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Fighters, Pundits Respond to UFC Merger With the WEC

Wec_mediumWe've had 24 hours to let the news sink in. The UFC's decision to formally absorb the WEC and bring its marquee world's best featherweight and bantamweight divisions, as well as its respected 155lb class into the fold has had the MMA world talking.

Here's former 135lb champ Miguel Torres talking to Sherdog:

"It's definitely bittersweet, because I've been with the WEC a while, and I've been fighting since '98. I think I'm a pioneer, but now the future is open to me," said Torres. "I think it's really good. It's going to give us lighter guys more attention. We've sort of been viewed as second-tier fighters, and now we've got the opportunity to show the world that we belong in the UFC."

UFC #1 contender Gray Maynard talked to Fighter's Only:

"It just solidifies 155 as the best in the world especially in the UFC. Now its even better. I welcome more competition!"

Cagewriter talked to WEC lightweights Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis who will contest Henderson's WEC title at WEC 153 with an immediate UFC on tap for the winner: 

"I'm very excited. Now the major goal is to go over there wearing a belt," Henderson said. "To be the best and make that claim, you've gotta beat the best. I want to take that one step further and beat not only the best, but everyone so there's no doubt."

"When I heard about it, I was finishing up my morning training session, and I wanted to go right back to the gym and train," Pettis told Cagewriter. "My fight with Ben was big enough, and now I'm two fights away from being the UFC champion. It's two championships in two fights."

WEC superstar Urijah Faber also talked to Sherdog:

"I'm excited, man. I've been pushing for [the merger] for a while now. We WEC guys haven't been getting the credit or the exposure that we deserve. It's also going to mean better paydays, which is obviously great," Faber said. "Not having to explain the difference, or lack of a difference, to the fans is going to be nice. I'm looking forward to the satisfaction of there finally being no difference between the UFC and the WEC. I didn't think there was a difference before, except the initials, but now it's official."

That's the fighters. Ffrom pundit-ville, Kevin Iole raises a very real specter of fighters losing their jobs (transcribed by Fight Opinion):

And guys are going to be fighting for their jobs, especially in the Lightweight division. You know you're going to merge the WEC Lightweights who weren't as good overall top-to-bottom as the UFC and those guys now as they come into the UFC, they know they can't afford a slip so they're really going to fight. So I think, you know, that's going to create a positive. The negative, of course, is you know we're going to have people losing their jobs. Some of these fighters are just not going to be in the UFC or WEC any more. There's not as big of a margin.

Ben Fowlkes argues it should have happened a long time ago:

Simply put, it was a limited idea from the beginning. An organization that only featured smaller fighters, operating under a limited budget on a lesser-watched cable network, well, let's just say it was never a threat to eclipse the UFC.

Give the Zuffa brass credit, they tried just about everything. They put the promotional burden on Urijah Faber's capable shoulders. They tested the pay-per-view waters. They cross-promoted the two organizations via the various TV broadcasts.

But in the end they just couldn't get enough UFC fans fired up about an organization that was defined - both in terms of the weight of its fighters and the size of its events - by being smaller than the big show. The hardcores loved it, but there were plenty of fight fans who didn't see the point in making time to watch what was essentially UFC Lite.

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