WEC 53: Payout Perspective

December 21, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective: WEC edition. The final WEC event took place in Glendale, Arizona at the Jobing.com arena. In the main event, hometown favorite Benson “Smooth” Henderson faced Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. Fitting for the WEC, it ended with a flourish with the kick seen everywhere.

Business Storylines

It’s Showtime! Pettis claims UFC lightweight title shot

Anthony Pettis solidified his promotion to the big show by defeating Benson Henderson. Whatever you want to call the kick, everyone has seen it and commented on it. We have looked at its promotional value and the mainstream attention it has drawn.

The kick is the biggest MMA move to occur in the era of social media. Don’t think so? Just look at how many times it was looped on ESPN. It was featured on Top Plays of the Night, commented on Pardon The Interruption and Pettis was interviewed on ESPN’s First Take. It was an Internet sensation.  It even received a posting on Deadspin.  Not to mention, Pettis’ twitter account exploded with 4,000 more followers in a day.

For the WEC, it was an appropriate way to send it off. For Pettis, it is not hyperbole to think that the kick propelled him as an overnight sensation. For Henderson, a dominant reign in the 155 pound division ended on the biggest night for the title. An instant shot at the UFC title and a main event on MMA’s biggest stage was on the line. But, Pettis looked prepared for Henderson and implemented a strategy which wore down Henderson (by literally riding his back for almost one round) one of the best conditioned athletes in the lightweight division.

Pettis will be a marketable 155 pounder if he shows well against Maynard or Edgar.  Fans will like his flash, his fighting style and the anticipation that he will put on a “Showtime” move at a moment’s notice.

Cruz defeats Jorgenson—possible TUF coach versus Faber

Overshadowed by the “Showtime” kick, Dominick Cruz dominated Scott Jorgenson to win the new UFC Bantamweight title. It’s rumored that Cruz and Urijah Faber will oppose each other as TUF coaches in 2011. This would be a great way to introduce the Bantamweight division and the Cruz/Faber rivalry to the UFC viewers.

Zhang loses

Tiequan Zhang lost by unanimous decision to Danny Downes on the undercard.  This is a setback for Zhang, the first fighter from China, as Zuffa is trying to garner more interest from the China market. Zhang’s fight was televised live in China.

Versus Pre and Post Fight Show

Once again, Versus included a Pre-Fight and Post-Fight Show. Prior to the pre-fight show, Versus ran the World MMA Awards. A good lead-in to a night of fights. The Pre-Fight Show served as the ad hoc retrospective for the WEC. The broadcast did a sufficient job of previewing the fights while looking back at the best of WEC.  Still, it would have been nice to have had a dedicated hour to look back at the best fights and fighters. 

Promoting the Fight

Most of the promotion for the fight centered around hometime favorite Henderson, which makes his loss more bittersweet. Henderson made appearances at the Phoenix Coyote hockey game and at a rally in his honor. His gym, MMA Lab, held daily Ben Henderson contests on twitter giving away Henderson memorabilia leading up to the fight.


Fight of the Night – Henderson v. Pettis – $10,000

Submission of the Night – Shane Roller – $10,000

Knockout of the Night – Eddie Wineland – $10,000

These bonuses will be much more in the UFC. As you may recall, UFC 124 fighters made $100K bonuses–ten times what was dished out at the final WEC card. Unlike UFC 124, the main event, Henderson/Pettis, was definitely the fight of the night.

Sponsorship Watch

-Henderson sported t-shirt maker Dethrone Royalty while Pettis was a Form Athletics endorser. After the win, Form Athletics sent out a press release congratulating Pettis and maybe made a little jab at Henderson’s sponsor.

Pettis overcame a nearly 2-to-1 underdog rating, dethroning lightweight title-holder Ben Henderson in the card’s featured fight of the night.

Maybe reading into this, but it would be a funny jab to use dethrone in describing Pettis’ win.  Despite the loss, Dethrone still has a champion stable of Velasquez and Aldo.

-It was interesting to see Henderson’s primary short sponsors as The Gun Store and Iron Bridge tools. The Gun Store as a sponsor seems a little contrary to Henderson, a devout Christian.

-MusclePharm continued as a mat sponsor despite a report that it settled a debt in which it owed the WEC $375K for outstanding sponsorship debt.

-The Kenny Powers/Uriah Faber commercials for KSwiss are hilarious. They are not new, but it shows the marketability of Faber.


According to MMA Junkie, 6,348 fans attended the event at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona. It is the seventh largest crowd in WEC history. The top three were WEC events in Sacramento. It was the promotion’s first time in Arizona.

The venue was chosen as a result of a fan vote from the “Hometown Throwdown” promotion sponsored by Amp Energy.

(UPDATE) Ratings

MMA Junkie reports that the event scored a strong 0.62 household rating and an average audience of 615,000 viewers. In addition, the post-fight show on Versus scored a 0.34 household rating with an audience of 352,000.


For the last round of the last fight for an outstanding organization, it would have been nice if Versus kept with the fighters as they came out of their corners. Instead, we saw the two fighters in the center of the ring. It was a small thing, but it’s the details that would help close out the organization.

I was surprised that there was little closure to the end of the WEC. Reed Harris mentioned in more than one interview that he’s been “too busy” to think about the ending of the WEC. Yes, this may be true, but it seems like he is ignoring the history of the situation. Perhaps this was the corporate edict-business as usual. Definitely, Zuffa could have capitalized on the ending of the WEC with a retrospective and a bigger lead-up to the event. It could have released a “Best of” DVD just in time for the Holidays. Although the WEC 53 pre-show provided some memories, it seemed like more could have been done.

But, the story of the night, and what made the night a success was the “Showtime” kick. It was a good sendoff for the WEC.

4 Responses to “WEC 53: Payout Perspective”

  1. Tweets that mention WEC 53: Payout Perspective : MMAPayout.com: The Business of MMA -- Topsy.com on December 21st, 2010 9:53 PM

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  2. Steve on December 22nd, 2010 7:42 AM

    “The Gun Store as a sponsor seems a little contrary to Henderson, a devout Christian.”

    Are you kidding?

    The NRA is full of bible-thumping right wing nutjobs, as are most militias. If guns were around when Pope Urban the second was running shit, you can bet your ass that the Knights Templar would have been packing heat too.

    Christians love them some boom sticks.

  3. Jason Cruz on December 22nd, 2010 9:18 AM

    Steve: An interesting take. I thought about it when writing it up. But, I think Henderson is not the person you describe based on following him on twitter. Regardless, I think that the sponsorship caters to the audience and perhaps the area Glendale, Arizona area.

  4. Brain Smasher on December 22nd, 2010 12:45 PM

    “-It was interesting to see Henderson’s primary short sponsors as The Gun Store and Iron Bridge tools. The Gun Store as a sponsor seems a little contrary to Henderson, a devout Christian.”

    What does one have anything to do with the other? Its our constitutional right to own guns. Christians have as much rights to defend themselves and hunt as anyone else. Im sure this store sells Hunting rifles and shot guns as well as “heat”.

    LOL at calling the NRA a militia. LOL, OK.

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