When the Ultimate Fighting Championship sent out a media press release earlier this week, it stated that Dana White would have a “major announcement” prepared for this afternoon.
What it did was exacerbate speculation, rumors and a few jokes here and there.
Is the UFC moving from pay-per-view to the FOX network?
Will there be a UFC channel?
Is Dana White taking his talents to South Beach?
Did Kevin Spacey sign on to play Dana White in an upcoming biopic tentatively titled, “Do You Want to Be a F**king Rich Bald Guy?”
For once, the announcement turned out not to be the typical, casual hyperbole. It was actually, well, pretty “major.”
Starting in 2011, the UFC and its sister promotion World Extreme Cagefighting, both Zuffa, LLC, subsidiaries, will now be one and the same. In other words, they have merged and all operations will now be under the UFC brand name.
We knew the corporate meshing was inevitable, but today it is a reality.
As a result, all UFC stakeholders have been affected in one form or another.
Here are a few bullet point items you should be aware of:
- The entire WEC roster are now UFC commodities. According to the official WEC website, this encompasses 61 total fighters.
- With this many added competitors there will be more events in a given calendar year. More events will be on the Versus network and the overall quality of the fight cards should also increase.
- The UFC now has seven weight classes instead of five. The 135-pound bantamweight and 145-pound featherweight divisions have been added. The addition of a 125-pound flyweight division will remain a future goal. One thing at a time, folks.
- Many current UFC lightweights may now consider dropping down to a more appropriate weight class at the 145-pound limit.
- The WEC cage was smaller than the UFC Octagon. Their fighters will have more space to explore and adapt to.
- More exciting fights will litter UFC fight cards. Those competing in the lighter weight classes are fast, skilled and seemingly inexhaustible. Forgive my generalization, but past WEC events have consistently produced more aesthetically pleasing fights from top to bottom than the UFC on an event-by-event basis. This is great news for the impatient, casual fight fan.
- WEC fighters will be bumped up to a UFC pay scale and benefit from their vaunted marketing machine. It will give them all some well-deserved mainstream exposure.
- Current WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo is officially your UFC featherweight champion. He is already scheduled to defend his title at UFC 125 on Jan. 1, 2011. His likely opponent will be Mark Hominick.
- Consequently, the upcoming WEC 52 fights, Josh Grispi vs. Erik Koch and Javier Vazquez vs. Chad Mendes, will have big implications. The more impressive winner of the two bouts will likely be next in line for a title shot after Hominick.
- The Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis WEC 53 winner will take on the Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard UFC 125 winner to unify the lightweight belts. This is an appropriate step—however, I do not believe there is a top 10/15 UFC lightweight on the WEC roster. The WEC lightweights are officially treading water in the deep end of the pool.
- Current WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will have to beat Scott Jorgensen at WEC 53 to be recognized as the UFC bantamweight champion.
- Add Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar to the list of desired “superfights” alongside others such as Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Alistair Overeem.
- Last, but certainly not least. Do not fret, gentlemen. WEC ring girl Brittney Palmer will also be coming to the UFC. Contrary to popular belief, three is not a crowd.
Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine and MMAmania.com (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.