WSOF President Ray Sefo Details Revenue Split With Fighters, Nov. 15 Fight Card

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Ray SefoRay SefoEthan Miller/Getty Images

The World Series of Fighting is making big moves that could forever shift the balance of power in MMA.

WSOF President Ray Sefo announced a few weeks ago that the WSOF would be entering the pay-per-view market in 2015 after just two years in existence.

But the real kicker was the announcement that the promotion would split 50 percent of the revenue with the fighters competing on future cards. The proposal of the new model generated plenty of buzz and left more questions than answers.

In an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report, Sefo opened up about his company’s reasoning behind the revenue split:

We did it because, me being a fighter, we understand that fighters deserve what they deserve, and that’s the bottom line. For example, a lot of my brothers and a lot of my family members are huge fans of the combat world. Some of them have trained a little bit here or there, and some of my other brothers have fought and became world champions. The ones that never fought at the highest level don’t understand the commitment, the sacrifice that it takes to be a world champion, to get to that highest level of the game.

All they really care about is: Are they going to show up? Are they going to see a great fight? They don’t really take into consideration what the guy had to go through in dieting, leaving his family and going away to camp, not being able to go out with his friends, not being able to eat or drink whatever they want. All of these kinds of things come into play. ... All of these fighters deserve as much as the company can provide for them.

Sefo believes his experience as a kickboxer, boxer and professional MMA fighter gives him an edge in dealing with fighters. He isn’t preaching about things that he hasn’t already done. Years of blood, sweat and tears shed have propelled him to put some of the bargaining power back into the hands of the fighters.

A discrepancy in fighter pay has been a constantly debated issue in professional MMA. The common presumption is that fighters in large promotions, particularly the UFC, are making money along the same lines of professional athletes from other sports.

The UFC is widely considered the mecca of MMA, and several fighters, both past and present, have complained about being undercompensated by the promotion.

In a YouTube video, MMA legend and former UFC middleweight Wanderlei Silva announced his retirement from the sport, pointing to fighter pay and the UFC’s treatment of fighters as his sole reason for ending his 18-year run.

During an appearance on Submission Radio, former UFC light heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz claimed that fighters in the UFC are rewarded with only “6 percent of the revenue that is collected from fans.”

UFC heavyweight contender Mark Hunt recently sent out a disgruntled tweet regarding his pay as a UFC fighter.

mark richard hunt @markhunt1974

Don't know why my picture is on this list ufc fighters get paid average unless u are the champ.

Of course, there are fighters who have defended the UFC’s payouts, including flyweight contender Ian McCall in a post on the MMA Underground (h/t

The UFC is often brought up in these conversations because it is generally seen as the blueprint of success other promotions hope to one day achieve. Backed by NBC and IMG, the WSOF refuses to play follow the leader.

Sefo acknowledged that UFC President Dana White is great at what he does, but he was also willing to concede that “there’s no smoke without fire.” If a fighter isn’t happy, there is obviously a reason, especially if the same chirping is coming from several birdies.

However, Sefo admitted that his unfamiliarity with the operations of other promotions prohibits him from speaking on their behalf.

If successful, the idea of a revenue split is a very intriguing proposal that could tip the bargaining power in favor of the fighters. The WSOF is a growing promotion that has already acquired the likes of former UFC stars Jake Shields, Jon Fitch, Rousimar Palhares, Yushin Okami and Melvin Guillard.

It also has a growing stable of world-class talent that may go unrecognized by casual fans, including fighters like Jessica Aguilar, Rick Glenn, Justin Gaethje, Marlon Moraes and Nick Newell.

The mere possibility of receiving 50 percent of the pay-per-view revenue from a major promotion like the WSOF could be enough to draw interest from young prospects and disgruntled veterans from other promotions.

But all of this goes without mentioning the cutthroat nature of the pay-per-view business. It isn’t easy to accomplish the things that the UFC has accomplished. The WSOF is undoubtedly on the upswing, but it still remains to be seen whether it can put together a strong enough show capable of enticing couch fans to open their wallets.

After coming this far in such a short time, Sefo is completely confident in his team’s ability to get the job done.

“Obviously for us, it’s the continuance of moving forward and getting better and better every time and every show,” said Sefo. “The ultimate goal is that if you have a TV, we want to be on your television.”

WSOF 14 airs live on NBCSN on Saturday night.

The headliner features a title fight between Canadian WSOF welterweight champ Ryan Ford and Jake Shields, a former Strikeforce champ and UFC contender. An inaugural heavyweight champ will also be crowned in the co-main event when Smealinho Rama meets Derrick Mehmen.

Despite Saturday’s important fight card, people are already talking about the date switch for WSOF 15, which was moved from October 24 to November 15. Coincidentally, Cain Velasquez is slated to defend his heavyweight title against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 180 on that night. The highly anticipated grudge match between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar is scheduled to serve as the main event for Bellator 131 that night as well.

November 15 will now be a triple-header featuring the world’s best promotions. Some have already jumped the gun in assuming the WSOF purposely chose this date to contend with the UFC and Bellator, but according to Sefo, this is far from the reality of the situation.

Given the UFC’s increased number of events, the WSOF president knew it was only a matter of time before multiple shows occurred on the same night.

“We already had our schedule for 2013, so we get a schedule from NBC four months, five months out, before the end of the year,” Sefo explained. “Unfortunately with the UFC, they have a show every week and sometimes two shows a night. At some point, we are all going to have a show, like for example November 15.”

Despite his ongoing duties as WSOF president, Sefo is also considering returning to competition in either MMA or kickboxing a couple of more times. There was a kickboxing match setup for October, but plans fell through and the bout was canceled.

Sefo said fans can look forward to him stepping back into the ring in 2015, possibly as early as February.

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.

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WSOF President Ray Sefo Details Revenue Split with Fighters, Nov. 15 Fight Card
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