Urijah Faber. Photo property of World Extreme Cagefighting.
World Extreme Cagefighting has been rumored to be eventually transitioning to holding pay-per-view events in the near future for quite a while now. The change is inevitable, but even after two successful years of promoting shows, questions still remain concerning whether or not it would be a smart decision for Zuffa to go forward with their plan.
Can the WEC actually be a success on PPV? Paul Kocoras wonders:
Initially, it appears that the headwinds faced by the WEC in its move to pay-per-view are just too strong for it to have anywhere near the success of UFC. But is this really a good yardstick? Probably not, as gate revenue and sponsorship alone is likely enough to support much of the lower cost structure of WEC. Even Zuffa is not immune to the hurdles of MMA promotion and cannot instantly replicate UFC’s success.
Most likely, Zuffa will not be overly worried about the initial buy rates. The WEC is a growth engine, and essentially a first-mover claim on the potential that is lower-weight MMA. If Zuffa is correct, and MMA continues its impressive growth pattern, it only makes sense to stake their claim on the premium product in featherweight and bantamweight MMA, and begin charging for it as such. Whether it becomes a UFC-level cash machine seems doubtful at the present, and almost entirely swings on the fans’ acceptance of smaller fighters and MMA growth in the Latin American market. To deny its long-term potential would be foolish, and Zuffa will be ready with a pay-per-view product should those headwinds reverse to tailwinds.
The jury is still out on whether or not the WEC can do well on PPV, even in my own head. At the moment, I think it’s doubtful that the WEC will achieve anywhere near the success that the UFC does in terms of buyrates. I don’t give the WEC very good chances of breaking the grasp that the UFC brand name has on the sport right now, even if they do feature different weight classes.
The hardcore fans will always be there, but it’s the casual fan that is going to make or break the WEC for Zuffa. I have a good amount of friends that I would consider “casual fans”. Do they know when the next UFC is going to be? You bet. The next WEC on Versus? Not so much…
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