Mike Brown and Urijah Faber’s early careers were like the opening sequence in “Rocky”: Balboa you get winner’s share, sixty-five dollars. That’s fifteen dollars locker and corner man, five dollars shower and towel and seven-percent tax, comes to $40.55. There was little money and less recognition for the world class featherweights.
“The big thing, especially the lightweights, just nobody cared about it,” WEC featherweight champion Brown told Fox Sports Radio’s Inside the Cage. “I fought Hermes Franca for $200.”
Like many lighter fighters, Brown had to “fight up” at higher weight classes simply to find competition. There was seldom demand for the sport and, the lighter the weight, the higher the resistance to booking them. “The last couple of years I finally started making a living, but before that,” Brown said it was hard to make ends meet. “I tore my MCL, ACL, everything in my knee, against [Masakazu] Imanari [during a fight in Japan],” said the UFC veteran, “And I only made 1,000 bucks off of it.”
Faber, who began fighting professionally two years after Brown, faced the same challenges. “I was selling tickets and collecting money up until the hour of the fight, making sure that I made money for the tickets I sold,” the former WEC featherweight champ said.
Both are grateful for the WEC lifting featherweights from obscurity and propping them up on Versus cable network. Brown never imagined 145-pound fighters would be welcomed in the sport, let alone be a featured class in a major organization and promoted on basic cable.
Faber stuck it out and now the kid is a bonafide celebrity, shilling No Fear Energy Drink, throwing out the first pitch for the Oakland Athletics and appearing on Howard Stern. “Anthony Kiedis [lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers] came up to me and said he was a fan,” said Faber. “I actually had my first kiss to one of his songs.”
The celebrity status had Faber on cloud nine but Brown brough Faber back down to earth hard, knocking the champ out in a little more than two minutes. The rematch, which comes on June 7 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, figures to be the biggest WEC fight in history. Win or lose the challenger and champion agree on is they’re lucky to be fighting for the WEC title in front of millions, thankful their past made them who they are, but more importantly, that its in the past.
“There’s a lot of guys that just got eaten up by that rinky-dinky fight life,” said Faber.
Fox Sports’ Inside the Cage appears on Reno, NV 1450AM and is hosted by Greg Delong with co-host Danny Acosta. Mike Thomas Brown and Uriah Faber appeared on May 20.