Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters often don't talk publicly about the money they make, or don't make, from sponsorship.
For the most part, the lack of conversation may be because as the sport continues to grow, more and more fighters are hiring managers to handle the business side of their careers. That cuts out any need for a competitor to worry about contracts and paydays, and instead focus strictly on preparing for a fight.
When it comes to an athlete like Eddie Wineland, who has fought professionally since 2003 and experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the sport, he knows exactly when the sponsorship money is slow to trickle in.
Since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in early 2011, Wineland has fought three times inside the Octagon. One fight was the co-main event of a pay-per-view (PPV), one was on the preliminary portion of a ‘UFC on Versus' card and his most recent bout was featured on the main card on an FX show.
Those are three different platforms with three very different levels of exposure.
This Saturday night at UFC 155 in Las Vegas, Wineland will face British slugger Brad Pickett in a crucial bantamweight affair, which takes place on the "Prelims" portion of the card, set to air on FX in the United States and Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.
Even though Wineland vs. Pickett gets prime spot on the "Prelims" card, Wineland tells Fight Cove there's a noticeable difference in terms of sponsorships by being left off the main card, which airs on PPV.
"It hurts for sponsorships, but other than that it is what it is. I think just as many people are going to see it on FX as there are on the pay-per-view, you know? If not more, because some people would rather watch the free fights and not pay for them. But on the sponsorship side it hurts significantly."
Wineland did not go into the exact disparity of dollars and cents when fighting on PPV and fighting on the "Prelims," but in a sport like MMA where fighter pay is a popular issue, using a word like "significant" has an impact.
According the latest SB Nation bantamweight rankings, Wineland and Pickett both currently sit in the top-10 in the world at the weight class. Yet, Chis Leben (who has not fought in over a year and is coming off suspension) and Derek Brunson (a UFC newcomer on a two-fight losing streak) are awarded a main card slot over a fight that plays a monumental role in the future of its respective division.
What a bummer.
Hopefully Wineland and Pickett will produce the ‘Fight of the Night' worthy bout everyone is expecting of them and the UFC will make up for the lost sponsorship money with one of their infamous ‘locker-room bonuses.'
UFC 155: "Dos Santos vs. Velasquez II" goes down Sat., Dec. 29, 2012, from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event of the evening will see Junior dos Santos put his heavyweight title on the line against ex-titleholder Cain Velasquez. Also featured on the card is a lightweight bout between Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller as well as a middleweight affair between Tim Boetsch and Constantinos Philippou.