It appears Zuffa pulled a rabbit out of their hat with WEC 48 Aldo vs. Faber after all.
When it was first announced that WEC 48 would be the organization’s first-ever pay-per-view, no one gave it much of a chance to pull respectable numbers. However, as the final weeks approached, Zuffa threw everyone a giant curveball. Not only did they replace the WEC crew with the “UFC pay-per-view team” to promote the card, they completely stripped the WEC of it’s brand identity. They say the latter was necessary because of television contracts, but it also put many casual fans under the impression that they were ordering/watching a UFC pay-per-view. I’ll let you guys debate whether that was intentional or not, but now that the early numbers are in, one thing is clear.
The Spike prelims show drew a million viewers (more viewers than nearly every WEC card has on Versus) with the help of an epic Griffin-Bonnar-esque slugfest in Garcia-Jung, and more importantly the pay-per-view buy rate was on par with Dana White’s targets.
According to sources in the cable industry, early estimates indicate that the show did between 150,000 and 200,000 buys on pay per view, a number that has to be considered a resounding success internally. Bryan Alvarez has the same report in today’s Figure Four Weekly (subscription only).
Assuming these estimates are at least somewhere in the ballpark of the final tally, you have to believe Zuffa considers this a major success.
With that established the next question is, what does it mean for the future of the WEC? Will we see more WEC Fighter A vs Fighter B pay-per-views down the line? Could it convince Dana and Co. to fold the lighter weight divisions into the UFC now that they know the little guys can sell pay-per-views? Or do they have something entirely different up their sleeves?
Update: For now, the WEC has five Versus cards scheduled through November, but based on the initial estimates, it sounds like there’s a good chance they’ll do another WEC pay-per-view down the line.
“We’ve got to take time and really look at it and hand-pick,” White said. “We’re doing so many pay-per-views, an boxing is going to do a few a year. You’ve got Vince (McMahon of the WWE) doing a bunch of pay-per-views a year. You have to pick and choose.
“We’ve got great partners with Versus and Comcast for the WEC. We know what we’re doing. We’ll do the right thing.”
White said there was no guarantee that the WEC would ever again host a pay-per-view event. But the executive suggested initial reports left little doubt that a second card would eventually be offered up for purchase.
“There would definitely be a number where we (wouldn’t do more pay-per-views),” White said. “But $1 million at the gate and the way it’s tracking right now, it’s not the night.”