Showtime kick shuts down WEC

December 16, 2010

Anthony “Showtime” Pettis dethroned the WEC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson tonight at WEC 53.  Living up to his nickname, Pettis walked the cage to kick Henderson directly in the face in the 5th Round of a tight contest.

The kick has gained immediate mainstream interest. Jim Rome has commented about it on twitter.  In fact, many on twitter have posted their reaction to Showtime’s move. ESPN will likely run the kick on Sportscenter again and again. It was on’s main page as a “Have You Seen” video. UPDATE:  It was No. 2 in Sportscenter’s plays of the night. J.R. Smith dunk was No. 1. (h/t Josh Gross via twitter)

Payout Perspective:

The highlight reel kick should be used in all UFC promos. There is no blood or bones breaking, just incredible skill. It rivals Rampage Jackson’s slam of Ricardo Arona in Pride as highlight fight endings.  Of course, Pettis’ kick came in the 5th Round of a title fight. For Pettis, this is a great way to introduce himself to the UFC fan base as he moves on to face the Maynard/Edgar winner. The promotion of a Pettis fight just got easier for the UFC. Unfortunately for Henderson, a great WEC career ended in disappointing fashion.

Report: MusclePharm to settle outstanding debt from WEC sponsorship

December 16, 2010

In the last days of its existence, a report has surfaced indicating that Musclepharm, the WEC’s official supplement company, owed the WEC $375,000 in sponsorship fees.

The WEC issued two invoices to MusclePharm  for a total of $500,000, and while  MusclePharm was only able to pay for half of the first one, they came up with none of the money for the second invoice.   The WEC sold the debt to a third party (Socius), and MusclePharm was forced to give them 7,800,000 shares of Common Stock, as they were unable to produce the necessaey (sic) capital to pay off the debt.

H/T: Anthony Roberts

An email to Musclepharm requesting comment was not returned.

Payout Perspective:

Since the debt was sold to a third party, the outstanding debt would not have carried over to the UFC after the merger. The report includes the first page of a pleading indicating an “Order Approving Stipulation for Settlement of Claim”. The lawsuit looks to be filed in Los Angeles and Socius is the plaintiff suing defendant MusclePharm. A hearing on the stipulation for the settlement appears to have taken place on December 8th. The Complaint was filed December 6th. I attempted to look up the lawsuit in Pacer but it was not yet in the system. We will continue to follow this story and try to track down the Complaint.

WEC prepares for last event ever

December 13, 2010

Heading into the final week of its existence, the WEC has planned several events to promote its final card to be held at the Arena in Glendale, Arizona. In addition, Versus will once again have pre- and post-fight shows.

Most of the pre-fight promotion has centered around Benson Henderson. Henderson, the WEC Lightweight Champion, is set to fight Anthony “Showtime” Pettis in his adopted hometown of Glendale, Arizona. According to the WEC teleconference last week, a rally will be held in Glendale Tuesday to honor Henderson. The NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes honored Henderson last week with an honorary jersey. Last month, he dropped the puck at a Coyotes game. In addition, open media workouts featuring Henderson, Pettis and the Bantamweight main eventers Scott Jorgenson and Dominick Cruz will take place at Henderson’s gym, the MMA Lab. Capitalizing on the exposure, Henderson’s gym is currently having an online twitter contest in which it is giving away Henderson merchandise.

Payout Perspective:

It is interesting to note that most of the events promoting the fight involve Henderson. Overshadowed by the fact that it is the WEC’s last show, the fans picked Glendale as the site for this event as part of the Hometown Takedown contest. Since Henderson lives and trains in Glendale, it makes sense to have him appear as the face of this card. However, it is somewhat odd that Pettis, Jorgenson or Cruz aren’t involve more in promoting the fight. The Henderson-Pettis fight will be important since the winner gets the next title shot at either Maynard or Edgar in the UFC. 

The Versus pre and post fight show should include lots of looking back at the WEC while looking ahead to the fighters moving on to the UFC.

