This past Saturday, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) staged their first pay-per-view event, live from Sacramento, California. The event was a huge success given the fact that the last few weeks had seen disappointing main events put on by the UFC, and all out chaos by Strikeforce on national television. The event sold for $44.95, which some people thought was a steep price given the cache of the organization and the fact that their fighters are nowhere near the UFC, so why should consumers pay UFC prices? What viewers got was a night full of exciting fights and remarkable performances that showcased fighters who are hungry to make a name for themselves. 150-200k pay-per-view purchases have been reported since the event aired, which I would think has to be considered a success in addition to a solid foundation to build off of. This event was different from past WEC events; however, and it also may have signaled a sign of things to come for the organization.
WEC was purchased by UFC parent company, Zuffa LLC in December of 2006. After the merger, the WEC quickly dissolved their heavier weight classes to focus on lighter weight classes. To the MMA fan, the WEC is a smaller version of the UFC with divisions such as Bantamweight, Flyweight, and Featherweight – with only lightweight as a cross-over division with the UFC. Speculation of a full merger with the UFC to absorb all of the weight classes has persisted since the purchase, but until this past weekend, it seemed unfounded.
This WEC event was widely marketed by the UFC and featured a slew of UFC staples to its broadcast to further tie the companies together. Missing was WEC signage and promotions, giving way to vague terminology such as “the organization” when referring to the WEC. UFC commentators, fighters, ring announcers, and prelims aired on Spike TV, the home of the UFC (Verus carries WEC events). All signs point to an eventual merger of the organizations, which I believe would give the UFC more flexibility in putting on more events, but I also think it makes it more difficult from a fight booking standpoint to accommodate all divisions and fighters as frequently as the UFC is used to.
There is a ton of talent in the WEC. As demonstrated Saturday, with the level of excitement in every fight, the lighter weight classes provide high energy bouts with seemingly no slowing down – exactly what the fans pay to see. UFC President, Dana White acted as the sole promoter of the event, and it is my belief that they have set themselves up quite nicely in building a name and reputation for the WEC before it is eventually folded into the UFC. If the merger of the WEC into the UFC were to happen, it would provide a greater opportunity for fighters as well as fighter managers and agents to have a better chance of getting a piece of the UFC pie with an increased talent pool. As of now, there is no timetable for something like this to happen, but I would look for a move to be made sooner rather than later, especially if the WEC continues to perform the way it has.
Click here to watch a video of Dana White discussing the WEC.
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