The reaction from the MMA world about the UFC-WEC merger has been positive across the board from fighters to fans to managers. The exposure and popularity of the 145-pound and 135-pound divisions will give fighters a chance to earn more money, be seen by more people, and realize the dream of competing in the UFC.
For the fighters, the move means starting Jan. 1, 2011, they will be fighting in the UFC and some fans may get to see the lighter weight classes for the first time ever. Fighters like Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen, and Joseph Benavidez will have the chance to become household names like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre.
Many of the managers working with much of the WEC roster already have other fighters competing in the UFC, but the merger brings the whole group together. There is a certain level of enthusiasm that everyone has about the move.
“Every one of them is excited,” said Mike Roberts of MMA Inc., conveying the thoughts of his team of fighters. “Of course the initial question for me was, ‘what does this mean for me?’ and I said it means you’re going to the big show.”
Roberts, along with his partner Jeff Meyer, represent one of the largest sections of WEC talent with fighters like Faber, Benavidez, Jorgensen, Anthony Pettis, and Chad Mendes. He believes that the merger will create more opportunities, and that’s what everyone in the fight business wants.
“Well, there’s no disadvantage to having a lot of guys in the UFC,” said Roberts. “It’s a giant machine. The advantage is it’s a bigger group to get them out there and show what they can do, and get more eyes on them.”
Urijah Faber, who is currently ranked in the top part of the featherweight division and will soon make his bantamweight debut, has always wanted to be a part of the UFC at some point in his career. Now instead of jumping up to 155 pounds and fighting well above his weight, Faber will get to live his dream and fight on the biggest stage of MMA in a more natural weight class.
It’s a similar situation for every fighter making the move over from the WEC.
“Urijah’s always thought about it, even though he loved the WEC and it will always have a good place in his heart, he’s always dreamt of fighting in the UFC,” Roberts commented. “You don’t know a fighter out there that hasn’t dreamt of fighting in the UFC. If they say they haven’t, they’re lying.”
Alex Davis, who manages or co-manages several fighters in both the UFC and WEC, including former featherweight champion Mike Brown, says that the positives are right there for every fighter to take advantage of when the merger begins in 2011.
“That is a big positive for the guys that are under contract, that are doing well, yes it is definitely,” Davis responded when asked about the fighters making more money through the promotion, bonuses, and sponsorships. “UFC carries a lot more (weight) than the WEC in that sense of course.”
It can’t be denied however that there are certain reservations by managers about the growing roster of fighters headed to the UFC, with only so many slots to fill on any given fight card.
“I think at least in the beginning, let me narrow it down. For instance if we look at the 155-pound division, they’re going to have to cut people. Because now it’s a UFC division and Joe (Silva) already has a hard time keeping everybody in action as it is, now he’s going to have so many more people now. In that sense it’s going to narrow things down a bit,” Davis stated.
“The thing is now they’re going to have less events with more fighters. I do not think they’re going to increase fights per card because they already have a formula that works. I think in the beginning at least until the UFC manages to open up more markets and expands what they’re doing, I think it’s going to narrow down a little bit. They’re going to have to cut a lot of people, that’s my first worry.”
The WEC will still produce two more shows in 2010 before the final list of fighters moving over to the UFC is finalized. UFC president Dana White expressed that they were going along with business as usual as far as fighters moving over to the promotion, as well as how they will evaluate fighters with the end result being based on performance and wins and losses.
While the general feeling about the UFC-WEC merger is one of excitement, it can’t be ignored that there are some reservations. The only answer to any of those questions will come with time.