On another note, I am surprised that the WEC/UFC have not provided a WEC retrospective leading up to the last WEC event. Perhaps this will happen before the end of the year, but I think it would be nice to have a tribute show to the best fights/fighters of the WEC in a “WEC Wreckage”.

Analyzing the WEC & UFC Merger: Its Effect On the MMA Landscape

November 18, 2010

Last week, the UFC announced they would be absorbing the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) promotion under the parent Zuffa banner, taking on new Lightweight fighters and adding the Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions to the promotion.

WEC Faber vs Pulver Banner

The WEC released the following statement detailing the merger:

“As the UFC continues to evolve and grow globally, we want to be able to give fans title fights in every weight division,” said White. “This is a big day for the sport and the athletes who will have the opportunity to fight on the biggest stage in the world.”

The two new divisions feature WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo who will now be recognized as the reigning UFC featherweight champion, and WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. White confirmed that the winner of the Dec. 16 lightweight title fight between WEC champion Ben Henderson and top contender Anthony Pettis live on VERSUS will take on the winner of the UFC 125 main event title bout between champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. This upcoming fight will serve as a UFC lightweight title unification bout to be held next year.

White also stated the UFC is expanding its presence on the VERSUS Network in 2011, and will increase its number of UFC events from two to four per year. Versus is scheduled to air the two remaining live WEC events in 2010 on Nov. 11 and Dec. 16. The Nov. 11 event in Las Vegas will feature “The California Kid” Urijah Faber’s debut at bantamweight as he takes on Takeya Mizugaki, while the Dec. 16 event in Glendale, Ariz. will feature Henderson-Pettis and a bantamweight title clash between Dominick Cruz and challenger Scott Jorgensen with the winner becoming the new UFC bantamweight champion

“We have a great relationship with the VERSUS network, and we look forward to working with them to give UFC fans even more free fights in 2011,” said White.

Last week, Strikeforce Lightweight fighter Josh Thomson sparked a hot debate between MMA fans and bloggers, stating that the only reason the merger was taking place was because the WEC failed as a promotion:

“They made it sound so great that a company went under. The simple fact of the matter was that the WEC failed and they put it with the UFC to carry it.”


MMAPayout has covered the potential merger between the WEC and UFC for quite some time, since speculation of the merger has been rumored and hinted by fighters in the past couple of years. During the process, we have raised quite a few questions in terms of what this means for the UFC and for the WEC. We will explore the merger in more detail and analyze how the move will impact the MMA landscape.


World Extreme Cagefighting, which was started by Scott Adams and Reed Harris in 2001, signed a deal with HDNet and joined their lineup in early 2004. Shortly after Zuffa purchased the WEC in December of 2006, Zuffa chose not to re-sign with HDNet and instead opted to sign with the newly revamped Versus Network (formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network).  This was around the same time when Zuffa also purchased the WFA (which brought over fighters such as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rob McCullough,  Heath Herring,  Lyoto Machida, and Urijah Faber).  Around the same time, Zuffa also purchased the Japanese promotion PRIDE, a move which proved to severely impact the future sate of the Japanese MMA scene and helped catapult the budding American organization into the next level.

The UFC’s initial intentions with the WEC were not known, but amidst heavy conversations with HBO to air MMA, the newly acquired promotion was rumored to be airing events on HBO since the UFC had a TV deal with Spike TV.  Regardless of where the WEC would land, at the time, the acquisitions the UFC were taking on not only benefited their own roster and brand, but it also impeded potential threats at the time (PRIDE, IFL, EliteXC) from getting TV deals from networks ready to jump on the MMA bandwagon.  MMAWeekly reported the details back in 2006:

The Observer reports that the UFC is buying the WEC for many reasons, one of which is to serve as a venue in which to groom up-and-coming talent, and another is so that they can attempt to secure a high-profile national television deal for the WEC in a strategic maneuver to impede the chances of other MMA promotions (specifically the IFL or Pride) to secure a national TV deal in the United States.

