As was first reported by The Oregonian, former IFL and Bodog fighter Chris Wilson will be joining the UFC to take on Jon Fitch at UFC 82. Wilson took the fight when Akihiro Gono was forced to pull out with an injured hand, but what’s perhaps most surprising is that “The Professor” will be taking a pay cut in his move to the UFC.
“I’ve never had a thing for or against the UFC,” he said. “It’s always been a matter of taking care of my family, and the other contracts I signed paid a little better. The UFC is a bit of a pay cut actually, but it is a great opportunity right now.”
Let me first say that I’m a big fan of Wilson’s. He’s an exciting fighter to watch, very intelligent and humble, and he has some great striking skills. But I’d be wondering what kind of future the UFC is envisioning for him if they’re signing him to a low-paying contract that begins with a fight against Jon Fitch.
As much as I respect Wilson’s skills, Fitch is a tough matchup for him. Wilson is at his best when he can stand and pick an opponent apart with his highly technical striking attack. Fitch, on the other hand, is a powerhouse wrestler who is almost guaranteed to put you on your back at least once or twice. Not to mention, the UFC clearly has high hopes for Fitch. Bringing Wilson in to face him and paying him peanuts to do so isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for the Team Quest fighter.
The career trajectory for Wilson is especially interesting when you consider that he left the IFL solely because he thought he could make more money as a free agent. In his first year out he fought only twice for Bodog, and garnered much less exposure than he had in the IFL. Now he’s making a big move to the UFC, one that could do wonders for his career if he goes on a winning streak there, but he’s making less money in the process.
The gamble Wilson is taking is very clear. He needs to beat Fitch in this high profile fight in order to garner his share of the spotlight in the UFC’s loaded welterweight division. If not, he drops to the rear of the pack, likely fighting on Ultimate Fight Night shows or untelevised pay-per-view bouts, duking it out with mid-level welterweights for a meager paycheck.
It’s a big risk, but that’s nothing new for Wilson. Now he just has to make it pay off.