Although World Extreme Cagefighting officials have long touted the benefits of having their own lightweight division – the only weight class that overlaps with its sister promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship – a change could be on the way.
In a recent interview with USA Today's Sergio Non, UFC president Dana White said the WEC's 155-pound weight class "eventually" will be folded into the bigger promotion.
The division is currently ruled by top prospect and champ Benson Henderson, who meets Donald Cerrone at Saturday's WEC 48 pay-per-view event at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Calif.
In the interview, in which White explains why the UFC has taken over production/commentating/announcing duties at WEC 48 (he said all Zuffa pay-per-view shows will be handled by the UFC's experienced PPV team), White also addressed the long-discussed 155-pound division.
"I actually think it's kind of cool," he said. "I think eventually what we do is, we're going to continue to add to lighter weights, and you'll end up seeing these (WEC) guys go into the UFC, the 155 pounders.
When Zuffa first purchased the WEC in 2006, the companies overlapped in many weight classes. However, beginning in 2009, the companies combined their light-heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight divisions, which left the WEC with lightweights, featherweights and bantamweights.
So when will the lightweights be folded into the UFC, as well?
White told the newspaper it could happen after the WEC launches its flyweight division. WEC officials have long teased the new weight class but never formally created it. As MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) reported just this past month, WEC General Manager Reed Harris said the organization still plans to do add the 125-pound division but that the promotion's three existing weight classes remain a priority.
"We're still entertaining that," Harris said. "What we had to look at, though, is that we had a roster of fighters now, and in order to keep these guys in top condition and to keep them in fighting mode, you have to give them a certain amount of fights over the year. I think that's one of the things we do better than any organization out there."
"To add that flyweight division would dilute that somewhat, and we felt like we needed some time to still catch up with the guys we had. So we're still looking at that, but right now our focus is getting our fighters fights and keeping them in contention for those titles and things like that."
WEC officials have never directly confirmed the plans to fold the WEC's lightweight class into the UFC. None of the executives were immediately available for comment.
While many in the industry have complained that the WEC's 155-pound division is simply a B-level crop of fighters compared to the UFC's dominant lightweights, the current setup has allowed marketable fighters such as Henderson, Cerrone, Jamie Varner, Anthony Njokuani and Shane Roller a chance at the spotlight.
If they're folded into the UFC, the WEC will have provided them crucial exposure they otherwise wouldn't have received.