There are only so many TV deals available for an MMA company in the United States. If a TV deal could be secured for the WEC, Zuffa would have the UFC on Spike TV, perhaps the UFC on HBO at some point, and the WEC on another network besides HDNet.

If the UFC were able to secure a deal for the WEC, this would leave any other MMA company with very limited options in terms of securing their own TV deals, with no possibility of signing with Spike TV, HBO (assuming that the UFC is able to secure some sort of deal with the premium network), Showtime (because of their agreement with Pro Elite, Inc.), and the network that would sign the WEC.

Shortly after the WEC acquisition in 2006, MMAWeekly interviewed Kit Cope, who have his impressions as to what the fans could expect from the WEC acquisition:

According to Cope, “Apparently, the plan is to throw some superstars in the WEC… build the WEC up a little bit and kind of have a parallel [organization] with the WEC, so you can someday have an undisputed champion holding both the belts [WEC & UFC]. That’s my take on it.”

John Alessio gave his opinion a year later in an interview with ADCombat, reported back in late 2007, by BloodyElbow:

KM: If your contract is with WEC and you are on deck with UFC can you clarify the connection? I thought WEC were running independently.

JA: My contract is with Zuffa. I am considered a WEC fighter and they don’t like to cross paths like that, they are trying to build it up. What I was told is eventually the idea is build them up to where they are even with each other and have title unifications and stuff like that. We are still a year, maybe two years away.

After the acquisitions took place, it was clear to see that Zuffa  would use the recently purchased assets like the WFA and PRIDE not only to grow their two brands (WEC and UFC), but also to make it more difficult for current and future competitors from ever gaining any momentum in the North American marketplace.  The WEC held three events under the Zuffa banner before making their Versus debut with WEC 28 on June  3rd, 2007 from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where Urijah Faber headlined the event against Chance Farrar.

To put the current WEC ratings on Versus in perspective, WEC 28 in 2007 drew 416,000 viewers on a network that at the time was in less households than they are now.  The last two WEC events on Versus  at press time were reported to have garnered 570,000 (WEC 52) and 486,000 (WEC 51) viewers.  The chart below describes the viewership history


On December 2008, in order to differentiate the WEC product from the UFC (which at the time found itself competing against the UFC brand and causing confusion among MMA fans),  Zuffa dissolved the WEC Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, and later on the Welterweight divisions and merged them to the UFC roster, making the WEC the home of the lighter weight classes.  This move was indeed a strategic move to differentiate both products in the same marketplace, as Zuffa was starting to realize that the UFC brand power was affecting the WEC brand as a competing brand within the same umbrella, preventing the WEC from gaining any traction with the mainstream MMA fans or UFC only fans.


At this point, it was only a matter of time until the UFC and WEC were merged considering that the UFC started to televise their own events on Versus, only waiting on the WEC TV deal to expire in order to make the announcement. Not only did ratings start to dip after WEC 34, but the DirecTV carriage dispute on August of 2009 really hurt the brand, where millions of DirecTV fans were lost as the network went dark until March 15th, several weeks later.  Since then, the ratings on Versus dipped to some of their lowest ratings ever and only supported the claim that the promotion would not be able to last much longer.

Although the WEC served it’s purpose of preventing other MMA organizations to get TV deals (it was believed that the IFL was in negotiations to put on live MMA events on Versus) , the platform was also creating a ceiling for potential stars such as Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, and Jose Aldo.  The fact that the consensus among MMA fans was that the WEC hosted some of the most exciting shows in all of MMA for years, yet was not able to get better viewership and traction among MMA fans only shows the lack of brand strength both the WEC and Versus have.  It also shows how incredibly difficult it is for any MMA promotion outside of the UFC to be successful within the same MMA market.

Although the WEC was not able to meet the lofty expectations the UFC had for the promotion when it first acquired it, it will be vital for UFC’s future plans of increasing their brand presence world wide, tapping new markets, and trying to land a coveted TV deal. In the next few years, the UFC has ambitious plans to host events all around the world, specifically trying to build bridges to markets such as Brazil, China, and India in the near future.  At the same time, they don’t want to lower the quality of their events, so adding WEC fighters to events that would have little to no star power makes a ton of sense for them in that regard.


