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.”
“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).