Judging by fights alone -- since we don't know pay-per-view numbers -- Saturday night's fights were a success. The card had everything: quick submissions, a shocking knockout, a slugfest that while not technically sound will be remembered, and a gutty performance by a beloved veteran. The only thing missing? The WEC.
The words "World Extreme Cagefighting" were nowhere to be found on Saturday night, except for the championship belts that were awarded to Ben Henderson and Jose Aldo. At right, you can see Dominick Cruz and Brian Bowles face off at WEC 47, and see that the WEC brand is on the announcer's microphone, the fighters' gloves, and the crossbar of the cage. Those same logos weren't present at Saturday night's bout. Even the WEC girls were treated to new uniforms devoid of the familiar WEC blue and the letters "WEC."
Not only that, but the UFC pay-per-view team was in place for these fights. Commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg led the broadcast while Bruce Buffer did the cage announcing. What was the reason for this odd, unbranded broadcast?
According to White, Spike TV.
"[The WEC and UFC] are two different brands on two different networks," White said. "Even though they're owned by the same company, they're two different brands owned by the same company. The networks aren't going to let us do it."
With the generically titled "Aldo vs. Faber" tag, White was able to lean on his full range of broadcast partners.
"Whenever you promote a pay-per-view, you don't want to limit yourself. WEC is on Versus. UFC is on Spike TV. We went with no branding for this one, and we got as much promotion as we could."
That makes sense for the markers of the promotion that would be visible on Spike's broadcast of preliminary fights. But the weirdness continued throughout the pay-per-view when the Spike broadcast was over.
Jose Aldo's title was referred to as the "world featherweight title." Ben Henderson's championship was called "the world lightweight belt," which must have come as a shock to UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
The problem with this is that Saturday night was the WEC's biggest night, and they weren't allowed to take a bow. Though they're owned by the same company as the UFC, they've always been seen as the little brother promotion. They were known to offer exciting cards, but never brought in the viewers en masse like the UFC.
How will this help build their brand over the long run? The WEC has the building blocks in place to be a success. Hopefully, they'll be given the chance to succeed without having their big brother shove them out of the spotlight again.