Pep Talk Q&A: Counter-Programming and PPVs

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Do you think the UFC is going to put that event on to screw Strikeforce on the 17th? I don’t understand why Dana has to do that. I think it hurts the sport and the fans.

Johnny D.
North Dakota


We’ll know by the end of this week whether the UFC is going to put the rumored Fight Night event in Nashville on the same night Strikeforce holds its event in the same city. According to Tennessee commission director Jeff Mullen, the UFC would have to file a permit request for the event by Thurs., March 18 in order to put an event on April 17. I do think that Dana was very serious about doing the event, but a rumored Kimbo vs. James Toney main event didn’t get made and a Swick/Serra co-main didn’t come off because Swick needs surgery and can’t fight. Given that much of the top talent in the UFC is booked on upcoming cards, it might be tough to put a short-notice card together that would wow fans and I doubt Dana would put out a lackluster card when countering Strikeforce. The only time the UFC actually did a true counter to another card was when Anderson Silva moved up to 205 for the first time and KO’d James Irvin opposite Affliction’s first card. Since then, all the countering has been the airing of UFC events that have already taken place.

I don’t have a big issue with countering events. As much as MMA is a viable sport, the reality is that it has a unique component that most other major sports don’t have…legitimate league or promotional competition. There is one NFL, NBA and MLB, and while the UFC is as close as we have to a “major league”, it is a business that will seek to beat the competition (WFA, Elite XC, IFL, Affliction and now Strikeforce) to hold and expand its market share. Additionally, regardless of intent, we are going to have many instances where MMA cards are going to overlap. For example, Strikeforce: Evolution and WEC 45 were both contested on December 19th. With the number of cards the UFC, WEC, Strikeforce and Bellator have planned in 2010, invest in a DVR if you don’t have one already.

WEC Gaining Ground?

Hey Larry, I got one for you this week. When looking around the landscape that is the MMA media, we’re starting to see a lot more WEC press mixed in with the UFC press, and although the last WEC event didn’t do so hot in viewership (part of the blame must go be put on this issue between Directv and the network) the media still was right on top of everything. The hype for that event was actually sort of high for a WEC event not including Uriah Faber. It’s undoubtable that the UFC is the bigger organization and has the bigger events, but as far a tallent and the quality of the fights, do you think WEC may be closing the gap between itself and the UFC, that organizations like Strikeforce and DREAM have been trying to do for so long?


It’s hard to compare talent when there are only three divisions in the WEC and five in the UFC, but I agree with you that the quality of the fights we see on WEC cards can hold their own against any out there. The fighters from 135-155 usually put on very fast paced fights and it doesn’t hurt that the cage is 4 feet smaller, making it harder to keep distance and forcing the fighters to stay more engaged. You also have to give credit to Sean Shelby, the WEC matchmaker, for making exciting fights. It’s not rocket science to match Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber and know that equals marketing gold and has Fight of the Year potential. However, matching often unknown talent is an art form that both he and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva often have down to a science.

Now that Versus is back on Direct TV, it will be interesting to see the numbers that WEC does as well as the result of their first upcoming PPV. (Without Direct TV, WEC 47 only pulled 373,000 viewers). I’d love to see Zuffa add a co-main event with two UFC fighters to boost the audience that much more and bring that much more exposure to the WEC brand and its fighters. I know that it is important to Zuffa to keep the two promotions completely separate, but using recognizable UFC talent to further build the audience would allow the WEC to grow that much faster and would seem to be a much more appealing option than all the clamoring we hear about folding the WEC into the UFC. And I’m sure Versus wouldn’t mind.


Please help us regular guys send a message to WEC to cease showing their fights on PPV! We don’t want to pay for these fights. Fans of MMA have been turning to VS for good cagefighting, and it should be kept that way. Many of us don’t have the funds for this, and if they continue to move their premier fights to PPV, a lot of people could lose interest.

Tulsa, Oklahoma


It’s always hard to start charging for something that you’ve been giving away for free, but I support the WEC’s decision to include Pay Per View as part of their business model. I had the opportunity to talk to company founder and GM Reed Harris on Pro MMA Radio about the issue and he was very clear that the WEC understands that when they do PPV’s the card has to be stacked. He also told me that the plan was to do possibly two in a year. If there was ever a time to test the PPV waters, it’s now with a title fight between the most popular fighter in WEC history, Urijah Faber, and the 2009 Fighter of the Year, 145 pound kingpin Jose Aldo. For me, that fight is in the top three announced Zuffa fights that I want to see this year along with Brock’s comeback and Rashad vs. Rampage.

Keep a few things in mind that should ease your mind a bit, Jack. The WEC has a very strong broadcast relationship with Versus and they are contractually bound to deliver a number of events to the network. If the WEC held back all their premier fights (as you seem concerned they will do), I’m sure that Versus would not be happy and I know the partnership is one of loyalty and respect on both sides. The other thing that strikes me is that I hear many fans complain that the lighter fighters in the WEC don’t make as much money as their bigger UFC counterparts. PPV has the potential to allow guys like Faber, Aldo, Cerrone and Henderson to make a lot more money if it is successful, so supporting a kick-ass PPV card here and there by pitching in with a few buddies seems reasonable.

Larry Pepe is the host of Pro MMA Radio.

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