UFC President Dana White announced today on a national conference call that the UFC and WEC will be merging in 2011. He said, “Everybody’s been talking about it. I think everybody wanted this to happen, from the fans to the media guys writing it should be done.” White continued, “It was a timing thing. As we start opening these other markets, it made sense.”
With this merger the UFC will be taking on two extra weight divisions: bantamweight (135lbs.) and featherweight (145lbs.), along with the WEC’s respective champions of those weight classes, Dominick Cruz (15-1) and “Junior” Jose Aldo (17-1). With that said, the UFC will also take on the WEC’s lightweight division and fuse it with their own, leading to a title unification match between the UFC’s lightweight champion and the WEC’s lightweight champion which would currently be “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1) and “Smooth” Ben Henderson (11-1).
Before that fight can happen though, both fighters will have to defend their titles against the top contender in the same weight class of their respective organization (WEC or UFC) in the upcoming months. WEC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson is slated to take on superstar “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (12-1) in the final WEC card on December 16. On the other side of the Zuffa, LLC. fence, the UFC’s reigning Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar faces top contender “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-0) at UFC 125: Resolution on New Year’s Day. The winners of Henderson/Pettis and Edgar/Maynard will then face off to determine which fighter holds the honor of being the very first lightweight champion of the WEC/UFC merger. In all, the UFC will retain 70 fighters from the WEC, presumably all of whom will certainly appreciate the extra media attention and increased fight purses.
A lot of questions have been raised as to how WEC fighters will fare against the supposedly higher level of competition in the UFC, more specifically, the lightweight division. Do Henderson and “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (12-3) have what it takes to face the likes of the UFC’s current lightweight barricades such as “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (15-7-1) or “KenFlo” Kenny Florian (13-5)? For those who say no, that the talent level of the WEC pales in comparison to that of the UFC, bear in mind former WEC middleweight Chael Sonnen (24-11-1), who, when the WEC still had the full gamut of weight classes, went undefeated in the organization, then went on to dominate UFC Middleweight Champion “The Spider” Anderson Silva (27-4) for almost five rounds before getting caught in an Armbar and tapping out at UFC 117 in August. The real answer to how successful the WEC’s roster will be against the UFC’s is that no one knows – but it’s an exciting prospect. Time will tell.
This announcement brings with it the end of the WEC, which was created in 2001 and purchased by Zuffa, LLC. (the same umbrella company that owns the UFC) in 2006. “There is no more WEC,” White said. “Those weight classes are going to roll into the UFC now. All the fighters under the WEC will stay with the UFC.” White also commented that the UFC isn’t finished when it comes to adding extra weight classes. With it’s popularity growing and more and more talent coming in from all over the world, White expects to add a competative 125lb. flyweight division sometime in the future. ”It’s always been our goal to have every weight class in the UFC,” White said.
In addition to the announcement of the merger, White also stated that the UFC will be televising four free shows on the Versus network, which has been the main station of the WEC shows. The UFC has had two shows on the Versus network this year.