The UFC will be televising events on Spike TV and on Versus until the end of 2011, at that point, it is believed that the UFC will be looking to join a bigger television platform and possibly even creating their own channel.  By keeping deals with both Spike TV and Versus, he UFC maintains leverage and is well positioned to negotiate future TV deals it chooses to pursue, one being that Versus is owned by Comcast and is in the middle of acquiring NBC Universal.

A UFC event on NBC would be huge for all parties and it’s something we will definitely keep our eyes on, though it is safe to say that this is far from a done deal at this point.  We will examine the television landscape in a future MMA writeup.


– In January of 2008, WEC announced that they signed a deal with AMP Energy Drink to become its official energy drink.  This business move by the WEC was important for a few reasons.  One, it was able to attract a major sponsor who was not tied to their big brother the UFC.  Second, AMP Energy would now sponsor fighters under the promotion, which was much needed since the fighter pay under the WEC could not match the UFC’s pay scale.  Having two promotions under the same banner gave Zuffa the flexibility of signing separate TV deals (Spike TV and Versus), and in this case, was able to gain more sponsors and sponsorship money under the Zuffa banner which would otherwise be competing with other sponsors in the same market and be less likely to sign with the UFC. The WEC also announced a sponsorship deal with MusclePharm, which like AMP Energy, became huge sponsors and supporters of the promotion and fighters.

– In June 1st of 2008, WEC 34 aired on Versus and set the all time record for viewership for an MMA event, drawing 1.5 million viewers.  Since WEC 34, 18 WEC events and 2 UFC events have aired on Versus, and none have been able to top the viewership WEC 34 drew, thanks to the great marketing push by the UFC  and how likable Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver are. Jens Pulver had just previously been featured on TUF and had fought BJ Penn in a major UFC event before making his WEC debut.  In retrospect, this event will most likely be considered the peak of the promotion’s existence.

– In April 2010, the WEC held its first PPV event under the Zuffa banner, headlined by Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo.  The event was estimated to have done 150,000-200,000 PPV buys, which would make it the most successful PPV by an MMA organization other than the UFC in North America. The previous leader was the Affliction Banned event, which was said to have done  around 100,000 to 120,000 PPV buys.  Though the event was claimed a success internally, Dana White had previously made some statements that if the PPV fell short of 180,000 PPV buys, it would be considered “terrible”, probably taking into account that the UFC PPV floor baseline is 300K PPV buys. MMAJunkie had the interview with Dana White:

White said it would be “terrible” if Saturday’s pay-per-view buy rate did not double the numbers of April 3’s boxing match between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr., which reportedly drew 90,000 buys.

Though Dana White’s assessment may have fallen short, most MMA analyst and insiders agree that the WEC PPV was a success, though the feat wasn’t an easy one for the UFC to pull off and it did little to help the WEC brand since it was stripped from the event. In order to make the PPV a success, the UFC had to jump through quite a few hoops to make it work.  One strategic move, which clearly foreshadowed the future of the WEC, was to completely remove the WEC brand and production crew from the WEC PPV event since the plan was to televise some of the prelims on Spike TV.  Reed Harris was also left behind the scene as Dana White became the sole promoter for the event, which essentially made it a UFC PPV event using WEC fighters but without a promotional brand.


Merger PROS:

MMAPayout’s Kelsey Philpott wrote a great write-up exploring the benefits of the merger, which include :

– A return on Assets

– More Title Belts

– More Fighters, More Growth

– Television Appeal

– Attention for the Lighter Weights

– No More Consumer Confusion With Multiple Brands

– More Monetary Opportunities for Fighters

Merger CONS:

– The UFC now only has two TV deals that expire at the end of  the 2011 calendar year, which will put pressure on the promotion to strike a TV deal relatively soon or be forced to sign short extensions with either network again until a deal the UFC is comfortable with can be reached.

