In an announcement made today, Dana White confirmed that at the start of 2011, World Extreme Cagefighting will merge with UFC.  As both companies were owned by ZUFFA, this seemed like a natural progression, especially as the two companies only have one over-lapping weight division.

Jose Aldo

The WEC Featherweight Championship now becomes the UFC Featherweight Championship, with Jose Aldo having retained his champion status after successfully defending the belt at the end of September against Manny Gamburyan at WEC 51.    As part of Dana White’s announcement today (October 28th, 2010), he indicated that the winner of the December 16th WEC 53 fight between current WEC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz and challenger Scott Jorgensen will become the new UFC Bantamweight Champion.  To deal with having two title holders in the Lightweight division, White stated that the winner of the WEC 53 fight between reigning WEC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson and challenger Anthony Pettis will get the chance to fight the winner of  the UFC 125 fight on New Years Day between current UFC Lightweight Champion Frank Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard.

On that New Years Day 2011 card will be Jose Aldo’s first title defense in UFC, though his opponent is yet to be determined.

In addition to those championships, Dana White also says he intends to add a belt at the 125-lbs weight class.  He feels that adding these three weight classes to the UFC landscape will only make things more exciting for fans.  “As we grow and go into new countries, you’re going to see a lot of talent coming into those divisions.  …  A lot of people haven’t seen how exciting these guys are.”

In all likelihood the move to merge WEC into UFC was to provide the same product but gain from the strong brand loyalty and brand recognition UFC has built.  This allows UFC to provide better televised (free and pay per view) fights, while determining contenders on the non-televised preliminary cards.  It’s a very savvy move by Zuffa to do this, as I don’t believe anyone will stop watching the former WEC competitors simply because the name on the championships they fight for has changed.  While I consider myself a fan of mixed martial arts, I’ve watched only two WEC fight cards compared to having watched over a half dozen Strikeforce events and countless (easily 50+) UFC events.  Now I’ll definitely get to know Jose Aldo, Faber and Ben Henderson even better than I do now, in addition to countless faces in the smaller weight divisions who I’m yet to hear about.

Now I just have to figure out how and where to watch WEC 53 in mid-December.