The day has finally came. During an interview with Ariel Helwani of Fanhouse, Dana White made the announcement that WEC will be merging with the UFC, with the final WEC card being this December.
In many ways, the MMA world has been expecting this move for a good while now as the signs have been present as early 2006. The WEC was purchased by Zuffa in 2006. With this purchase, the WEC began to focus on its lower weight class, with its heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight divisions move under the UFC banner. This move saw fighters such as Carlos Condit, Chael Sonnen, Brian Stann and Steve Cantwell compete in the UFC. The WEC has developed popularity over the years for its reputation for fast pace, non stop action fights. The organization features the bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight divisions and is the home for fighters such as Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Jamie Varner, Miguel Torres, Leonard Garcia and Mark Hominick. WEC first became known for its dominant champions in Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres. Time has passed since these fighters reign's as champion and yet, the promotion has grown significantly since. Personally, I feel a major moment for the company was WEC 43 when Ben "Smooth" Henderson fought Donald "The Cowboy" Cerrone in a five round war for the Interim Lightweight title. This fight was widely recognized in various mixed martial arts publications as The Fight of the Year for 2009 and provided much deserved attention to these fighters and the WEC itself.
It was soon after that the UFC announced that WEC was going to have its first pay per view with a main event between Urijah Faber vs Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title. However, in order to maximize the potential of this event, the event was promoted as "UFC presents Aldo vs Faber" with various UFC announcers and commentators involved in the event itself. The event turned out to be a huge success due to significant number of advertising on UFC programming, a countdown series for the event and the use of free preliminary fight on Spike Tv before the event to encourage pay per view purchases (which features the much talked about Leonard Garcia vs Chan Jung Sung fight). On top of this, the sales for the event on DVD have been a hit. In many ways, I feel that this was the major test for the UFC to see if the WEC can draw as much attention on the big stage to be truly embraced by the UFC.
I support this move for a number of reason. Firstly, I have been trying to introduce friends to organizations other than the UFC and to give WEC a chance but to little success. With these weight classes under the UFC banner, I feel that this will allow these weight classes much deserved exposure to the world. Secondly, this will allow WEC fighters to receive bigger pay checks as they will be apart of bigger scale events. Thirdly, lets face it, these weigh classes can improve the overall entertainment on fight cards, rather it is non title or title bouts. The UFC belts are constantly being held ransom at times due to injuries and fighters' involvement in TUF; these new weigh classes can ensure that there is a high stake, title bout on almost every pay per view card. And finally, there has been a long run debate regarding WEC fighters and how they would fair in the UFC. The biggest debate has been regarding the fact that both organizations have lightweight divisions, with many questions if fighters like Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Jaime Varner can hang in the biggest stage of them all. In addition, fighters in lighter weight classes such as Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber have always been mentioned as guys that would be huge to come over under the UFC banner. Now the opportunity is here, rather they opt to stay in their weight classes or move up to 155.