While it has been rumored for some time, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports has confirmed that Zuffa has formally decided to fold the 185 lbs. and 205 lbs. divisions in its World Extreme Cagefighting brand.
Despite the news, there is still no official timetable as to when the WEC will eliminate its middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, as the company is promoting a major middleweight title defense by current champion Paulo Filho against Chael Sonnen on its upcoming Sept. 10 show in Hollywood, Fla.
Once the two divisions are folded, top names such as Filho, former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann, and former NCAA champions Mark Munoz and Jake Rosholt will no doubt cross over into the UFC. However, it appears as though many fringe fighters currently occupying spots in those divisions for the WEC could find themselves looking for a new company to fight for.
In recent months there had also been rumors about the long-term survival of the WEC and whether the entire fight promotion would be merged into the UFC, however, UFC President Dana White stated that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
“…I can tell you this: It’s not going to go down,” White is quoted.
Another report that had surfaced recently was that the WEC’s television partner, VERSUS, had extended its contract with the promotion and increased the number of events it planned to televise next year. As of now, 10 cards could be televised in 2009 but that could change, especially since, as Iole points out, the number of fighters that will be available to the WEC will decrease by thirty-three percent.
However, where there is a will, there’s a way. If the WEC wants to hold more shows next year, it can do it if Zuffa is willing to invest even more money than it already has. The obvious solution would be for the company to go out and sign even more talent in the welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, and bantamweight divisions. As many great lighter weight fighters that the WEC already has under contract, there are plenty more out there just waiting for a chance to fight on a major platform.
There are also two other options that I believe the WEC should consider.
First, the possibility of adding a flyweight (125 lbs.) division might not be a bad idea. A lot of people might not want to see fighters that small competing, but there were a lot of people who at one time felt that there was no need for MMA to foster bantamweight and featherweight divisions in the United States. If there are good fighters that compete at 125 lbs., then they deserve a shot to compete on the big stage as well.
The other idea is one that has little chance of happening, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. While White has been cool to the idea of female MMA, I still believe it would be a great fit for the WEC’s brand concept. The WEC employs a purist philosophy when it comes to the fight game and aims to present the best fighters to the general public without any gimmicks or over-the-top marketing.
There are a lot of great female fighters still not signed to the AFL or EliteXC and with Zuffa’s resources, they could build an amazing female fight division over time. Yes, White doesn’t want to see females fighting, but a lot of people do and by adding a female division to the WEC, Zuffa could support it without promoting it under the UFC banner.
The bottom line is that if the WEC wants to do 10 shows next year while still cutting its 205 and 185 lbs. divisions, it’s going to need more fighters.