Write down the date of October 28, 2010 as the day the World Extreme Cagefighting organization was merged with its big brother, Ultimate Fighting Championship. In a conference call which was deemed a “major announcement” UFC President Dana White announced that the UFC would be expanding to include the bantamweight (135 pounds) and featherweight (145 pounds) weight classes. Along with that, the WEC’s lightweight class (155 pounds) will also be merged with the UFC’s lightweight class. As all announcements, the UFC-WEC merger is going to have its fans and opponents. Either way, this is an interesting direction that Zuffa is taking the combat sports game.
What this means for fans
Fans of the WEC may be worried that they will no longer see great fights for free on Versus. While this may not be 100 percent valid, it is a plausible concern. Expect that big name fighters such as Jose Aldo, Uriah Faber, Benson Henderson and others will no longer perform on free television. Instead, their fights will become part of Pay Per View events which the fans sell out their hard earned money to enjoy. Hopefully, more of these events will feature the high action fights that the WEC has displayed during the past few years. I would gladly enjoy watching a UFC event that could feature Jose Aldo, Georges St. Pierre and Cain Velasquez all on the same card. Also, those free events will be can be used as a new outlet for Zuffa to market new names that enter the UFC and help those fighters gain a strong following.
What this means for the fighters
While both the UFC and WEC were owned by Zuffa, the WEC fighters were not compensated as well as their colleagues who fight for the UFC. Take Dominick Cruz, the current WEC bantamweight division champion. At WEC 50 he earned $22,000 for his hard earned victory against Joseph Benavidez. This sum includes an $11,000 win bonus. Now compare this to the payouts for UFC 121. Of all the fighters on the main card, Brendan Schaub is the only fighter who made less than Cruz. Cain Velasquez brought home $270,000 for victory that made him the new UFC heavyweight champion. With the merger, WEC fighters will now be able to earn fight purses that are akin to those awarded in the UFC. This is a long time overdue. These figures were released by both the Nevada and California State Athletic Commissions.
The UFC will continue to have live events featured on Versus. The last two events set for this year in November and December are still set to go. It was also announced that the UFC would continue to grow its presence on Versus and host four free fights during 2011.
As for the current champions, the winner of the Dominick Cruz and Scott Jorgensen will be crowned the UFC bantamweight champion. When Jose Aldo defends his belt in January, the victor of that match will be titled the UFC featherweight champion. The biggest part of this merger is that the winner of the Benson Henderson versus Anthony Pettis will challenge the winner of the Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard to unify that title.
As the Ultimate Fighting Championship continues to lead the growth of mixed martial arts, 2011 is setting up to be an interesting year.
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