UFC President Dana White announced today through conference call that the UFC would merge with its lighter-weight sister company, the WEC, adding their lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight divisions to the UFC, starting in January 2011. MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani with the exclusive.
With that announcement came several other developments, the most exciting of which is that WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will be the first WEC fighter to represent the brand, as he defends his featherweight title on the UFC 125 card (Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard 2) on New Year’s. For those who are more casual fans of MMA, Aldo (18-1, 8-0 WEC) is one of the most exciting young fighters in the sport and is considered one of the best 3-5 pound-for-pound fighter in the World depending on the list. His destruction of Mike Brown to win the title and Urijah Faber to defend the title are already stuff of legends. Google that man.
Also, the winner of Ben Henderson-Anthony Pettis will face the winner of Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard. Henderson (12-1, 5-0 WEC) is the dynamic WEC lightweight champion and his first fight with Donald Cerrone to win the interim title was largely considered the most exciting MMA fight of 2009. Giving these guys first crack at the lightweight title is a strong endorsement of the WEC brand by the UFC.
For serious MMA fans, this move was pretty obvious and certainly well-deserved. For newer and more casual MMA fans, we’re all in for a treat as these lighter weight guys are Fight of the Night-type fighters every night. This will allow them to earn the money they deserve and the mainstream recognition they deserve fighting on pay-per-view cards and under the UFC banner.