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Almost No One Is Happy to Be in the WEC…But That’s Okay

With the WEC’s next event just around the corner, media coverage has started to ramp up this week. As it does, the one thing that becomes increasingly clear is that the organization’s top fighters are mostly just pissed off that they aren’t in the UFC. USA Today wrote about the UFC’s uncertain attitude regarding the future of the promotion, including a quote from Marc Ratner that reflects what seems to the consensus opinion over at Zuffa:

“There is talk about having the heavier guys come on over (to UFC), and maybe anything under 145 (pounds, the featherweight limit) would be WEC and above 145 would be UFC,” says UFC vice president Marc Ratner. “It hasn’t been put into place yet.”

In the same article, Carlos Condit describes the UFC as “the big show” and says he hopes to move on up. Jamie Varner made similar comments to Sherdog, saying:

“I still got all the doubters out there, and that’s motivation to me,” Varner said. “All the people out there saying this guy in the UFC would beat you or this guy in Dream would kill you. I want to beat everyone that Zuffa puts in front of me and hopefully one day get my opportunity to fight a B.J. Penn and show the world what I’m made of.”

Ordinarily it would be a bad thing to have all your top fighters publicly stating their desire to go and fight somewhere else, but this only reinforces how smart it was of Zuffa to purchase the WEC and use them as a sort of minor league, as well as how dumb it would be to turn it into nothing but featherweights and bantamweights.

What I like about the WEC is that Zuffa has them available for free on a small cable station (Versus), but they still put on great fights between quality competitors. It’s a given that no one wants to stick around, much like minor league baseball. And just as there’s a very different, but still very real pleasure to watching minor league baseball, the same can be said of the WEC.

That’s why it would be a shame to see them turn it into nothing more than their repository for the lighter weight classes. That just privileges the larger fighters who would get to go to the big time simply because of their weight — Brian Stann, for example — while ignoring supremely talented guys like Urijah Faber.

I’d really like to see Zuffa go all the way with the minor-league format for the WEC. Keep all the weight classes, bring at least the top featherweights to the UFC, and make it a little more equitable across the board. That way people will really know what to think of the WEC. Instead of it being home to really great featherweights and lower, along with heavier guys who aren’t ready for the UFC, it could be all guys who aren’t ready for the UFC.

Imagine how much more fun it would be to watch guys mature in the WEC and then get called up to the UFC for their big chance. Not to mention, it’s much easier to promote them when you already own footage of their previous fights.

While they’re at it, maybe add a wacky mascot and some special theme events like “nickel beer night.” Just saying. It couldn’t hurt (yes it could).

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Bootylam!- August 4, 2008 at 7:32 pm
The UFC needs a minor league and WEC can be it. Taking the heavy classes to UFC is stupid.
ClownBaby- July 31, 2008 at 4:20 pm
Hey brad could you help me wit algorithms n shit?
Brad- July 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm
@ Genius?

I don't know about baseball because it's the most boring sport out there. But in Canada the minor league hockey teams get good exposure, sell out games and have TV deals. and yes people are buying the jerseys.

There is no reason that a minor league would not be marketable. People watch TUF don't they? Is that not like a mini minor league? As with anything, they just need to figure out how to market it and sell it. I'd venture to guess that putting it for free on TV would be one way to accomplish that. And that in turn would get people to buy the PPV when a fighter they have been following comes up.

There is a reason people already know who is going to go first in the draft next year before the season even starts. It's because real fans pay attention to the up and coming people as well.

So "Genius?", who's the genius now?
Anonymous- July 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm
@ Genius?

I don't know about baseball because it's the most boring sport out there. But in Canada the minor league hockey teams get good exposure, sell out games and have TV deals. and yes people are buying the jerseys.

There is no reason that a minor league would not be marketable. People watch TUF don't they? Is that not like a mini minor league? As with anything, they just need to figure out how to market it and sell it. I'd venture to guess that putting it for free on TV would be one way to accomplish that. And that in turn would get people to buy the PPV when a fighter they have been following comes up.

There is a reason people already know who is going to go first in the draft next year before the season even starts. It's because real fans pay attention to the up and coming people as well.

So "Genius?", who's the genius now?
steve- July 31, 2008 at 11:09 am
hey genius-

i see where you're coming from- stripping wec of all it's top guys would be bad for business IF zuffa didn't want to make it a 2 way street.
put faber on ppv, and take guys like burkman, or for that matter jardine if he keeps up his skid, and put them on versus. take the guys that have name recognition but aren't doing too well, and let them main event a free on tv deal. fans would tune in- for those that get versus in their area.
tully- July 31, 2008 at 10:54 am
yuh, its kinda obvious guys like filho and condit could compete in the ufc, ever since i found out wec and ufc are owned by the same people i have not understood why they are kept over there. they probably couldnt get the belt right now, but they are certainly better than some guys in the ufc. i can understand not adding a featherweight division because theres just not any depth and the only fights worthy of payper view would be faber beating up some chump (unless they brought yamamoto over to womp on him) so i could actually kind of see where they're coming from on just keeping the small guys over there, but at the same time an entire seperate orginazitaion for 2 divisions? really? come on now. i guess that would make featherweights and bantam weights "extreme" and everone else "ultimate". maybe then the new york times would call faber an extreme fighter. oh and why dont fighters bring out their own mascots? and cheerleaders? im surprised phil baroni hasnt done this already.
Genius?- July 31, 2008 at 6:34 am
Are you clowns serious?

