FanPost

The final word on the WEC.

Of all the things discussed during the aftermath of the UFC's deal with Fox, the one that I think was forgotten is how it affects the historical place of World Extreme Cagefighting. During the WEC's brief and generally ignored existence on Versus under the direction of Zuffa, it posted fairly lousy ratings (though good for the abject failure of a network that was Versus). It sold precious few tickets outside of Sacramento, California, had a moderately successful one off pay-per-view featuring all of its stars, and basically piggybacked off of sponsorship deals produced for its much more successful sister product, the UFC. While it provided many entertaining fights and changed the center of the lighterweight MMA universe from Japan to the US for the hardcore fans following them, the WEC was still scuttled at the end of 2010 and merged with the UFC.

Its very creation was an act by Zuffa to create its own market confusion by introducing its very own alphabet soup, much like the maligned duplication of championships in boxing. While some of the duplicate titles were eliminated when three weight classes were shifted entirely to the UFC, a duplicate title at 155lbs remained until the promotion's very last contest. Through this, it also created a second rate ghetto that perhaps had the similar effect of making the featherweight and bantamweight classes look completely inferior, and the lower pay than the UFC also prevented top lightweights from being willing to take the dive down in weight. Instead, the fighters who emerged from 155lbs to fight at 145 were generally aging names far from the elite such as Jens Pulver and Jeff Curran

When the promotion closed, a number of justifications were given for why it was created in the first place. Most often among them was the argument that it was to make the lighter weights "UFC ready" in terms of making them promote-able and generating interest. Instead, the lighter weights have been anything but heavily promoted since merger. Dominck Cruz has already been demoted from headlining PPVs to headlining shows on Versus (the UFC's second tier network partner) while most of the ranked competitors at the weight are fighting off their original WEC contracts in Facebook prelims seen by approximately 27 people (+/- 5 depending on the weekend). The upcoming TUF 14 season will likely do more in 3 months than the WEC did in 3 years. Another important thing to mention about that argument is that it is a false one to begin with - the WEC generally headlined only with Faber among it's little guys during the age when it had larger weight competitors, choosing instead to headline with future light heavyweight non-factors and drug addled middleweights.

By the middle of 2011, it was clear that the argument that the 135 and 145 lb classes were made better by their time in the WEC than they would have been by simply being plugged into the UFC disappeared. It was an impossible argument to make with the evidence surrounding it. A new narrative had to be created, and that narrative was that the WEC's existence was justified because it created a link to Comcast, and in turn, Comcast's purchase of NBC would put the UFC on network TV for them and take them to the promised land. Instead, a funny thing happened on the way to TV negotiations. Comcast attempted to pawn off an underachieving network to the UFC for a value exceeding their TV deal to make it happen. The UFC also saw their ratings on Versus hit the toilet, affecting their value on the open market when negotiating among networks. Ultimately, no deal was reached with NBC and when the UFC on Versus season concludes this winter, so will that relationship.

The ultimate conclusion when evaluating the WEC is that it achieved nothing. It lost money. Its only serious draw took important losses before he could even be properly cashed out by the promoter or himself. It didn't make the lighterweights any more ready for the UFC than they would have been had they just been inserted into the promotion instead of the WEC having been purchased and moved into the Hard Rock in Vegas. In fact, for the last couple of years of its existence, it did little more than retard the growth of those divisions and the earning potential of its fighters, Faber included. A couple of noteworthy lightweights were generated, but the same can be said about the IFL or Strikeforce or a lot of other ultimately failed promotions. It produced some great fights, but that can be said about Shooto, DEEP, the IFL, Strikeforce, Rumble on the Rock, and tons of other second rate promotions. Ultimately, it still flopped. What it did do is expend some money from Comcast and perhaps drive them out of MMA permanently. How that ends up being a winning situation for fans or fighters, I'm not sure.


\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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