UFC President Dana White and WEC General Manager Reed Harris have been asked repeatedly if the WEC was going to be absorbed by the UFC. The answer has consistently been “no.” The spoken desire has been to keep the UFC and WEC as totally separate entities. The WEC was going to focus exclusively on the lighter weight classes while the UFC focused on 155 and above. However, i don’t believe that the merger is not on the horizon. I think that all signs point to the UFC strategically planning to bring the WEC into the UFC. Let me point out a few reasons…
1. UFC’s Appearance on Versus – SPIKE has always been the exclusive home of live UFC cards and Fight Nights, however earlier this year the UFC aired a show on the VERSUS network and then a second show. Versus is the network home of the WEC and it seems odd that the big brother to the WEC would utilize VERSUS. I have to believe that it is an attempt for exposure to the casual fan. Now, UFC and WEC are synonymous in many people’s minds.
2. WEC’s Entrance Into Pay Per View – I think this may be this biggest indicator, The WEC put together a stellar card which aired on pay per view. However, the odd thing was that it was never marketed as a WEC event. You did not see the WEC logo anywhere. In fact, the show aired with the UFC logo. If there were long term plans for keeping the WEC brand I doubt that would’ve been the case.
3. Dana White’s Increased Presence in WEC – Previously, Dana White had seemed to delegate WEC management responsibilities to Reed Harris. However, the last few WEC shows have seemed to indicate that Dana White is more involved than before. Maybe I am all wet here, but just an observation.
4. The Failure to Create A Flyweight Division – It has been nearly two years ago that news came out of the WEC wanting to create a flyweight (125 lb.) division. Two years later and there is no progress. Perhaps that is because another division would be too much if the merger took place.
5. International Fighters Coming to WEC – The UFC has made a huge goal to expand into international markets. While the WEC certainly boasted some solid fighters from Brazil and Japan the WEC never seemed to make it a priority to expand outside North America. One signing in particular got my attention. The WEC recently signed Chinese lightweight Zhang Tie Quan. I found it interesting that he was in the WEC 155 and not the UFC 155. It is the UFC who has made huge strides in China. You would think it would be ideal to have a Chinese fighter on the UFC roster. Maybe over-thinking this one, but just another clue.
6. Average Ratings of WEC Shows – The MMA fan needs to know about the WEC. The WEC consistently puts on the most entertaining cards. However, the name “WEC” does not carry the weight of “UFC”. Really good WEC cards fail to even draw 500,000 viewers on Versus. I don’t think that Zuffa can continue to produce shows that do simply average ratings. I guarantee that a similar card as one of the WEC cards with a UFC name would draw nearly twice the audience.
I like the move in some ways. Here are the pros and cons…
PRO – WEC fighters would get better pay. Those guys deserve to be paid better. They make far less that their UFC counterparts. The move to UFC would produce more in salary and sponsorships.
CON – Over Saturation of the market. Not just over-saturation, but if you add 10 guys to the UFC lightweight roster and then create two new divisions where will the UFC find time to put the lighter guys on cards?
PRO – Unknown guys will become stars. Currently the only fighter that the casual fan may know of in the WEC is Urijah Faber. However, if the merger happened guys like Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz, Ben Henderson, and Mike Brown would become stars.
In other words, the move is advantageous for the fighters on the WEC roster, but maybe it creates too much headache for the Zuffa brass.