting success. Aldo made $400,000 in his loss to McGregor.

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Top 15 MMA Fighters Who Were Broke When They Started Their Careers