The secret lives of UFC fighters outside the octagon

The secret lives of UFC fighters outside the octagon

June 4, 2023

Demetrious Johnson worked 40 hours a week in a factory before his title fight with Dominick Cruz, Luke Rockhold is a well-known model and Stipe Miocic spends his time as a firefighter… the secret lives of UFC stars outside the octagon

  • The UFC continues to establish itself as a major global sporting organisation
  • Stars like Conor McGregor and Jon Jones have earned millions from the sport 
  • However, there have been a fair few who have struggled to earn big paydays

The UFC continues to establish itself as one of the biggest sporting organisations in the world. 

Over the years, MMA’s biggest promotion has attracted several mega-stars to compete under its banner. 

There have been many debates as to whether or not the UFC pays fighters well. Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou recently left the promotion and signed an exclusive deal with PFL.

A number of stars have struggled to rake in hefty purses while competing in MMA’s star-studded franchise and have had to work another job as well as competing inside the cage. Bigger names such as Conor McGregor, Israel Adesanya, Jon Jones are all financially set for life because of their name and marketability. 

Mail Sport takes a look at some of the big names in the sport who have worked elsewhere while competing in the UFC.

Conor McGregor is one of few UFC fighters set for life due to his success inside the octagon

Anderson Silva’s rise to the top was spectacular, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Brazilian


‘Mighty Mouse’ made his professional debut against Frankie Mendez back in 2009, where he claimed victory via submission. Despite making a name for himself at flyweight in his early days, Johnson originally competed at bantamweight. 

After being signed to the UFC in 2011, Johnson went on to win his first two fights before fighting Dominick Cruz for the 135-pound title. Prior to the bout with ‘The Dominator’, Johnson was still working full-time as a forklift driver. In the first five years of his professional career, ‘Mighty Mouse’ split time between fighting and his factory day job. 

Speaking to Fox Sports in 2015, Johnson recalled his earlier days working in the factory.

‘It was in a warehouse in Tacoma where we recycled paper to make boards to protect televisions during the shipping process,’ Johnson said.

Back then, Johnson’s days and nights were a lot longer, with little rest in between. ‘I would get up at 6am, be at work by 7am, get two 15-minute breaks and get off work by 3pm.

‘Even though I was fighting in the UFC, I didn’t make enough money, in my eyes, to pay the bills, make car payments and all that. 

‘I always said that for me to quit my day job, I’d have to believe that I was in the right spot to walk away from full-time work. Deciding to leave my job was very hard. It was one of the hardest decisions I made in my whole life. With the factory, there was a guarantee. You went in, punched the time clock, punched out afterwards and then you were guaranteed a check. In fighting, there are no guarantees.’

Demetrious Johnson revealed he worked as a forklift driver before his fight with Dominick Cruz

After facing Cruz, Johnson won the UFC flyweight title before losing to Henry Cejudo in 2018

Despite losing to Cruz back in 2011, it was then when Johnson decided to quit his day job and focus solely on MMA full time. Since then, he has gone on to win the flyweight title and defend the belt 11 times before losing to Henry Cejudo in 2018.

Now, ‘Mighty Mouse’ competes under the One Championship banner. When he does decide to retire, he will unquestionably go down as one of the greatest fighters of all time. 


Miocic is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights to step into the UFC cage. The former heavyweight champion, who has not fought since losing to Francis Ngannou in 2020, also works as a firefighter in the American city of Westlake and has been working there since 2010.

While defending his heavyweight title for all these years, Miocic has been helping out his local community in a big way.

He told Bleacher Report back in 2018 that he loves the aspect of helping people in need. 

‘I like being there for a person that needs you. No matter if they’re just a little bit sick or if they’re in full [cardiac] arrest or something,’ Miocic said.

‘Doing the best you can to get them stable and get them to the hospital. The whole fireman aspect, helping people any time, day or night, I just love it. I love every second of it, just knowing there’s a chance I could help someone.’ 

Miocic looks set to return later this year and is likely to face fellow heavyweight star Jon Jones.  

Stipe Miocic has spent a lot of his time outside the cage helping out his local community

Miocic continues to serve his local community and says he loves helping those in need

The former heavyweight champion is widely considered one of the greatest of all time 


It took a long time before the UFC truly burst onto the scene as one of the world’s top sporting organisations. With that being said, many hardcore fans will be familiar with Franklin. 

Despite being known for his fight with Ken Shamrock and then going on to win the middleweight title, many may not know that he was actually a high school teacher before competing in MMA.

Franklin earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and later picked up a master’s degree in education at the University of Cincinnati.

