Eyes on the Prize: UFC Scoops up Jackson, WFA Fighters

By Josh Gross Dec 12, 2006
It was billed as the “ultimate” competitor. Yet in the end, the revamped World Fighting Alliance will be remembered as little more than a splattered bug on the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s broad windshield.

On Monday, as first reported by the Wrestling Observer, it was revealed the WFA had unloaded fighter contracts to the organization it intended to compete with head to head, thus completing a thin chapter on what mixed martial arts promoters should not do: overpay fighters, inflate revenue and pay-per-view estimates, and under-staff the front office.

During the short time WFA reappeared on the MMA landscape, the promotion repeatedly reminded anyone who would listen that it was home to Quinton Jackson (Pictures) and Lyoto Machida — fighters with little in common besides owning wins over UFC stars.

Less than 10 months after the WFA announced its return, Jackson and Machida now have a much larger and more secure roof over their heads. And instead of hearing about their accomplishments versus Chuck Liddell (Pictures) and Rich Franklin (Pictures), we may now actually get to see how they stack up at this moment against the current and former UFC champs.

Having recently added World Extreme Cagefighting to its promotional umbrella, Zuffa — apparently out of necessity as well as a desire to quash the WFA for good — jumped at the opportunity to expand its bursting fighter roster by about 30, adding some of the biggest names in the sport in the process.

How did it happen?

Spurred on by last Wednesday’s revelation that WFA CEO Jeremy Lappen was suing the company’s owners Ross Goodman and Louis Pallazo for breach of contract, the demise of the WFA was kick-started from idle to sixth gear.

Friday, two days after the WFA delivered letters to fighters in its stable informing them they remained bound to the company through “MMA Participation Agreements,” Lappen and the WFA settled for an undisclosed sum — a clear sign that something was in the works.

Before the weekend was over, Zuffa had capitalized and the WFA was officially dead.

Now what? Will every fighter whose contract was purchased by the UFC have a spot in the rapidly expanding fight organization? And what role could the WEC play in all this?

Several sources informed Sherdog.com that the UFC plans on deciding in the next day or two exactly which fighters it will keep, and moreover, what the Las Vegas-based organization will do with the ones they holdover.

An option being considered, one source said, could see the UFC split its new acquisitions between the UFC and WEC, which will likely be showcased on HBO presuming the long-anticipated deal gets done.

With the UFC committed to Spike TV, Zuffa is apparently planning on promoting WEC as a separate brand, and as such, it wouldn’t be entirely unexpected if several of the highly-regarded additions — Jackson, Machida, Jason Miller, Urijah Faber (Pictures), Heath Herring (Pictures), among others — end up fighting under the WEC banner.

The belief is White moved to purchase WFA properties to gain the rights to Jackson so he could promote a rematch with Chuck Liddell (Pictures), not to mention prevent the selling of WFA contracts to Showtime and Pro Elite, which are set to hold a press conference Thursday in Los Angeles to announce plans for 2007.

Jackson’s contract, a one-year, three-fight deal that expires in March of ’07 (though there is an option for a second year), does guarantee the former PRIDE star a percentage of pay-per-view proceeds. In the case of Jackson’s lone WFA bout — a decision victory over Matt Lindland (Pictures) — his chunk of the pie was significantly smaller than expected, as one source with close ties to the now dead WFA front office told Sherdog.com the “King of the Streets” card pulled in fewer than 50,000 buys.

In the case of UFC stars such as Liddell, Tito Ortiz (Pictures) and Randy Couture (Pictures), pay-per-view-induced revenue has been extremely kind to their bank accounts. As such, there is speculation that the UFC could circumnavigate paying Jackson hundreds of thousands if not millions of additional dollars by placing “Rampage” on HBO-televised cards.

What that might do to a second Jackson-Liddell showdown is unknown, but it’s highly unlikely the fan-favorite light heavyweight would fight in Zuffa’s house without facing the “Iceman” in his first few tangles.

Other matches of intrigue were born out of Monday’s news as well, yet one man who will remain absent from the UFC, at least as a result of this deal, is Lindland.

The middleweight star informed Sherdog.com via e-mail Monday evening that he was not bound to the WFA in any capacity, and was therefore not among the group of fighters acquired by the UFC.

Much remains to surface in the wake of Zuffa’s quick purchase of the WFA. However, White and company must feel good about themselves knowing another big-talking challenger crashed and burned, and a year’s worth of quality fights have fallen into their laps.
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