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WEC moving closer towards elimination of middleweight and light heavyweight divisions

While it has been rumored for some time, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports has confirmed that Zuffa has formally decided to fold the 185 lbs. and 205 lbs. divisions in its World Extreme Cagefighting brand.

Despite the news, there is still no official timetable as to when the WEC will eliminate its middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, as the company is promoting a major middleweight title defense by current champion Paulo Filho against Chael Sonnen on its upcoming Sept. 10 show in Hollywood, Fla.

Once the two divisions are folded, top names such as Filho, former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann, and former NCAA champions Mark Munoz and Jake Rosholt will no doubt cross over into the UFC. However, it appears as though many fringe fighters currently occupying spots in those divisions for the WEC could find themselves looking for a new company to fight for.

In recent months there had also been rumors about the long-term survival of the WEC and whether the entire fight promotion would be merged into the UFC, however, UFC President Dana White stated that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

“…I can tell you this: It’s not going to go down,” White is quoted.

Another report that had surfaced recently was that the WEC’s television partner, VERSUS, had extended its contract with the promotion and increased the number of events it planned to televise next year. As of now, 10 cards could be televised in 2009 but that could change, especially since, as Iole points out, the number of fighters that will be available to the WEC will decrease by thirty-three percent.

However, where there is a will, there’s a way. If the WEC wants to hold more shows next year, it can do it if Zuffa is willing to invest even more money than it already has. The obvious solution would be for the company to go out and sign even more talent in the welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, and bantamweight divisions. As many great lighter weight fighters that the WEC already has under contract, there are plenty more out there just waiting for a chance to fight on a major platform.

There are also two other options that I believe the WEC should consider.

First, the possibility of adding a flyweight (125 lbs.) division might not be a bad idea. A lot of people might not want to see fighters that small competing, but there were a lot of people who at one time felt that there was no need for MMA to foster bantamweight and featherweight divisions in the United States. If there are good fighters that compete at 125 lbs., then they deserve a shot to compete on the big stage as well.

The other idea is one that has little chance of happening, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. While White has been cool to the idea of female MMA, I still believe it would be a great fit for the WEC’s brand concept. The WEC employs a purist philosophy when it comes to the fight game and aims to present the best fighters to the general public without any gimmicks or over-the-top marketing.

There are a lot of great female fighters still not signed to the AFL or EliteXC and with Zuffa’s resources, they could build an amazing female fight division over time. Yes, White doesn’t want to see females fighting, but a lot of people do and by adding a female division to the WEC, Zuffa could support it without promoting it under the UFC banner.

The bottom line is that if the WEC wants to do 10 shows next year while still cutting its 205 and 185 lbs. divisions, it’s going to need more fighters.

  • dpk says:

    125lb division would be great. WEC has already proved that the lighter weights usually put on the most exciting shows. Anyone who was a boxing fan in the late 90’s or early 2000’s knows that guys at 126-140lbs had the most entertaining fights out there as well.

    Another note to that is that 21 y/o Henry Cejudo was the only American freestyle wrestler to win Gold in the Olympics, and he did it at 121lbs. A potential star right off the bat for the division if WEC could get him to make a move to MMA.

  • matt says:

    The only issue I have with a division merger is that I don’t feel like Munoz/Stann/Rosholt are ready for the big time. And unless the UFC starts sending fighters for the WW and LW divisions, it doesn’t seem like those will be the spearheaded and commercial divisions. Besides Faber and Torres, and to a lesser extent Condit, the WEC doesn’t have the headliners for this.

  • ttt says:

    maybe they can add women into the mix

  • fightfan says:

    I got nothiing but respect and gratitude for all that have served in the armed forces. But I am about sick of hearing “all-american” Brian Stann and how he seen death , etc, etc an dfighting is nothing compared to it.

    The above article mentions taht he will most likely be folded over to the UFC. But, NOT EVEN mentioned is the PRESENT LH WEC champ Cantwell. The “former” champ is mentioned, but nothing of the “present” champ?????

  • Good call on women in the WEC. I agree 100%

  • Numba1Stunna says:

    What is going to happen to Steve Cantwell? Kind of a bum deal, he wins the title and now he won’t get to defend it in the promotion he fights for. Not too mention, he wouldn’t last 2 fights in the UFC. LHW in the UFC is a who’s who of the division and before Cantwell beat Stann, nobody knew much about him. It seemed he was just another fight to build Stann into a star. Stann with some more training at I think it was Team Quest? Will be able in my opinion to hang in the UFC against the Mid-Level guys. (Boestch, Bonnar, H. Alexander, Schafer, A. Mendes). As for the MW’s, I think Brian Baker, Filho and Sonnen could all hang ib the UFC. It seems that only a small number of fighters will actually come over from the WEC. What gets me though is they are bringing the heavier guys over but the 1 person everybody really wants to see in the UFC, Carlos Condit will be stuck fighting Brock Larson when he should be fighting Thiago Alves, GSP, Koscheck, Diego Sanchez….

  • flassassin says:

    I gotta think that with this merger coupled with the influx of IFL-refugee signings and other foreign fighters, it would be a good opportunity for the UFC to ramp up the amount of events they hold in a year. If there are more cards, crowded divisions won’t be a problem.

  • JBAR says:

    This can’t be good for the UFC 185 and 205 divisions in the long term. The divisions are stacked with talent now but they are losing a proving ground for young fighters to gain valuable experience and develop their skills which will lead to a smaller group of good fighters in the future.

  • Steve says:

    The WEC should add a 125lb division, there are plenty of great wrestlers, boxers, BJJ practitioners who would make great mma fighters at that weight. Everyone knows the WEC 185 and 205 divisions are the minor leagues compared to the UFC. 80% of the guys in the WEC at those weight classes are guys who previously fought in the UFC but needed more experience. Same could be said for alot of the 170 and 155 lb fighters as well. Bottom line is except for the 145 and 135 lb divisions which the UFC doesn’t feature, the WEC is the developmental league for the UFC.

    To prove my point, Zuffa should do a UFC/WEC superfight card, Champion vs Champion. Penn vs Varner, GSP vs Condit, Silva vs Filho, Griffen vs Cantwell. The smart $$$ would be on the UFC champions. The WEC champs are good fighters but their UFC counterparts are a level or 2 up.


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