He would make his professional debut in 1999, but still continued his trade as a teacher. Franklin quit the education industry full-time back in 2002 but was still a part-time teacher until 2005.

After going 18-1, Franklin competed in the inaugural ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ series, where he defeated Shamrock via TKO. He would go on to win the middleweight title in 2005 and defend the belt twice before losing to Anderson Silva.

In 2019, Franklin was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame class of 2019 as a Pioneer for his contribution to the sport.

Before competing in MMA, Rich Franklin was a full-time teacher after earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics


Former middleweight champion Rockhold has enjoyed many iconic moments throughout his career. 

Rockhold defeated the likes of Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping and Lyoto Machida before winning the title against Chris Weidman. Many tipped him to dominate the sport, however it wasn’t to be. He would lose the belt in his first defence to Bisping and has only won one fight since 2016.

A lot of his fame came outside the octagon. The former 185-pound king was signed to a modelling agency and prioritised work outside of fighting. Rockhold would go on to bag himself a contract with Ralph Lauren in 2018.

During his career, Luke also signed up for the New York model management agency Soul Artist Management – the same agency that jumpstarted the career of Channing Tatum.

As well as that, he also enjoyed a brief romance with Hollywood star Demi Lovato. The pair officially announced their relationship when they attended UFC 205, back in 2016 at Madison Square Garden, before parting ways a few months later.

Luke Rockhold made a name for himself in the modelling industry during his UFC career

The former middleweight champion has beaten the likes of Michael Bisping and Tim Boetsch


Former UFC middleweight fighter Kennedy was a decorated soldier serving in the US special forces during his fighting career.

Kennedy, who fought five times in the UFC, joined the army in 2004 and completed several combat training courses. 

In 2007, he completed Ranger School and was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group. Throughout his special forces career, he has been involved in various well-known missions, which also included being a sniper instructor. He was involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in the Middle East.

Two years later, he transitioned from active duty to the Texas Army National Guard and has since continued to serve with the Texas Army National Guard.

After he retired from MMA in 2016, Kennedy re-enlisted for service in the U.S. Army Special Forces in 2017. 

Tim Kennedy was a decorated soldier during his fighting career, before retiring in 2016


After amassing an impressive record of 7-2-1 in his first 10 professional outings, Al Iaquinta was destined to make a lot of money in the UFC. However, after his split decision victory over Jorge Masvidal in 2015, ‘Raging Al’ took two years away from the sport to pursue a career in real estate.

He started the process of acquiring a license after a contract dispute for his fight against Thiago Alves at UFC 205

During his MMA career, Al Iaquinta revealed he earned more in real estate than in the UFC

In 2018, Iaquinta was scheduled to face Justin Gaethje at UFC Fight Night 135. ‘Raging Al’ revealed that he decided to pull out of the fight because selling houses would make him more money.

‘Basically, in the time that I would have trained for that fight, I made as much money selling real estate,’ he told MMA Hour.  

‘So, it’s not a money thing. I enjoyed my summer. I wasn’t going to bed injured every night, I wasn’t waking up with a sore neck. I didn’t have to worry about Justin Gaethje’s crazy ass. I’m doing what I want to do. If they made it worth it for me, I would have. I’m making my show money in that amount of time when these deals close out. It’s crazy that a real estate agent on Long Island can make their show money for headlining a five-round fight against a top-six, top-seven guy in the world.

‘The rest of the fighters, they all would have taken the fight, you know what I mean? They all would have taken it and they would have had to push through the injury. I was like, you know what? F*** this. I’m gonna make just as much money walking around, meeting people selling real estate. I’m making great connections with people like me — my kind of people. It’s a beautiful thing.’


Anderson Silva will unquestionably go down as one of the greatest to ever fight in MMA. Between 2006 and 2012, the Brazilian dominated the division. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for ‘Spider.’ While he trained in Jiu-Jitsu as a youngster, he worked in a local McDonald’s flipping burgers for a living.

Conor McGregor’s rise to the top was quite extraordinary. Before going full-time, the Irishman took plumbing as a trade. There were times when he would work 12-hour days before heading to the gym. Before his UFC debut against Marcus Brimmage, McGregor cashed in a welfare cheque just so he could fly to Sweden for the fight. 

Georges St-Pierre is another star who will go down as an all-time legend of the sport. But prior to becoming a professional fighter, the Canadian spent his time working as security in a nightclub and in his local supermarket, while also having a brief stint as a bin man just so he could afford to pay his university fees.

Conor McGregor (left) had to cash in a welfare cheque before making his UFC debut

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