UFCs big announcement: WEC to merge into UFC by January of 2011

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Looks like Dana White's three-year plan for World Extreme Cagefghting (WEC) has been cut short by about two-and-a-half years.

That's because Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will finish what it started back in 2008, as the promotion today officially announced a company merger that will see the dissolution of the WEC with the last fight taking place in December of this year.

But the WEC's loss will be the UFC's gain.

The world's largest fight promotion will increase its number of weight divisions by two, adding the bantamweight (135-pounds) and featherweight (145-pounds) classes as well as doubling the roster of its already stacked lightweight (155-pound) division.

Jose Aldo will now be recognized as the UFC Featherweight Champion and make his first title defense of the newly branded championship at UFC 125: "Resolution" on Jan. 1, 2011.

The winner of the Dominick Cruz vs. Scott Jorgensen fight at WEC 53 will officially be recognized as the UFC Bantamweight Champion while the winner of Benson Henderson vs Anthony Pettis on Dec. 16 will face the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard to unify the WEC and UFC lightweight titles.

Get ready for some truly stacked events in Zuffa's 2011 fight campaign.

The WEC first began downsizing a little more than a year ago, following a Sept. 2008 announcement that it would no longer support light heavyweight (205-pound), middleweight (185-pound) and welterweight (170-pound) divisions, instead focusing on lighter weight classes.

In fact, WEC 37: "Torres vs. Tapia" on Dec. 3, 2008, was the last event to feature the heavier divisions -- nearly two years to the date of their final event, WEC 53: "Henderson vs. Pettis" on Dec. 16, 2010.

The move enabled the promotion to showcase more lighter fighters more often on its cards and build more stars. Under the old format, several talented up-and-comers either didn't fight frequently enough or were buried on the non-televised portion of the cards.

While this sudden influx of talent could cause many of the same problems early in the merger, the UFC's global expansion and increased televisions schedule will likely remedy that problem sooner rather than later.

And perhaps the days of stretching out a pay-per-view fight card or scrambling to fill last-minute injury gaps may be reduced to a minimum.

Like the first wave of ex-WEC fighters, including Chael Sonnen, Carlos Condit and Mark Munoz, a dozen or so fantasy match-ups that just a few months ago seemed impossible may finally come to fruition.

Can Ben Henderson be just as "smooth" in the UFC? Who would win in a scrap between "Cowboy" Cerrone and Kenny Florian? Will Jose Aldo finally test the waters at 155?

Let's not forget that more events with more fighters also translates into increased exposure and sponsorship opportunities, especially on a pay-per-view fight card.

It's going to be an exciting 2011. Let's hear your take -- the good and the bad -- on today's big announcement.

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