Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White recently opened the door to shuttering the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions of World Extreme Cagefighting, bolstering the UFC's 185-pound and 205-pound ranks with some of the displaced fighters. Strong speculation has even indicated that the switch could begin following WEC's Sept. 10, but the heads of both Zuffa-owned organizations have yet to confirm that.
The change brings rise to a pressing issue -- what is the fate of WEC middleweight champ Paulo Filho? As MMAWeekly.com's No. 2 ranked fighter in the middleweight division, he only has one man looking above him, that being longtime training partner and UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. In previous interviews, Silva has stated that he would never fight his friend.
In a recent interview with MMAWeekly Radio, however, Ed Soares, manager for both Filho and Silva, said it would be an uphill battle to convince his clients to take the fight, but said it was a possibility if MMA fans wanted it.
"If that's the fight that the world wants to see, then I guess we're going to have to sit back and talk about it," Soares said. "I think that's going to be a hard one to get across to both sides. They're friends, they've been together. But at the end of the day, it's a business, and sometimes you've gotta go in there, and you shake hands. They've been on each other for free in training. I can just tell you that it would really have to be something that makes sense for both guys."
If history is any indication in fight negotiations, it's sense of the dollar variety. Soares says the fight is not even on Filho's horizon at this point; his first obligation is to fighting Chael Sonnen on Sept. 10 at WEC 36.
The champion came inches away from losing his first title defense against Sonnen at WEC 31, and dropped out of a scheduled re-match at WEC 34 due to a stint in a Brazilian rehabilitation center. Filho had reportedly suffered from depression and an unknown chemical dependence prior to his admittance. According to Soares, Filho knows his reputation is on the line.
"He's doing great right now," Soares said. "He had a little bit of turmoil in his life and worked through that. Right now he's training really hard. He's in Brazil in a secluded place outside the city right now. He's actually training with Andre Galvao. He's very focused; he's very determined.
"He hasn't been very happy with his last two performances in the WEC. He's had time off, and he's let some little injuries heal up, and I think you're going to see a different Paulo Filho. From what I understand talking to him, his spirits are high, and he really wants to prove why he's the No. 2-ranked guy in the world in the middleweight division."
But No. 1, that's going to take time, and a lot of convincing. It's not out of the question, but Soares asks fans not to hold their breath.
"We've talked to the UFC and WEC about it, and right now, nothing's for sure," Soares said. "So we'll cross that bridge when it comes."