The Truth About Gladiators: They Were Just Highly Paid MMA Fighters

By Karen Harris
Chariot racing in the Circus Maximus of ancient Rome, 100BC. (Photo by: Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Today's top athletes earn incomes that one could argue aren't entirely proportional to the work they do. It's easy to chalk this up to modern "athlete worship," but what if we told you that the highest-paid athlete of all time did not live in this century? Or the last one? In fact, to find the most highly paid athletes, we would have to go all the way back to antiquity--to the days of the Roman gladiators and charioteers. You may be surprised to learn that sports was big business to the Romans. There are a lot of gladiator myths out there, so let's take a look at the lucrative world of sports in ancient Rome.