UFC and WEC will merge in 2011 according to UFC president Dana White. The announcement came today after what seems like years of speculation about the future of the two Zuffa-owned promotions. The first event featuring the former WEC fighters will be the New Years Day card featuring new UFC featherweight champion, Jose Aldo making a title defense. Let me tell you, this is awesome news.
Starting in January, the WEC featherweight and bantamweight divisions will become the UFC featherweight and bantamweight division. The WEC lightweight division will roll into the UFC’s lightweight division and at some point next year we could see a champion versus champion fight between whoever holds the WEC belt (Ben Henderson or Anthony Pettis – WEC 53 – 12/16/10) and the UFC belt (Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard – UFC 125 – 1/1/11) to unify the ultimate accessory.
In 2010, there will have been 10 WEC events by the time WEC 53 rolls around in December. One of those was a PPV. Add two UFC on Versus cards and that makes 9 free shows on Versus in 2010. In 2011, there will be 4 UFC cards. With the extra fighters, that should strengthen all the cards making it possible to
There were 24 UFC events in 2010. 13 were PPV while 9 were shown free between SpikeTV and Versus. Sure, we’re going to lose some free fights on Versus, but that’s what you have to do to make every UFC card a little bit stronger. All of a sudden the clunker that was UFC 119 gets a featherweight title fight featuring Jose Aldo and a couple exciting bantamweight fights on the undercard and its worth your money.
This is especially important as the UFC tries to make the transition from the Couture/Ortiz/Liddell/Franklin/Griffin era. Those are the guys that were at the top when the UFC first started to make its way into the mainstream and grow in popularity. While Franklin and Griffin both have some co-headlining fights left in them the other mid-to-late-decade faces of the UFC have pretty much quietly moved into retirement. This means a wider variety of fighters to turn into stars and PPV draws.
Some WEC fighters would have greatly helped an event like UFC 115 which relied on Rich Franklin and Chuck Liddell to headline. You put a Urijah Faber fight on that card as a co-headliner and kick Ben Rothwell and Gilbert Yvel to the dark matches and its a whole different event.
There there’s the lightweight division which features guys like Henderson, Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Chris Horodecki, and Jamie Varner. Where will they stack up in the pecking order alongside Kenny Florian, Evan Dunham, Sean Sherk, Maynard and Edgar? Not to mention smaller UFC lightweights can now move down to a more comfortable 145 pounds.
Not to mention the fact that the WEC guys are finally going to be getting UFC paychecks. The WEC has been putting on kick-ass cards for years and even their top stars have been making peanuts compared to their relative co-workers in the UFC. And no more measly little $10,000 fight night bonuses. Now they’ll be earning 5 to 10 times that for the best fights, knockouts and submissions of the night. And they will win those bonuses because the little guys are awesome.
Basically, other than fans losing a few free fights on Versus, there is nothing bad about this. Its what almost every fan has wanted and its going to make the UFC product stronger from top to bottom, plus the WEC guys are going to get the recognition – and money – that they deserve.
For more answers, watch Ariel Helwani’s interview with Dana White from earlier today.
[Video from MMA Fighting, Image