Dana White's announcement that the UFC would be folding its little brother promotion World Extreme Cagefighting into the UFC should have come as no surprise to fans. Here at Bloody Elbow we've been covering the possibility of a merger for years now. I've personally been advising Dana to make this move for a long time.
This is a logical move for a number of reasons.
- The UFC needs more title fights to beef up weak cards.
Given its ambitious global expansion plans, the UFC is committed to running a lot of events. Those events need headliners. Whether they're domestic PPVs like UFC 119 (Frank Mir vs Mirko Filipovic) or international events like UFC 120 (Michael Bisping vs Yoshihiro Akiyama) they will only be enhanced by featuring a feather or bantamweight title fight on the top of the card. We'll see the first fruits of this strategy when Jose Aldo defends his FW title at UFC 125. That card desperately needed a co-main event with Shane Carwin dropping out. While Aldo isn't as big a name as Carwin, he's a fighter who's headlined a PPV that drew over 200,000 paying customers and one of the best pound for pound fighters in MMA.
- The lighterweight fighters deserve better pay days.
The economics of doing live weeknight shows on Versus for small television audiences in front of nominal live gates was brutal and it's been great fighters like Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo who've been suffering for it. The UFC has had a hard time convincing champs from the big 5 divisions to headline European cards. I don't expect that to be a problem with the Featherweight and Bantamweight champs for some time.
- Versus wants UFC , not WEC
The weak and getting weaker ratings for WEC on Versus are some of the strongest evidence out there that we've seen a UFC boom, not an MMA boom in the U.S. The two UFC events on Versus have dramatically outperformed the WEC. Now Versus can get more UFC programming.
The whole WEC deal was about getting more TV exposure for the UFC
The entire reason for acquiring the WEC was to lock up Versus and prevent a competitor from getting that cable exposure. Now that Spike TV is ok with the UFC being on Versus, there's no reason to keep the anemic WEC brand alive.
Everyone wins here. The WEC fighters will get the exposure and pay days their talent and hard work merits. The fans will get better UFC events. The UFC will have more options to fill out their fight cards in the U.S. and around the world, both PPVs and free events on Spike TV and Versus.
UPDATE: MMA Fighting has a great history of the WEC. Some highlights:
June 30, 2001 -- Answering a call from the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino (then the The Palace Indian Gaming Center) in Lemoore, Calif. for MMA events at the venue, Scott Adams and Reed Harris start up World Extreme Cagefighting and the first event is headlined by Dan Severn vs. Travis Fulton. Leonard Garcia, who has stayed with the WEC until the end, is in the second fight of the night and wins by knockout.
March 27, 2003 -- At WEC 6, the WEC promotes its most publicized show to date, setting the stage for the return of Frank Shamrock after a three-year absence. It was Shamrock's first fight in the States since "retiring" as UFC champion in 1999. In the main event of Return of a Legend, Shamrock defeats Bryan Pardoe to become the first-ever WEC light heavyweight champion. After the fight, Shamrock would take another three years off until his full-time return with Strikeforce in 2006. On the same card, Nick Diaz makes his one appearance for the WEC, beating Joe Hurley to become the first-ever WEC welterweight champion.
Jan. 20, 2007 - At WEC 25, Zuffa held its first WEC event that saw "Razor" Rob McCullough winning the vacant WEC lightweight title against Kit Cope and Urijah Faber making a successful featherweight title defense against Joe Pearson.
June 3, 2007 -- Fights off the first three Zuffa-owned WEC events aired taped on Versus, but beginning with WEC 28, WEC events become televised live. Faber, who would become the WEC's biggest star, headlines his first WEC on Versus event
"I'm very excited. Now the major goal is to go over there wearing a belt," (WEC Lightweight Champ Benson) Henderson said. "To be the best and make that claim, you've gotta beat the best. I want to take that one step further and beat not only the best, but everyone so there's no doubt."
Cagewriter broke the news to bantamweight Scott Jorgensen, who will fight Dominick Cruz for the title in December, and lightweight Anthony Njokuani, who will battle Edward Faaloloto in November.
"I think I'm going to be a UFC champion come January 1! I didn't even know what happened, I was asleep. I had a missed call from my manager and a text from you," Jorgensen told Cagewriter. He also said that he is looking forward to being exposed to a whole new audience, who will love his style of fighting.
"I don't put on dull fights. The fact that we're on the UFC stage means that I get to show more people how exciting and how tough I really am. Every UFC fan that wasn't a WEC fan will become my fan now."