World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) was an American mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion founded in 2001 by Scott Adams and Reed Harris.
The majority of their events were held at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California, and broadcast on HDNet between 2001 and 2006.
Zuffa/UFC Purchases WEC
On December 11, 2006, The UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, formalized plans to buy World Extreme Cagefighting, to be run as a separate promotion from the UFC.
Zuffa made several changes to the promotion after the purchase.
- They signed a deal to air events on Versus beginning with WEC 28, replacing the pervious deal with HDNet.
- It discontinued its pentagonal cage for a modified version of the UFC’s octagonal cage, with a 25-foot diameter instead of the UFC’s 30-foot diameter cage.
- The championships of fighters who were contracted UFC fighters were vacated.
- The promotion moved to focus on lighter weight classes, abandoning their heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions
After the purchase, several WEC events were held in Zuffa’s hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, much like the UFC.
The WEC carried on as a distinct promotion with its own fighter roster. Adams continued to serve as the organization’s matchmaker after the purchase. Harris and Adams, who were both involved in the new WEC, were named co-general managers. Sean Shelby was chosen by Zuffa in 2008 to serve as the promotion’s new matchmaker.
Due to its shared ownership under Zuffa, fans and commentators had continually speculated about a unification between the WEC and the UFC. On October 28, 2010, UFC President Dana White announced that WEC would merge with the UFC.
Announcers and Commentators
Prior to Frank Mir‘s replacement by Stephan Bonnar in the spring of 2010, Todd Harris served as the play-by-play announcer for every WEC event that was broadcast on Versus.
When Mir or Bonnar weren’t available, fellow UFC competitors Kenny Florian and Jens Pulver filled in.
In April 2010, WEC 48, the only pay-per-view event for the WEC, was broadcast with commentary by Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
Craig Hummer or Harris would typically conduct the post-fight interviews on the Versus-televised card.
Up until April 2010, when he left the company and was replaced by UFC announcer Bruce Buffer, Joe Martinez served as the announcer for WEC events that were promoted by Zuffa. Martinez did, however, make a special appearance at WEC 52 in November of that same year while Buffer was away for a UFC event.
Focusing on Lighter Weight Classes
WEC announced that it would dissolve its light heavyweight and middleweight divisions after the December 3, 2008 event to further its concentration on lighter classes.
Fighters from the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions started fighting in the UFC after the dissolution of their divisions.
On February 3, 2009, WEC also formally announced the dissolution of its welterweight division and the addition of a 125 lb (57 kg) flyweight division.
After their division was abolished, welterweight competitors began competing in the UFC.
Only the 155 lb (70 kg) lightweight division continued in both the WEC and the UFC.
Media Coverage and Pay-Per-View
On April 24, 2010, WEC held its only pay-per-view event, WEC 48, which featured two championship fights. The main event featured WEC Featherweight Champion José Aldo efending his title against former champion Urijah Faber.
While on Versus, most events aired mid-week, or on Sunday nights during the summer months. WEC drew good ratings that averaged around 575,000 average viewers per event. However, ratings ranged from 245,000 to 1,500,000.
The biggest ratings draw for WEC was Urijah Faber. When Faber was featured in the main event he drew an average of 840,000 viewers.