It looks like ESPN didn’t know what Dana White’s big announcement was after all. What was allegedly going to be about a UFC network turned out to be something much cooler: the WEC folding into the UFC.
In a media conference call today, Ultimate Fighting Championship® President Dana White announced the UFC is adding two new championship divisions at bantamweight (135lbs.) and featherweight (145lbs.), while also announcing a new television deal with the VERSUS Network to air four UFC fights in 2011.
“As the UFC continues to evolve and grow globally, we want to be able to give fans title fights in every weight division,” said White. “This is a big day for the sport and the athletes who will have the opportunity to fight on the biggest stage in the world.”
The two new divisions feature WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo who will now be recognized as the reigning UFC featherweight champion, and WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. White confirmed that the winner of the Dec. 16 lightweight title fight between WEC champion Ben Henderson and top contender Anthony Pettis live on VERSUS will take on the winner of the UFC 125 main event title bout between champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. This upcoming fight will serve as a UFC lightweight title unification bout to be held next year.
According to White, most of the WEC staff will fold into the UFC as well to help deal with the ever-increasing number of shows a year. I’m kinda sad to see the WEC disappear and not turn into a farm league where scrappers and former stars get put to pasture, but when you think about the amount of time and effort that needs to be sunk into a separate organization it makes sense it would just be laid to rest.
There’s a lot of good news in the merge: 135 and 145 pound fighters will finally have a chance to gain the exposure and money they deserve, there will be less lame UFC cards without title shots, and half the undersized 155ers in the UFC lightweight division can now move to their proper weight class without it being a ruinous career move.
On the not so great side, the new Versus deal calls for 4 UFC events a year where before we got 2 UFC events plus 8 WEC events. That’s a deficit of six free events, which hurts extra when you consider how awesome those 6 events always were.
(video via MMA Fighting)