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Looking At Fighter Pay Scales In The WEC And Why Those Fighters Don't Make As Much As Their UFC Counterparts

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Steve Cofield asks "Is the WEC's business model going to work much longer with the fighters?"  He then makes this statement: 

The revolution may be coming. We're not big on discussing the pay scale of fighters because so much of what the major stars make in the UFC and WEC is off the books, or at least far from the public eye. But you'd have to imagine salaries of $35,000 (includes $10,000 Fight of the Night bonus) for their fight at WEC 41 rub WEC stars Mike Brown and Urijah Faber the wrong way. Do those guys deserve any less than Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Brock Lesnar, Quinton Jackson and Georges St. Pierre? That fight helped draw a WEC record crowd of 12,706 in Sacramento, a big audience on Versus and a record gate of $818,415. Hell guys, like Brandon Vera and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira made six figures in their last fights.

It's an interesting quandary on both sides. It's tough to tell fighters who at all moments are three fights away from heading out of the promotion back to the minor leagues, to stay patient. The lifespan of a fighter's career is short. Plus with the fact that WEC is under the Zuffa umbrella, one would think fighters assume there's money there, give it to us. We deserve the same as the stars at 170, 185, 205 and heavyweight.

First of all, let me say off top that I do think that some of the guys in the WEC deserve to be paid more money than they are currently making.  Let me get that out of the way.  There are a lot of different streams from which Zuffa can get money.  Monies from Versus and Spike, merchandising, live gate, and more.  I don't know all the in's/out's in regards to how Zuffa makes a profit, but I can share some common sense.

The WEC/UFC while under the same umbrella(Zuffa) operate differently on a couple of major fronts.  Check it:

  • The UFC rakes in millions upon millions of dollars via PPV/ The WEC doesn't have PPV as a revenue stream.
  • The UFC rakes in 2-3 million dollar gates for almost every show/The WEC can't even break 1 million at the gate yet.

Since the WEC doesn't have PPV as a source of revenue, let's take a look at the gate and compare that to fighter payroll salaries.  The fighter salaries for WEC 41 account for 26% of the total gate.  Compare that to UFC 98, where the fighter salaries account for 29% of the total gate.  Plus there were 11 fights on the UFC 98 card, compared to 10 fights on the WEC 41 card.  So this snapshot shows that percentage wise, there isn't a large difference in regards to the money fighters bring to each respective company brand just by looking at monies from attendance.  If the WEC were able to pull in multi-million dollar gates, it's logical to think the fighters would be compensated better.  The fact of the matter is, the WEC is still in the infancy stages as Zuffa acquired the brand just over 2 years ago.  It takes tiem to build a brand, as well as the fighters that fight for that brand.  It's also difficult to do when you only hold 6-8 shows per year, and air the shows on a channel that many people can't even find on their channel guides.  The WEC fighters can't compare themselves to the guys in the UFC, as that's comparing apples to oranges in my opinion.  The fighter pay will get better, but it'll take time just as it did with the UFC.  We were all criticizing the UFC fighter pay scales just a couple of year ago...remember?