The UFC-WEC merger came as a shock to most mixed martial arts fans, but this might be one of those pleasant surprises rather than the disappointing kind that sports fans often experience.
UFC president Dana White announced that World Extreme Cagefighting will merge with its sister organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, starting with UFC 125 on Jan. 1, 2011.
Zuffa, which owns both promotions, made one of the biggest decisions in MMA history by combining the two organizations under the UFC umbrella.
This is obviously huge for everyone involved, including fans who will get to see some better matchups inside the octagon.
But what are the most important things about the merger that MMA fans should be aware of?
Let's take a look at 10 things you need to know about the new look UFC.
World Extreme Cagefighting has used a 25-foot cage throughout its run, but those days are over.
The smaller WEC cage, which was used partly for the benefit of the company's smaller competitors, will be retired following the WEC's final event on Dec. 16.
All fights in the UFC will be contested in the standard 30-foot octagon.
Here's some good news for the WEC fighters: they'll now get UFC-level paydays.
Prior to the merger, the UFC was the king of MMA and was therefore able to pay their fighters better than the WEC.
But with WEC fighters coming aboard, their pay will be equal with the fighters who made a name for themselves fighting in the world's biggest MMA promotion.
A few fighters were probably holding their breath when news of the merger broke, afraid that the next step for them was the unemployment line.
But UFC president Dana White said at the press conference on Thursday that all WEC employees will stay with the UFC.
However, the fate of WEC co-founder and general manager Reed Harris and play-by-play announcer Todd Harris are uncertain at this time.
The beautiful young lady in that picture is WEC ring girl Brittney Palmer.
She'll be coming to the UFC when the two promotions merge.
Thank you, Dana White.
If the reactions of a few WEC fighters (from Cagewriter and Heavy.com) are any indication, there is a great deal of excitement about the merger.
“I’ve always wanted this to happen because it felt like I was carrying the brunt of the weight for the WEC. So now there are new benefits and opportunities," said WEC featherweight Urijah Faber.
“When I first started in this sport seven years ago, I wanted to be a UFC champion. Now I have that chance. I can’t wait," Faber added.
He's certainly not the only one who's excited.
The two weight classes that UFC fans won't see are the flyweight (125 pounds) and super heavyweight (above 266 pounds) divisions.
According to Yahoo! Sports, UFC president Dana White said that there are plans to add a flyweight division in the future, but he hasn't set any timetable for when that will happen.
However, White also said that the company has no plans to add a super heavyweight division or a women's division because he doesn't believe there are enough women or super heavyweight fighters to fill out an entire division.
Both UFC and WEC have their own lightweight divisions, but those two will merge at some point next year.
Benson Henderson will defend the WEC Lightweight title for the last time on Dec. 16 against Anthony Pettis.
The winner of that fight will go on to face the winner of the UFC Lightweight title bout at UFC 125 between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard.
The unification fight is expected to take place sometime later in 2011.
One of the most disappointing things about the merger is the inevitable decrease in fights on cable TV.
The UFC has aired two fights on the cable network Versus in 2010, and Dana White announced on Thursday that the UFC had reached a new deal with the network to air four fights in 2011.
But the WEC has already aired five fights on Versus and still has two more remaining: Nov. 11 from Las Vegas and Dec. 16 from Glendale, Ariz.
With the two promotions merging, Versus will obviously not air any WEC fights next year, so MMA fans will only get to see the four UFC fights on television in 2011.
The UFC will add the WEC’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions into its stable, giving the company seven weight classes in total.
The bantamweight and featherweight divisions will join lightweight, welterweight (170 pounds), middleweight (185), light heavyweight (205) and heavyweight (265).
WEC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo will make his UFC debut at UFC 125 on Jan. 1, when he defends his title against an opponent that is to-be-determined.
The winner of the WEC's Dec. 16 fight between Dominick Cruz and Scott Jorgensen will be recognized as the UFC Bantamweight champion.
The biggest thing that MMA fans can expect to see out of the UFC-WEC merger is a higher quality product.
Many of the complaints about the UFC in recent years have centered around the lack of quality fights and overall pay-per-view cards.
But with the infusion of a ton of new talent from the WEC--especially guys like Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo and Miguel Torres--UFC fans are almost guaranteed to see better pay-per-view cards from top to bottom.