World Extreme Cagefighting is building a strong niche. While the UFC fends off attempts from organizations like Strikeforce, Dream and Sengoku, WEC is happily moving along with little competition as the place to be for anyone from 125-145 pounds. Between Mike Brown, Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres, the promotion may have three of the top six fighters in the world, but do enough people know about these guys? MMA Junkie reported that Torres sounded a bit frustrated when he did a media roundtable back at UFC 96 and WEC's bantamweight champ reiterated the tone when he spoke with Versus.com, about a money ceiling in the lower weight classes. He mentioned moving to the UFC to fight at 155 pounds:
"I can dominate 135 for the rest of my career and be comfortable, or I can test myself and be out of my comfort zone and try to make more money. I think fighting at a higher weight class, there will be bigger purses, bigger paydays and more high-profile fights."
WEC's Co-General Manager Reed Harris told Cage Writer that Torres was simply speaking in hypotheticals:
"I talked to Miguel about that, and he said 'that's not really what I said.' In his fantasy league he'd like to fight this guy and that guy. He's happy where he's at. He loves WEC."
It sounds like a case of exposure and more money:
So, I am looking to do that in the future. To go to 145, I wouldn’t get a huge bump (in pay), but if I were to go to 155 and get a three-fight deal (in the UFC), I am sure I could get a huge increase in pay. And then (I can) always come down to 135 or 145.”
WEC was understandably freaked out when they heard one of their big tickets talking about the UFC and painting it as the big leagues. So now Harris' job is to bring in more name fighters from abroad, set up more superfights and simply raise the image of WEC. It can be done. We see how successful boxing is in the 126-154 range, so it's just a matter of time. Harris and WEC are also constantly working on changing the mindset of UFC 155ers who are outsized, telling guys it's okay to come down in weight. Jens Pulver and Leonard Garcia made the move and now Manny Gamburyan is doing the same.
Torres would probably be a little happier if he started making the kind of money top UFC stars are making. A jump from $100,000 a fight to $300,000 would probably quiet him a bit.