The news on Thursday that the WEC would be merging with the UFC sent shockwaves through the MMA world, and now Dec 16 for WEC 53 will not only be the last ever show for the longtime promotion, but it will also have major title implications that roll over to the UFC as well.
Ben Henderson will defend his WEC lightweight title one last time against Anthony Pettis in the main event of the Dec card, but now the bout has even more on the line as the victor will face either Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard in a lightweight title unification bout in 2011.
“Ben Henderson, the winner of his next fight will automatically face the winner of Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard,” said UFC president Dana White on Thursday.
Henderson and Pettis will square off in a title bout still, and the winner will carry the WEC belt over the UFC at least one last time when they square off against either Edgar or Maynard.
“It’s almost like when we brought the guys over from Pride,” White commented about the WEC champion coming to the UFC. “When Dan Henderson still had a title over in Pride, he came over and fought Rampage.”
WEC 53 was already slated to be one of the biggest cards of the year with two titles being defended, but now the fight between Henderson and Pettis has even more on the line than ever before.
“It’s to unify the belts that’s all it is. That’s a huge deal, that’s now the biggest fight ever in the history of the WEC,” said current WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby.
Ben Henderson has long talked about the chance to prove himself against the best of the best in the UFC, and if he wins in December he’ll have the ultimate opportunity. Speaking with MMAWeekly.com on Thursday, Henderson’s manager Malki Kawa echoed those scentiments for his fighter.
“We’re very excited. Listen if the UFC had never merged that was something I was going to ask for anyway,” Kawa said about Henderson getting a shot at the UFC belt.
“It makes that fight now that much more important. It’s a serious opportunity for either guy to make serious money and to become world famous, and to become something very, very important in this sport. To be the top guy and to be the UFC champion is an honor, and now I think it makes it that much more important to (Ben) Henderson and (Anthony) Pettis.”
With Edgar and Maynard squaring off on Jan 1 and Henderson vs. Pettis going down in mid-December, the lightweight title unification bout could go down during the first half of 2011, in what will be an extremely intriguing fight to close the doors on the WEC.