FOR many the UFC is the pinnacle of their careers.
From its inception in 1993 to being taken over by Dana White's childhood friends Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta in 2001, the UFC has been MMA's premier promotion.
Several fighters have reached superstardom, enjoying the fame and fortune which comes with campaigning as one of the sport's best fighters.
But on the rare occasion, leaving the UFC to pursue different avenues can actually prove more beneficial.
Here SunSport lists five stars who profited from ditching the octagon to go elsewhere.
VanZant raised several eyebrows after she signed for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship following her UFC release.
But the 26-year-old swimsuit cover girl and Dancing With the Stars contestant revealed she was earning 10x more at BKFC.
Her pay-per-view debut garnered massive amounts of attention despite it resulting in a loss.
VanZant earned the respect of doubters who questioned her toughness as she was left battered and bruised following defeat to Britain Hart.
But the American, who had an 8-5 MMA record, refused to quit and confirmed plans to fight in BKFC again.
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When Lesnar signed for the UFC in 2008 he did so off the back of a succesful championship run in the WWE and failed move to the NFL.
Within a year he won the title and made two defences, but by 2011 the heavyweight was forced to retire due to diverticulitis problems.
Lesnar then returned to the WWE in 2012 and stayed their working part-time until his contract expired last September.
Following his UFC exit, he earned himself the highest-earning salary by the time Vince McMahon prized him back to the WWE.
Lesnar, 43, did make a guest comeback at UFC 200 beating Mark Hunt, but it was marred in controversy after a failed drug test saw the result overturned to a no-contest.
The Stockton cult hero had already earned a respected reputation in the UFC and Pride in Japan before signing for Strikeforce.
But under Scott Coker's now-finished promotion, Diaz became welterweight champion and made four defences.
He also knocked out Paul Daley in a memorable back-and-forth one-round battle, which is celebrated still to this day.
When Diaz came back to the UFC he was a big-time player and fought legends BJ Penn and Carlos Condit before losing in a welterweight title challenge against Georges St-Pierre.
He then lost to Anderson Silva at middleweight – now a no-contest after a failed drug test – in his last fight, but Diaz, 37, is planning on a return in 2021.
Bader had enjoyed a stellar career in the UFC's light-heavyweight division and had lost just one in eight before he walked out on the organisaton.
But the risk paid off as he became Bellator champion in his promotional debut, beating Phil Davis in 2017.
He later went on to win the heavyweight crown to become a two-weight champion.
Bader, 37, still reigns the light-heavyweight division but lost his 205lb strap in defeat to Vadim Nemkov last August.
After leaving the UFC, the American solidified himself as a poster boy for competitors Bellator.
Conor McGregor's training partner and close friend, 34, became a fan-favourite in the UFC, famed for fighting anyone, anywhere.
But his 13–15–1 record made it hard to pursue any title ambitions despite taking on all comers while maintaining love from supporters.
So when he joined BKFC, he immediately became a headline attraction and his style suited the brutal battle of exposed fists.
Lobov went on to beat McGregor's rival Paulie Malignaggi in a heated grudge PPV match which attracted huge publicity.
He is currently 2-1 in BKFC, tied at one apiece with Jason Knight, but in 2020 announced a return to MMA, though it was scrapped amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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