– The exciting WEC events are now gone where the spotlight was placed on the smaller weight classes.  In fact, the WEC fighters will now have to move on to a bigger cage which will give them more room to add to their fight strategy, not to mention the pressure of fighting in UFC events who are not afraid to cut fighters after a string of losses.  Smaller cages have always been said to create fast paced and exciting fights, so we will see how the WEC fighters transition to the bigger cage and into the spotlight.

– We can expect a good number of fighters to be cut within the first half of 2011.  With the UFC roster increasing now to around 270 fighters after the merger, we can expect around 20-40 fighters to be cut in the next 6-8 months.  Previously, the UFC has stated that it likes to keep its roster size to around 200 fighters.  With the added divisions, it is unsure if they will increase the preferred roster size to accommodate the new weight classes. The UFC has a set amount of PPV’s, which is maxed out for 2011, and a fixed number of Versus events (4), so there only way to adding more events would be to produce more fight night like events and give them away to the fans for free on Versus or Spike TV, which would be a plus but is not written in stone and was only presented as an option.  In 2010, the UFC ran 24 shows while the WEC ran 8, so we can expect that the UFC will add a few more shows in 2011 to accommodate the fighters it now has under its banner.

–  The amount of MMA content we get from Zuffa on Versus drops from 10 televised events (8 WEC and 2 UFC) to 4 events.  Losing six events where the lighter fighters would have been showcased will hurt those fighters that don’t yet have the star appeal to be showcased on UFC events.  In fact, we can estimate that about two to three 135lbs/145lbs will be used for each event, though we can expect the majority to be on prelims and not on the televised portion of the event unless they are stars like Aldo, Faber, or Torres, who will benefit greatly from the move. The UFC will have to add more shows to keep all their fighters busy.

–  Since the LW divisions overlap between the WEC and the UFC, we can expect a high number of lightweights to be cut in the next few months. This will crate a high influx of UFC vets filling other regional promotions.  I expect promotions like the MFC, Bellator, Shine Fights, and in cases where it makes sense Strikeforce to benefit greatly here.  We can already see fighters such as Patrick Cote, Gabriel Gonzaga, Rolles Gracie, Gilbert Yvel, Efrain Escudero, and other notable UFC fighters start to sign with other promotions.

– With every merger, I am sure we can expect an assessment on positions that overlap. Although, the UFC has said that they will take in every WEC employee, that is rarely the case.  Insiders have said that WEC match-maker Sean Shelby will still handle the match making among the lighter weight classes while Joe Silva continues to concentrate on the original UFC weight classes, though for figures like Reed Harris, it is unknown what his role will be in the UFC.  The WEC production crew and announcing team will be another group that will take hits, unless they start assigning different production crews for international events, which is a complex situation to manage. The fighters are the other party that will be worried about cuts from HW all the way down to BW’s, specially if we take into account the plans of adding a 125 lbs class as well.

– Overlapping personnel is not the only concern.  One question that is still up in the air is what happens to major WEC sponsors such as AMP Energy and MusclePharm? The UFC already has official sponsors such as BSN and Xyience, which the UFC brass heavily protects.  That was evident recently when GOOD4U Drinks was banned from the UFC, which upset UFC notable HW Shane Carwin and a few other fighters such as Patrick Cote and Matt Hamill, who were scheduled to be sponsored by the company for UFC 121 before the ban.

WEC 52 scores 2nd biggest draw of 2010: 570,000 viewers

November 17, 2010

WEC 52, held Nov. 11th, featuring Urijah Faber versus Takeya Mizugaki garnered a 0.57 household rating and an average audience of 570,000 viewers on Versus.

In addition to the household ratings and the average viewers, MMA Junkie reports that WEC 52 scored a 0.79 with men 18-49. Versus held pre and post fight shows in support of the second to the last WEC event.

