An in-depth talk with WEC General Manager Reed Harris

WEC General Manager Reed Harris was this week’s guest on Pro MMA Radio with host Larry Pepe. Harris started at the beginning, and talked about how the promotion got started. He talked about the growth of the company and the Zuffa acquisition, the decision to eliminate the higher weight classes, and much more.

It is a very interesting in-depth conversation with one of the most successful promoters in MMA but also one of the least talked about. Here are some of the highlights of Pro MMA Radio’s interview with Reed Harris:

Along with former partner Scott Adams, Reed Harris started the WEC in 1999, and today the organization is the number one MMA promotion in the world for the lighter weight classes.

Although the company was formed in 1999, it took them two years before they could find a place that would allow them to hold an event.

Harris, now General Manager of the WEC, started out training in martial arts and is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Harris said they never saw the UFC as their competitor. In fact, if the UFC had an upcoming event he would place UFC promotional cards on each of the seats at his events.

Even before being acquired by Zuffa, Harris’ logic was that the more successful the UFC was, the more successful his promotion would also be.

Zuffa acquired the WEC in 2006. UFC President Dana White called Harris up one day and said they wanted to purchase the WEC. Harris said it was a pretty easy deal to work out.

Harris was not originally in favor of getting rid of the higher weight classes. “Dana and Joe Silva told me they knew what they were doing, and obviously they do,” said Harris.

“The reason they eliminated it is because we just weren’t doing enough shows to support that many weight classes,” said Harris.

Harris said the key to a successful promotion is having depth in each weight class. Cutting out the higher weight classes allowed the WEC to step out of the shadow of the UFC. “I didn’t want to be UFC’s little sister,” said Harris.

Many people have wondered why Zuffa chose for the WEC to keep a lightweight division (155 lbs.) when the UFC also has a lightweight division. Harris gave their reasoning. “Because 155 is considered a lighter weight, and we want to have four divisions,” said Harris.

“We felt we could build four (divisions) with depth and maybe at fifty-five (155 lbs.) even compete with the UFC,” explained Harris.

The WEC will probably be starting a 125 lbs. division by the end of the year.

The WEC has a 26-foot cage. The UFC has a 30-foot cage.

Reed Harris still trains. He rolls with black belts. He is over fifty years of age, and said they don’t take it easy on him.

WEC is looking at going to Canada and Mexico.

Harris said at Zuffa, you jump in wherever you are needed, whether it is with UFC or WEC.

The WEC plans to hold at least ten events in 2010 and possibly twelve.

Recently there has been some debate over WEC fighter pay. Harris said, “I have never had a fighter leave me over money… What people don’t know is that there are undisclosed bonuses, et cetera.”

“If I could pay these guys a million bucks, I would do it,” said Harris.

In reference to the pay discrepancy between some of the fighters in the UFC compared to the WEC, Harris explained, “The UFC has a pay-per-view model that allows them to pay those kind of purses.”

According to Harris, the WEC is the number two organization in the world in terms of viewership.

Harris spoke about the WEC’s plans to hold pay-per-view events in the future. Their plan is to hold only a couple of pay-per-view events per year, and stack the cards to the extreme. The first one is planned for early 2010.

WEC 42 will take place on Sun., Aug. 9, 2009. The main event will feature a Bantamweight Title Fight between Brian Bowles vs. Miguel Torres. WEC 42 will air live on VERSUS.

I highly recommend listening to the entire interview with Reed Harris. It’s a great look at one of the most successful figures in professional mixed martial arts. Listen to Pro MMA Radio episode 56 at www.prommaradio.com.

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