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What impact will the UFC-WEC merger have on creating a Flyweight division?

By Zach Arnold | November 1, 2010

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From Jordan Breen’s radio show last Thursday, first a passage about the impact of the UFC-WEC merger on the proposed 125-pound Flyweight division:

“Well, obviously, I think you’re still probably looking, you know, a year away or something like that. Before you add another division, because let’s say, OK, how many events has Zuffa had this year? OK, let’s say, OK, let’s say hypothetically next year Zuffa’s going to run 35 events. That seems too ambitious. Let’s just say 30. 30’s really round, I can do math with that better. Let’s say that they’re going to do 30 events and all of them are going to have 12 fights. So, that’s what, 360 fights? 360 fights, yeah, so 360 fights divided over, you know, the 7 weight classes, that’s about 50, 52 things per fight and then you add in another weight class entirely and you divide it by 8 instead and you’re dealing with, you know, you’re basically dropping 7-8 fights per weight class per year and that’s not too, too great.

So, um… I think it’ll be a little while longer and really it can be because the really smart thing that I think happened for 125 is Zuffa gets to kind of make everyone else do their bidding because simply by announcing, hey, at some point in the future we’re going to have a 125-pound division, now people care about 125. You see it all the time. I see people look at events and go, ‘hey like these guys are fighting at 125, could these guys fight in WEC or UFC?’ And I go, yeah, and they go, ‘well, I’m going to watch!” knowing that these are the kind of guys that you’re going to see in the near future. So, they have much more robust opportunity to allow regional promoters to do their work and, you know, put the elbow grease in there while basically they kind of promote the division by going, hey, eventually we’ll have these guys so, in the mean time, go watch them in other promotions. So, that kind of helps and we get to now see the cream start to the rise to the top. We haven’t had a whole lot of international crossover at 125, we’re starting to get a little bit of it, so I think it’ll be a while yet especially with this [moment] not necessarily having another platform to accommodate the amount of fights that they will now be putting on, so I think it’ll delay it a bit more but, um… I don’t necessarily think that it’s a bad thing.

I know people want 125’ers RIGHT THIS SECOND and want them all to be able to make great money, and I would too, but I think at this point in time it makes a bit more sense for Zuffa to stand away, let these regional promoters do their thing, put together match-ups, and get a sense of who the better guys are. Of course it’s difficult, too, because we know there are guys already in WEC who could be more competitive at 125 than 135. Joseph Benavidez, Charlie Valencia, Demetrius Johnson… but they will get their moment in the sun as well.”

Next, a passage about what the merger means for more fights being shifted towards pay television:

“Not all is rosy. Brent from Rhode Island writes in: ‘Now the 125 pound division will be delayed even further. Also, the chances of seeing fighters like Jose Aldo on free cards, NO CHANCE, piracy aside.’

And, yeah, that’s sad. But then again, that’s the point. That’s part of why it was done. They know that if the casual public gets to see a guy like Jose Aldo go all the time and turn in the kind of performances he did against Cub Swanson, against Urijah Faber, against Manny Gamburyan, people are going to pay to see it. No question about that. People crave that level of excitement that 135 pounders and 145 pounders routinely turn in. Why would they ever not want that on PPV? So, yeah. It does kind of stink that, you know, if you’re someone who is on a bit of a budget, maybe you’re not going to be able to see absolutely every single card that you would have seen from WEC, but again, that’s kind of the point.

They want to turn guys like Aldo into moneymaking commodities, which they aren’t now. Jose Aldo, if he puts together a strong of really great title defenses, with the UFC machine working, the UFC tag, getting UFC-level media to come and cover him, who knows how big of a star he becomes? Is he ever going to be Brock Lesnar? No. But what’s to say he can’t be a guy who draws 500,000 PPV buys rock-solid every three or four months?”

Here’s a video of Urijah Faber on CSN Bay Area last Friday talking about his upcoming fight with Takeya Mizugaki and the UFC-WEC merger.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, WEC, Zach Arnold | 20 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

20 Responses to “What impact will the UFC-WEC merger have on creating a Flyweight division?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) The only chance the Flyweight Division had of being created now was if the UFC merged the WEC Lightweight Division into the UFC…. Kept the WEC afloat, and then added Flyweight to make up for the lost division.

    2) Now is not the time for Flyweight. It does stink for the guys like Benevidez, but such is life. The UFC needs 1 or 2 full years with 7 divisions, get all the kinks out (because there will be a few), and then go for the 8th and last division.

    3) I could be wrong, but I think with 7 or 8 UFC Divisions, the chances of seeing a free Title Fight has now just increased. If they get on Network Television, it is basically a guarantee. Even without it, they could still put the least attractive title fights on free television. A Bantamweight Title Fight without Urijah Faber would be a perfect example.

  2. mr. roadblock says:

    125lb guys should cut 7lbs and learn how to ride horses. They’ll make more money.

    • edub says:

      Funny thing is that there are 5 more divisions under that in boxing…

      • mr. roadblock says:

        I know. You never see them on TV here. Because there is no interest in it.