This is a BUSINESS, WEC would lose $$$ across the board: ticket sales, ratings, merchandise, etc. all would hit ROCK BOTTOM if they lost their best fighters.

The MLB \ Minor League comparison is a JOKE...why would the UFC want to make WEC a minor league? Does anyone watch minor league baseball? Does anyone buy minor league team jerseys? Any minor league teams have a TV deal? Any minor league teams sell out events?

EXACTLY, WEC will never become the UFC minor league....plain and simple, it is BAD BUSINESS
Richard- July 31, 2008 at 3:19 am
When the UFC bought WEC they upgraded the production value of the shows and also the quality of fighters. Actually, the quality of fighters shot up tremendously (it used to be mostly local regional fighters and held at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore, CA -- anyone know where Poppies Martinez is these days? -- but now they have fighters from all around).
WEC fighters are more talented and polished than guys in small venues at county fairs or town auditoriums but maybe a little too raw for the UFC. It was smart for Zuffa to purchase the promotion but it's really dropped the ball in utilizing it as anything more than a "UFC Light." Guys like Urijah and Torres are world class animals, but their primes might be wasted without the chance to fight in Japan. As it stands now, is there any other American promotion with strong 145 and under fighters?
To sum it up, this is what I'd like to see happen: Condit get called up, the UFC create featherweight and bantamweight divisions and bring Faber/Torres up, and send down UFC fighters in losing slumps to the WEC. I'd also like to see Brian Stann fight more frequently in hopes he'll get a call up, too.
sved- July 31, 2008 at 3:06 am
Filho was the consensus favorite for the 2006 MW GP in Bushido before he came to WEC he won't compete against Spider Silva as he is friends w/ Andersen

but if his mental and emotional issues are taken care of he is as elite a 185lb #1 contender as any in the world

to be confused into thinking of the WEC as a Minor league means you haven't been watching the level of competition amongst the lighter weight classes

lets face it----the WEC is a TV deal

the UFC is the PPV deal

the recent IFL deal is a way to consolidate even more footage/fighter contracts under the ZUFFA name.

It will all come down to understanding the actual fighters in the end
Neal- July 31, 2008 at 12:18 am
Just run the UFC like the Premier league. Lose two or three fights and get kicked down to the WEC. Win a bunch of fights or the belt in the WEC and get moved up.
brocks lesnars mom- July 31, 2008 at 12:14 am
faber would destroy everyone in the ufc at any weight class...including brock lesnar
Payday- July 31, 2008 at 12:05 am
@ The Survivalist - exactly right. Start by sending Burkman down and calling Condit up.
Da FlyinHawaiian- July 30, 2008 at 11:33 pm
Varner's good, I'll give him that, but he would get smashed by BJ Penn or "a BJ Penn" as he stated. It's crazy how he wins the belt from Razor Rob, who fought like crap in that fight, and now he thinks he would kill Eddie Alvarez or BJ. Looks like the belt went to his head.
Aaron- July 30, 2008 at 11:25 pm
Everyone is right on point. WEC should be a place for the UFC to bring up fighters and the UFC should be the big show. Guys like Faber and Condit should be called up already. UFC should have a 145 weight class. Faber is just too good to ignore. Conversely, UFC fighters who go on a losing streak should be bumped down for a chance to regain their stride or get bumped out of the organization all together. I don't understand how some guys bypass the WEC altogether when they really don't belong. Varner needs another big win before he is ready to step up IMO.
The Survivalist- July 30, 2008 at 10:33 pm
I have always considered WEC a farm league to the UFC. THey should stick with that format. Bring top buys up to the UFC as stated above.. and perhaps bring losing streak fighters from the UFC down to the WEC to get back on a roll.

I like the WEC.. I would like to see Condit and Faber in the UFC tho!
Aaron from alaska- July 30, 2008 at 10:33 pm
@ Dex...100% correct, Urijah and Miguel are beasts
Dex- July 30, 2008 at 10:23 pm
If the fighter's egos could take it this would be a great idea. People like Condit definately deserve to fight top guys and test themselves while in their prime. Eveyone knows the WEC is the "Minor League" right now anyway, so making it sorta official shouldn't be a big deal

Moreover, people like Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres deserve the chance to headline UFC PPVs regardless of their weight.
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