Payout Perspective:

The numbers are impressive considering it was the same night as good NBA (Heat/Celtics) and NFL (Falcons/Ravens) games. If there is one thing that you could conclude when looking at the impressive rating is that Urijah Faber was the reason. He will be a  big draw in the UFC and should headline events. Faber is marketable (e.g., his commercials, shown during WEC 52, with Kenny Powers are hilarious) and showed he is a good fighter. It will be interesting to see which weight division he decides to fight in with the UFC.

Versus to show WEC 52 pre/post-fight shows

November 11, 2010

With the UFC/WEC merger, Versus affirmed its commitment to MMA with a pre and post-fight show for Thursday’s WEC event. The success of the coverage will depend if the UFC continues with these shows.

Versus, the exclusive home for the WEC, featured WEC live events and WEC Wreckage. Although things will change in 2011, Versus will air four UFC cards next year.

The additional coverage rivals that of other sports as it features pre-fight and post-fight analysis.

Via Cagewriter:

“The Daily Line,” a nightly show covering all sports, was canceled because the show never really gained traction with viewers. The hope is that the pre- and post-show will entice MMA viewers with a mix of interviews, highlights and fight discussions. UFC president Dana White and heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez are scheduled to appear on Thursday’s pre-show. The success of Thursday’s show will determine the future of the show.

“The Daily Line” used to be the unofficial wrap-up for WEC events but is no longer after being cancelled. MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, who appeared on “The Daily Line”, will host the WEC pre/post-fight coverage with Molly Qerim.

Payout Perspective:

Thursday’s pre and post fight coverage is a good measure as to how Versus will market its four UFC shows. The hope is that viewers will turn in to both as a way to get ready for the fights, watch the event and then listen to the winners, losers and analysis.

Although ESPN’s MMA Live already provides post-fight analysis for UFC PPVs, Versus could provide original content in its pre-fight and post-fight shows for December’s WEC event as well as the UFC events on Versus. I think it’s a good move by Versus to maintain its commitment to the UFC and remain an active partner. For its part, the UFC is helping this coverage succeed with appearances by White, Velasquez, Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson. Also the anticipated backstage access it will have at the event. With the expanded roster, Versus can remain a major ally for the UFC.

Versus Cancels “The Daily Line” Due to Low Ratings

November 2, 2010

Sports Business Daily reports that Versus has canceled “The Daily Line”, which covers MMA content on the network, due to low viewership.

Versus has cancelled its daily news show “The Daily Line” after just seven months. A network spokesperson confirmed the move, citing the show’s anemic ratings. Since its April debut, “The Daily Line” has averaged just 53,000 viewers for each live show. On Sept. 27, when the show was going against the Packers-Bears “MNF” game, it drew just 8,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The Daily Line was used for post-fight coverage of UFC and WEC events on Versus, typically using Ariel Helwani as the MMA expert on the panel to give his two cents.  The cancellation of the show also brings the end of  Jen Sterger’s affiliation with the network, who’s name has become well known recently due to the Brett Favre controversy dealing with inappropriate voice mails and photos.

In the past week, Versus has seen its MMA coverage and content drop significantly. Last week, the WEC and UFC announced a merger which included a new TV deal with Versus for 2011, but drops the amount of MMA events on the network from ten televised events in 2010 (8 WEC Shows + 2 UFC shows) to only 4 UFC events currently scheduled for 2011.  The deal also puts Versus in a tough spot in terms of airing MMA content after 2011 if the UFC decides to jump to another platform in 2012.

Smooth on Ice: Henderson to appear at NHL game to promote last WEC bout

October 30, 2010

WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson will make an appearance at Saturday night’s Tampa Bay Lightning versus Phoenix Coyotes NHL hockey game. According to a WEC press release (released prior to news of the UFC merger) he will drop the ceremonial pre-game puck as well as sign autographs.

Many MMA fighters have made appearances at other sporting events to promote the UFC. Most have thrown out first pitches at baseball games such as Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Rich Franklin and Jon Jones to name a few. Booking fighters to participate in pre-game festivities at mainstream sports is good for MMA. It creates visibility and credibility that MMA is a real sport. Henderson is an all-around nice guy and meeting with fans and signing autographs at an NHL game can change people’s perceptions of the sport and its fighters.

