UFC, WEC join forces starting in 2011

Come next year, World Extreme Cagefighting will be no more.

Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White on Thursday announced that the WEC will merge with the UFC in 2011.

"It's time," White said during a UFC conference call. "As we continue to grow globally, we're doing enough fights to fold [the WEC] into the UFC. It's always been in the cards to grow this sport and add every weight class."

All WEC talent will be retained, White said, including the 135- and 145-pound champions. WEC featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo will be recognized as the new UFC champion, and the same will go for the winner of Dominick Cruz's title defense against Scott Jorgensen at the promotion's final event, WEC 53, in December. White also confirmed that Aldo will defend his new UFC title on Jan. 1 at UFC 125 "Resolution," though his opponent was still not set in stone.

In regard to the lighter weight classes headlining future UFC events, White was optimistic.

"[The lighter champions will be] main and co-main events. As we grow and go into new countries, you're going to see a lot of talent coming into those divisions," White said. "A lot of people haven't seen how exciting these guys are. I'd like to [eventually] have a 125-pound championship, too."

But what about the WEC lightweights? The UFC already has its own 155-pound title and a deep stable of fighters to go with it. White said he intends to fold all the WEC lightweights into the UFC talent pool, unifying the two belts with a miniature tournament of sorts.

"The winner of Ben Henderson's [Dec. 16 title defense against Anthony Pettis] will automatically face the winner of Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard," said White.

Maynard and Edgar will fight at UFC 125 on New Year's Day. Soon, the speculation as to how the 155-pounders from the WEC will fare in the big show will finally become reality.

"The way it works is you win fights, and you stick around. Or if you're incredibly exciting, you stick around for a while," White said. "We're looking for great fighters and exciting fighters. If you're one of those, you're going to stick around."

Also of note was White's assertion that the UFC's Octagon would not decrease in size to accommodate the smaller fighters. Additionally, White announced that the UFC just penned a new contract with Versus to air four events on the network in 2011. While technically that doubles the UFC's exposure from 2010, the loss of several WEC events on Versus actually decreases the total number of Zuffa-owned shows airing on the network.

"It's a positive. We got [more] UFC on Versus," White said. "We're not looking at it like we lost two fights [per year]. If you ask Versus, they were happy with the WEC's ratings, but the UFC is going to pull bigger ratings."

Job security is not exclusive to the WEC's fighters, White said, as the employees behind the scenes will also have their services retained. This includes WEC general manager Reed Harris and matchmaker Sean Shelby.

"Every employee from the WEC is staying with the UFC," White said. "We have so much work to do that nobody is going to be sitting around."