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Man, I feel bad for all of the PRIDE guys who rely on fighting to make a living. Being stuck under contract to a company and not knowing when you’ll get a chance to make some more money must be nerve-wracking to say the least. Some of the guys are doing their best to keep busy: Little Nog and Jaochim Hansen are boxing in Europe, and Josh Barnett has gone back to pro wrestling.

It’s nice to see some of these guys staying active, but the reality of the situation is that the UFC has them by the balls. The lucky fighters are being transfered into the UFC and WEC. The less popular / less marketable fighters are stuck in limbo until the ‘New PRIDE’ starts (if it starts at all – word from Japan is that all DSE guys got pink slipped last week). And PRIDE’s roster of older / freakshow / oddity fighters are pretty much fucked.

A big question mark is what will happen to many of the unwanted PRIDE fighters if Zuffa chopshops PRIDE and dissolves the organization. Zuffa is not known for it’s bleeding heart approach to business, and it’s very likely that they will simply hold a fighter’s contract until it expires to keep them from fighting for anyone else. While it makes good business sense, it’s also pretty brutal on a personal level.

The ratings for the WEC are in and it’s a dose of reality:

The pre-recorded WrekCage show which came on at 8 p.m. ET drew a rating o 0.19 (189,000 viewers). The live two-hour telecast that began at 9 p.m. ET drew a 0.39 (416,000 viewers). The Tapout show at 11 p.m. ET recorded a 0.28 (286,000 viewers).

To give you some perspective, The Ultimate Fighter on Spike last week drew a 1.16 rating (1.6 million viewers). Also, the first game of the NHL Stanley Cup finals drew a 0.72 (523,000 viewers) on Versus.

One could make a joke about IFL Battleground doing better ratings (.7), but I have a suspicion that half their ‘viewers’ just leave MyNetworkTV on when they’re gone to keep their house from being robbed. It is kinda ironic that the WEC is now suffering from the same problem every other MMA org suffers from: the fact that the UFC is hot but MMA is not.

Personally I was expecting the show to break a .5 draw. Of course, MMA is my obsession and I buy into the hype like a 13 year old pro wrestling fan. However, the reality of the situation is that the WEC is not the UFC, and everyone still remembers that Versus is just a rebrand of the shitty Outdoor Life Network. Of course, it’s wasn’t so long ago that SpikeTV was known as the Nashville Network, so this could be the first step towards bigger things for the network. It’s also easy to forget that the UFC didn’t really push their little brother very hard. If Zuffa isn’t happy with the way ratings are progressing for the WEC, they have the resources to really shove the product down everyone’s throat.

Anyways, with the positive reaction from the fans and press alike I’m sure the WEC will continue to grow. If my theory is correct, the league will have an influx of talent over the next 3 months which result in slightly more compelling matchups than Faber vs Farrar (fuck you Faber).

The world’s happiest punching bag, Leonard Garcia, is gonna be fighting at the TUF5 finale. This is another smart move for the UFC, who have finally started stacking their TV cards with lesser known but more exciting fighters. As I mentioned in the Stout-Fisher post, this is the best way to make new fans out of casual viewers.

Karo better get used to not being the Welterweight champion, because I don’t see it happening anytime soon. MMAWeekly has an article on Karo and it has this sad hopeful paragraph:

With the win over Burkman, Parisyan has to be in title contention. At the post fight press conference, White eluded to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra having their fight in late fall, which means that if Karo were to get a title shot, it wouldn’t be until 2008. “He didn’t say no and he didn’t say yes, but I have a feeling I’m gonna have another fight before a title shot.”

Hah, try two fights at least. Dana’s got a boner for Georges St Pierre, and if he doesn’t just give the winner of GSP/Koscheck the next title shot (which is the big rumour at the moment) then he’ll make Karo fight the winner. That’s good news for fans but bad news for Karo since GSP has already beaten him once. A second loss to GSP and Parisyan will be stuck without a title shot so long as Georges holds the belt. Remember Andrei Arlovski’s position after losing twice to Tim Sylvia? Well, it’ll be like that except replace Tim with someone who doesn’t suck.

With word of Paulo Filho and Jens Pulver going to the WEC, I think it’s time for us to take a few seconds and review what’s happening. The original word from Zuffa was that the WEC would be a ‘competing organization’, on even tread with the UFC. We all smiled and nodded and waited for the WEC to become Zuffa’s farm league. When the UFC sent Joe Riggs to the WEC, I took it as proof that the WEC was where fighters got sent when they couldn’t make it in the big leagues. But now I’m not so sure any more.

It’s still too soon to tell what the fuck Zuffa is doing, but they’re certainly doing something. Moving Jens Pulver to the WEC is good for Jens (because he’s a featherweight fighter anyways), it’s great for the WEC, but it’s not so good for the UFC. The UFC has invested heavily in Jens, giving him the spotlight in this season’s Ultimate Fighter. While the LW division is definately one of the most exciting divisions at the moment, it’s also a total clusterfuck with no established contender list. Past Sean Sherk, Jens Pulver is the only guy with any kind of name outside of the hardcore fan base. So what the hell are they doing giving away one of their best known fighters to the WEC? What is the plan?

My bet is this is all the result of the PRIDE deal going sour. Now that the UFC only has 2 organizations instead of 3, we’re seeing a redistribution of talent across the UFC and WEC. Many Pride fighters will come into the WEC to get some cage seasoning and popularity. I also think you’ll be seeing more UFC fighters switched to the WEC. There’s already ‘contender traffic-jams’ in the UFC’s welterweight and heavyweight division, so it makes sense to even out the talent pool for now.

Do I think it’ll stay like this very long? No. The big issue right now is the influx of talent from other organizations. Once things have been rolling for a year, proper rankings will re-emerge and I think you’ll see the WEC settle into the role of establishing and promoting new talent. Eventually I doubt you’ll ever see a fighter in the UFC who hasn’t gone through the WEC.

Anyways, this is all speculation on my part but it makes sense in my mind. I’d love to hear what you guys think they’re doing, so comment away!

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