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How much does it cost to become a high-level MMA fighter?

According to a Jan. 21 report from MMA Fighting, UFC heavyweight contender Travis Browne made the shocking admission that he went $50,000 in debt to become a high-level MMA fighter.

"There was a point in my life and my career where I had less than $100 to spend on both of my kids for Christmas. I remember telling myself, I remember telling my best friend, I said, 'This will never happen again.' I will not let this happen. I mean, $100 for me to spend on my family, friends, everybody. For me to be able to provide for my kids like I am now is really a dream come true.

"People see what they see now, but they choose to not see what it took to get here. Just to be an MMA fighter, I went over $50,000 in debt. My management, they supported me. They took the reins. They really saw in me something worth investing and they invested in it and it's paid off for them," Browne said.

"In 2010 I had my truck repo'd. There's been so much crap I've had to go through to get to this point. Like I said, I would rather earn it than someone give it to me and that's why. I've been where other people have been. I can understand where they're coming from. I'm tough on those kinds of people because I was tough on myself in those situations. You always have doors that are open for you, but you have to take advantage of them once they're there."

Many fight fans were left wondering how going so far into debt could possibly happen to one of the top heavyweight fighters in the game, as most of them only hear about the million-dollar paydays that fighters such as Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva receive for their bouts.

Not many UFC supporters ever think about how much it costs to actually become a professional MMA fighter.

Gym Fees

MMA trainers at gyms across the country have valuable skills that don't come cheap to those who wish to learn them.

Just like everyone else, MMA trainers and gym owners have bills to pay, including rent and equipment costs. It costs a great deal of money to maintain an MMA gym, and potential fighters who wish to train at them are the ones who foot the bill to keep them in business.

Depending on the region of the country, MMA gyms generally range from $125 to $200 a month. Private one-on-one sessions could up the fees by hundreds more dollars, potentially up to $500 a month.

As an example, Long Island's Serra Jiu-Jitsu charges $140 a month for two lessons per week, or $180 per month for unlimited classes. That's pretty standard when it comes to MMA training, so for the sake of argument let's say the average aspiring MMA fighter pays $150 a month in gym dues.

Equipment

To become a fighter, you need equipment. Besides gloves, every fighter will have to invest in shin guards, shorts and a fitted mouthpiece.

Initial start-up costs of MMA equipment range from $200 to $400, depending on brand. Apparel wears out in a hurry when it gets used everyday, so expect to spend at least $100 each year to replace used and worn out equipment.

Totals

Generally, fighters should not step into the pro ring until they have at least two years of training and five to six amateur fights under their belt.

With that said, a fighter who spends $150 a month for 24 months, will have spent approximately $3,600 in gym fees before having the opportunity to earn money from MMA competition.

Amateur fighters aren't allowed to receive compensation for their bouts, so fighters can't get paid until they officially turn pro.

Adding the $3,600 to the cost of fight gear for two years ($400-600), the average fighter will be at least $4,000 in the hole before receiving any paid opportunities.

How much does it cost to become a high-level MMA fighter? Let us know in the comments or tweet the author, @ericholden.