        They’re popular in Asia and make money there. And they make some money in Mexico and South America. It’s non-germane to the discussion of 125lbs in UFC.

        • edub says:


          It’s just funny when people think the 135ers are too small to take seriously in MMA, and then there is like 10 divisions under that in boxing. Two of the most beloved fighters of this past generation where hardcore boxing fans are concerned are Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales. Neither ever fought above 130 (before comebacks) and both had most of their fights under 126.

          I personally love the smaller guys’ fights, but to sell on a UFC/PPV level a breakout star is gonna need to emerge.

        • Depends on the guy. Darchinyan sells tickets. God knows Carbajal did. In general though, I don’t disagree with your premise.

        • edub says:

          “Little Hands Of Stone”!

    • MK says:

      If the UFC wants to expand around the world then why would they want to limit the talent pool? There have been plenty of 118+ (in some cases lower too) boxers that have generated millions of dollars.

      • edub says:

        That’s actually a great point but I think it speaks to the differences in casual MMA fans and boxing fans.

        Most of the money that you speak of for the smaller guys IMO has come from a small amound of fighters. Most of that handful of fighters is either Latino or Asian. Does that mean there has to break out stars from those origins to make money?

      • If the UFC was willing to throw around real money on guys in the 115lb range, boxing’s lower weight classes would be empty within 5 years. No doubt in my mind. Women’s MMA has already done a number on women’s boxing. They would have the same effect.

  3. Chromium says:

    It’s going to take the UFC a good year at least to fully acclimate people to the new divisions, so I don’t forsee Flyweights until some time in 2012. I remember the LW division took a while to take off when they added it back, although they didn’t already have a champion in that division like they do in 145 and 135.

    That being said, Flyweights will happen eventually. Dana White seems to be very adamant about expansion and the easiest way to do that without compromising the quality of competition is to add new divisions.

    As far as a breakout star goes, obviously some of you haven’t seen Rambaa Motherfucking “M-16” Somdet. Dude fights at 115 these days and has charisma to burn.

    It’s sad that it will probably take over three years for this to come to fruition, but it will still happen.

  4. edub says:

    “As far as a breakout star goes, obviously some of you haven’t seen Rambaa Motherfucking “M-16? Somdet”

    Only on Youtube man, but point taken. Dude is a beast.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    At the higher levels, both wrestling and BJJ only go down to 125 pounds. So if MMA ever tries to expand below Flyweight, we aren’t going to see many high level grapplers.

    For the UFC specifically, I can’t see them ever going below Flyweight. They risk looking like boxing where there are too many title belts. Even if they are unique weights, at some point you have to draw a line in the sand and say anything below this weight just don’t have a place in the sport.

    Not to mention that many of the lower weight class fighters having eating disorders from trying to suck down to unnatural weight classes.

  6. robthom says:

    There just really isn’t the entertainment weight for tiny guys to eck out decs.

    They need to embody that tinyweight urgency and flash or its a wash.

    It might seem reckless, but thats always been the situation.
    In every arena.
    And they should be well aware of that by now.

  7. Steve4192 says:

    The 125 pound division is going to have to wait until Zuffa can secure another broadcast outlet. Right now they are maxed out in terms of the number of events they can hold on PPV, Spike & Versus. Their only choices are to cut down on the number of fights held in each division or to wait until they can expand their schedule. I suspect they are in no hurry and will wait for the latter rather than lopping off large chunks of their current roster.

    That fourth outlet might be premium cable, it might be broadcast network, it might be a cable sports channel, or it might be a proprietary UFC channel, but until Zuffa locks it down, their scheduling flexibility is pretty limited. I’d say 2012 is the absolute earliest we will see a UFC flyweight division, and 2013 or 2014 is more likely.

    • Chromium says:

      Actually if they told Spike they wanted to air an additional 10 shows next year on their network, Spike would be overjoyed. The UFC is the backbone of that network. Hell they might even raise the limit on the number of shows that can be aired elsewhere in exchange for that.

  8. cutch says:

    Doesn’t the Spike deal run out in 2011 anyway?

  9. BuddyRowe says:

    I am curious how the UFC-WEC merger will work out for some of their foreign prospects. The Mongolian Wolf was obviously placed in the WEC where he could develop against lesser competition and possibly in time make a run at a title. Now being absorbed into the UFC it will be much tougher to keep him developing while raising his profile.

    • Chromium says:

      I think there are enough soft-serve LWs in the UFC that they can give Tie Quan Zhang a couple more “easy” fights before he has to prove he’s more than a token (not enough info yet to prove whether he can at least be in the middle of the pack at LW but I’m leaning towards yes).

  10. Wolfgang says:

    I have a feeling the flyweight division may be ambiguously put off as “in the future” for a number of years. However, if other promotions start pushing the division, if the UFC made inroads to new markets where the division is popular, or if Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson and some of these guys start making waves with UFC fans, maybe that could change.


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