Urijah Faber is fighting for a reason. For a place on the UFC's seminal reality show The Ultimate Fighter. To justify the years of hype on WEC broadcasts. To write his name in the history books. Eddie Wineland has his reasons too. The 26 year old Indiana fireman is fighting to pay the bills, to take care of the mortgage, to change his way of life.
"I want to live bill free. I want to pay my house off. I want to pay my Cadillac off," Wineland told Bloody Elbow Radio in an exclusive interview. "Live the life."
Eddie Wineland doesn't have any television commercials, has likely never met the HBO faux-athlete Kenny Powers, let alone done a national spot with him. Amp Energy drink hasn't plastered him all over MMA programming. The UFC, quite obviously, has a lot invested in Urijah Faber one of the only lighter weight fighters being given a prominent place on a UFC fight card. Wineland has not been so blessed.
Despite being the inaugural WEC bantamweight champion, you may have never heard of Eddie Wineland. He's never been featured, even in the WEC. Despite winning four fights in a row without losing a single round, most of his bouts don't make it on the air. This is a huge moment for him. Although in theory just objective bystanders, a Wineland upset would cost Zuffa a lot. It's a road he's walked before.
"Urijah was the WEC poster boy. And rightfully so. He's a marketable guy," Wineland said. "He's very colorful and I understand why the UFC wants to promote him. But back when I won my title they also wanted to promote Antonio Banuelos. They brought me in to put up a good fight but lose. I think a lot of people think they are feeding me to the sharks right now with Urijah. But we all saw how the Antonio fight went. If I have anything to say about it, it's not going to be Urijah and Dominic (Cruz) coaching The Ultimate Fighter."
Zuffa missed out on an opportunity to help build Wineland's name in the months prior to the fight, unable to air the most impressive win of the former champion's career. Known for his strong punching, Wineland won his second knockout of the night in a row - by way of vicious slam. In a brutal sport, his KO of Ken Stone was a moment deemed too brutal even for cage fighting, left on the cutting room floor an opportunity missed.
"It's the nature of the beast. It's what we do. People are going to get knocked out," Wineland said. "When it first happened I was scared. They say he didn't move until he got in the ambulance. That's a scary thing. When a guy gets knocked out you expect him to start moving within a minute or two. Even after they were done announcing your name and you look over and the guy's still motionless. It's a scary thing. I'm just glad he was okay. It happens. You get into this sport knowing full well what can happen and you're ready to pay the price."
Had it been necessary, Wineland could have assisted with stabilizing and removing his opponent from the cage. A fireman by trade, Wineland joins the proud list of firefighting fighters, including Don Frye, Chris Lytle, and Chad Griggs.
"I call us adrenaline junkies. There's a select few that are willing to run into a house that's engulfed in flames," Wineland said. "It's the crazies. And if you're crazy, you're willing to go in there and get hit in the face, like you'll go in there and get a little hot in a fire. I think they go hand in hand. One's a fight for your life and one's just a fight for the competition."