by Ken Pishna and Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Both the Wrestling Observer and numerous independent MMAWeekly.com sources have confirmed that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has purchased, or is in the final stages of purchasing, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
The Zuffa-owned WEC is expected to continue to hold shows under the WEC name and would use a UFC Octagon. Additionally, MMAWeekly has learned that WEC president Reed Harris and matchmaker Scott Adams are expected to remain with the company, and that the first WEC show to be produced under UFC ownership is an event tentatively planned for January 2007.
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.
According to Ron Kruck, a broadcaster at WEC events and producer/host of WEC Exposed on HDNet, “We [HDNet] are in ongoing talks with the WEC about renewing their contract, but at this point, nothing has been signed.”
So, it appears that the HDNet deal is up in the air at this point and that the UFC may already be seeking a different outlet for their latest product.
There is definitely a higher priority being put on the television production of WEC events. Christian Printup of the Tachi Palace recently stated on WEC.tv that at least 50% of the WEC shows in 2007 are moving to the Tachi Palace’s new indoor venue, even though it is somewhat smaller than the outdoor venue where most WEC events have been held. His reasoning: “The new capacity is 1,450, and the [indoor] venue is better designed for a television audience… the [outdoor venue] was 1,800 capacity.”
As previously reported by MMAWeekly, Zuffa co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta and president Dana White were sitting in the audience at WEC 24 on October 12th. Now, with the purchase of the WEC, it has become pretty clear why they were in attendance.