When Stardom Surpasses Value: The Tale of Miguel Torres and Urijah Faber

Urijah-faber_mediumMiguel Torres and Urijah Faber are big names in the world of MMA.  They may not be champions anymore, but they were on top of the world for a long time, and now that they've been knocked off they realize they didn't make any money during their time on top.  Accoding to Jonathan Snowden, Faber and Torres want more money:

Urijah Faber has one fight remaining on his WEC contract. He and Zuffa are far apart on contract terms. The WEC's other superstar, Miguel Torres is also unhappy with his current contract. Superstar dissatisfaction is the main reason that Zuffa is considering merging the WEC into the UFC. It would give Faber and Torres bigger potential paydays on PPV.



The Versus network, home to the WEC, was so worried that the promotion was leaving that they opened up tentative talks with Bellator, the Latino friendly group looking for a home after leaving ESPN Deportes earlier this year. As unhappy as WEC fighters are, it's nothing compared to Bellator's woebegone warriors. The promotion will be in a holding pattern through March at the earliest and in the meantime many fighters are desperate to make ends meet.

A lot of people saw this problem coming a long time ago.  Urijah Faber often gets bigger cheers when he's shown on camera at UFC events than major UFC stars, but he gets paid peanuts to fight on a network where very few people ever see him.  The reason for his low pay is simple: the WEC doesn't make any money.  Faber is a huge star, but he's in a company with extremely limited potential to generate meaningful revenue.

A UFC/WEC merger is inevitable at this point in my mind.  The UFC is suffering from a main event shortage, and introducing two new titles into the mix would help them handle a schedule that gets heavier every year.  With Rampage apparently retiring, Matt Hughes a loss away from retirement, and Randy Couture on his last legs, the company is a stroke of bad luck away from a serious shortage of headline fighters.  

I think the best idea is a season of The Ultimate Fighter featuring the stars of the Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions.  Pay the fighters enough so it makes sense for them, and expose millions of fans to the warriors of the WEC on Spike TV.  Make Brian Bowles and Mike Brown the coaches, and set up big title defenses for them at the end of the season, perhaps even against the winners of the show in each weight class.  I think this would really serve as a major infusion of fresh blood into the UFC, and I wouldn't be surprised if a number of future drawing cards emerged from such a season.  It would also be nice to actually see some good fights on The Ultimate Fighter.

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