Usually when big announcements are made, it's pretty easy to separate positives and negatives.
In the case of Thursday's announcement by UFC president Dana White that the UFC and WEC will merge into a single entity, there really are no negatives. Everybody, from the promoters to the fighters to the fans, come out as winners.
The WEC, for all the good fights it put on, was essentially a lame-duck organization. That status was solidified when Urijah Faber was soundly beaten by Jose Aldo in April amidst declining television ratings. The WEC was a television property. An organization that was bought by the UFC to keep rival promotions off cable TV. Now that there isn't a new upstart promotion popping up seemingly every week, the WEC had outlived its purpose. This was a move that had to be made.
After the final two WEC events — WEC 52 and WEC 53 — take place, the merger will come in full swing starting Jan. 1 at UFC 125 when newly christened UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will defend his title against an opponent to be determined. The UFC basically has started a four-man tournament to determine the undisputed UFC lightweight champion, as the winner of the WEC 53 lightweight championship fight between Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis will meet the winner of the UFC 125 lightweight championship fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard at a date to be determined.
The UFC now will have seven championships at its disposal which, in theory, means they shouldn't have a problem having at least one title fight on each pay-per-view. Add to that the depth that the WEC fighters will add to UFC cards and this is going to be a major, major win for the fans.
How many times have we complained about some of these overseas shows (like, say, UFC 122 coming up here) not having any depth whatsoever? Well, it's probably safe to say a show like that is going to be a thing of the past. Adding featherweights, bantamweights and eventually flyweights will only make these cards better.
Do you think "The Ultimate Fighter" is stale? Well, imagine the show now that it's open to use these new weight classes. It could be just the lift that show needs.
And this is a great move for the fighters. They'll now get paid more, have opportunities for those big-time fight night bonus checks and have the exposure that comes with being in the UFC. Imagine if Aldo keeps rolling like he has been. He will undoubtedly be one of the company's biggest starts within a year. What if Urijah Faber becomes a big deal at bantamweight and wins the championship? He was absolutely huge in the WEC. Think about how big he would be in the UFC.
This also is great news for some of the smaller lightweights the UFC has. Now they can fight to their best potential by dropping down to 145 pounds without losing the exposure and pay scale that comes with being a UFC fighter.
Sure, we're going to lose a few extra free shows — WEC will run seven times on Versus this year as opposed to four Versus shows for the UFC next year — but to me, losing three shows is an easy trade-off for the product as a whole being, more than likely, significantly improved.
Now that the announcement is finally made, we're going to see how these fighters assimilate into the UFC. The lightweight division obviously will be the biggest question mark. Can the WEC guys hang with the UFC guys? With BJ Penn out of the way, I think the answer is yes.
2011 is going to be an extremely interesting year for MMA fans, one made even better by this announcement.