Payout Perspective:

Henderson’s appearance at the Coyote’s game makes sense since he trains in Glendale and the fight will take place at the Arena. The fact that Saturday may see an increase in attendance due to special Halloween activities prior to the game is also helpful in promoting the December 16thmatchup. 

 The appearance is bolstered even more by the news that Henderson will be appearing in the last WEC ever and winning his match against Pettis vaults him into a spot into a UFC championship match (and likely main event of a PPV). on Toronto Fan 590’s “The Showdown”

October 29, 2010’s Kelsey Philpott sat down with Toronto Fan 590 Radio’s Showdown Joe Ferraro on Thursday, October 28 to discuss the UFC-WEC merger and UFC 121. Be sure to give it a listen and also stay on to hear from the UFC’s latest Canadian signing, Sean Pierson.

UFC and WEC Set to Merge

October 28, 2010

Ariel Helwani of has just posted an interview with Dana White in which the UFC President has announced the UFC and WEC will be merging effective January 2011.

Payout Perspective:

This is a topic that I’ve covered almost ad nauseam over the last two years with articles like Exploring a Possible Merger and interviews with WEC GM Reed Harris (Part 1 and Part 2), because I felt it was truly important for the continued growth and development of MMA as a sport and the UFC in particular.

Below, I’ve done my best to distill exactly how the UFC will benefit from the merger and why it needed to happen:

1.) Return on Assets: The company is moving assets like Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo from the WEC platform that is maybe generating 2x to the UFC platform that is capable of generating 10x. I understand that the WEC was profitable, but the UFC will be more profitable using the WEC’s fighters and title belts than the WEC ever could have been.

2.) Title Belts: The UFC uses title fights as PPV anchors and a means to map out their event planning strategy 3-6 months ahead of time. It now has two additional belts to use which should help the company to better withstand injury streaks like those that hit its title holders in the Fall of 2009. And if you still question how much title fights mean to the UFC, I’ll simply say this: The UFC does nearly twice the number of PPV buys with an event  featuring a title fight than it does without a title fight.

3.) More Fighters, More Growth. If the UFC plans to continue increasing the number of events it hosts in a calendar year, it will need the added depth of two new divisions to avoid fight cards like UFC 122 that are more or less unremarkable in the mind of the casual consumer. It’s not just the title belts that count here, but also the two sets of highly skilled fighters and serious contenders that will be used to help better fill out every fight card that are also of material interest.

4.) Television Appeal. The new found depth may also prove valuable if/when the UFC signs a new television deal and agrees to further event commitments on any one of the big four networks.

5.) Attention for the Lighter Weights. This deal finally brings some much needed attention to the fast and furious fighters in the lower weight classes that are every bit as good as the men fighting in weight classes above them. The UFC will now give these guys like Faber and Aldo the mainstream attention they deserve. Moreover, the mainstream now has a better platform to discover just how exciting these guys really are and the UFC is surely to benefit from increased product quality as the result of this integration.

6.) No More Confusion. This merger presents an opportunity for Zuffa to present a single and consistent brand message to the consumer. There is no more confusion or double taking on account of an event that looks, feels, and sounds like something from the UFC but really isn’t (but maybe kind of is). It’s all called UFC from here on out. That consistent message will also help Zuffa to focus internally; there are no more divergent or competing goals between two different brands striving to use the limited resources of the same company.

Please excuse me for what you might believe to be hyperbole for this is not: today will prove to be a watershed moment for not only the UFC but MMA in general. That’s how big of a deal this is.


Edit: I imagine I might have several more thoughts on this today:

  • In thinking about the sponsorship situation I have to wonder what now happens with MusclePharm and AMP Energy. The UFC already has official sponsors in those categories; BSN doesn’t have exclusivity but I believe Xyience does (at least the latest GOOD4U ban would intimate that they do). Interesting. Keep an eye on this.

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