UFC-WEC Merger Officially Announced For January 2011The long-rumoured merger between Zuffa’s Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting brands will take place in January 2011. MMAFighting.com first reported on the merger, which was later officially announced by UFC President Dana White today.

Reigning WEC champions, including WEC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, will now be recognised as champions under the UFC brand. Aldo will defend his new UFC title at UFC 125, while the WEC Lightweight Champion will become the number one UFC lightweight contender in 2011.

Following WEC 53 on December 16th, World Extreme Cagefighting will merge into the Ultimate Fighting Championship and all WEC fighters and titleholders will compete in the UFC. Four UFC events are planned for the Versus network – previously the home of the WEC – in 2011 and additional events will also air on Spike TV. According to White, no employees will be let go and both new titles – the UFC Featherweight and Bantamweight Championships – will be featured in main and co-main event slots on UFC pay-per-views.

White spoke at length about a variety of topics on a UFC conference call, including issues such as the difference in size between the WEC and UFC cages and the possibility of a 125-pound flyweight division in the future. The UFC will retain its trademark Octagon in its current form, which is larger than the cage utilised in WEC events. Current WEC fighters will need to adapt to the larger cage upon making their UFC debuts. The flyweight division, according to White, remains part of Zuffa’s plans and could follow later in 2011.

A key issue which has separated the UFC and WEC in the past has been the size of fight purses and bonuses that are paid out to fighters competing for each brand. WEC fighters typically make a fraction of what their UFC counterparts are paid, despite the fact that WEC events are frequently regarded as among the best MMA cards each year. As White himself has said, the lighter weight classes always feature great fights between fighters who consistently put on entertaining performances.

While an opponent has not been determined, Aldo will defend his newly-christened UFC Featherweight Championship at UFC 125: “Resolution” on January 1st in Las Vegas, Nevada. Aldo turned down an opportunity to move up to 155 pounds for a bout with former UFC title challenger Kenny Florian and will instead remain focused on defending his title in the featherweight division. White reaffirmed his belief that Aldo is deservedly one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Many details of the deal must still be worked out, but the increased opportunities, exposure and fight purses for current WEC fighters will be a significant step forward in promoting the sport’s lighter weight classes. Additionally, current UFC fighters, particularly those in the lightweight division, will face new competition from challengers eager to take their spots on UFC main cards.

The final World Extreme Cagefighting event, WEC 53, takes place on December 16th. Prior to that, WEC 52 will be held on November 11th in Las Vegas featuring a bantamweight bout between former WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber and Takeya Mizugaki.



(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)