Lots of talk this week about the continued viability of Zuffa's World Extreme Cagefighting brand, a squatter promotion of sorts that takes up real estate on the Versus network and prohibits other promotions from gaining ground on cable television. As reported by MMAJunkie.com, Saturday's telecast drew 373,000 viewers -- 43,000 fewer than those who tuned in for the promotion's first Versus broadcast in June 2007. This is not what you would call growth.
The WEC has had its bright spots, most notably in highly touted fights featuring Urijah Faber that have exceeded the million-viewer mark. It's hoped that Faber's clear drawing power will help the WEC's first pay-per-view event on April 24, when he contests for the featherweight title against Jose Aldo. But while some people expect those financial numbers to be a good indication of the WEC's overall health, a better gauge might be the UFC's first broadcast on Versus on April 21. If it draws a bigger, better number than a typical WEC event on the same channel, the implication will be that the WEC isn't reaching its potential audience on the station. At that point, you would have to wonder whether Zuffa has simply done too good a job of making the UFC brand synonymous with MMA. Nike, after all, was originally going to go with a label of Blue Ribbon Sports. Logos matter.