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UFC President Dana White made the landmark announcement on a Thursday conference call: World Extreme Cagefighting will merge with Zuffa LLC’s flagship promotion in 2011, absorbing the WEC’s considerable talent pool in the process.
Several of the WEC’s most prominent fighters have weighed in on the folding of the blue cage, speaking exclusively to Sherdog.com on the matter.
“I was speechless [when I heard the news] this morning. It’s crazy,” said lightweight title contender Anthony Pettis. “I was training hard, but now I’m pushing even harder. There’s so much to look forward to in this next year.”
Pettis will headline the WEC’s final event, WEC 53 on Dec. 16, when he takes on lightweight champion Benson Henderson to determine the brand’s final 155-pound king. White said the winner of that matchup will face the victor of Frankie Edgar’s UFC title defense against Gray Maynard in 2011.
Currently, WEC talent appears almost exclusively on the Versus network, a fact that will soon change. Starting next year, the fighters will regularly compete on pay-per-view, just like the rest of the UFC roster.
“It’s crazy,” Pettis said. “It’s not even real yet, and it’s not going to be real until it finally happens. I’ve heard the rumors for a year and a half. The possibility of headlining a pay per view is huge.”
His opponent, however, takes the merger in stride. Henderson claims the medium in which he performs is not as important as the performance itself.
“I’m not so affected by the pay-per-view stuff. No matter the venue, I still have to go out there and perform and get my hand raised,” Henderson told Sherdog. “I could be fighting in the back of a 7-11, and I still have to go out and do my best.”
However, Henderson admits the prospect of fighting on the biggest stage in mixed martial arts is inspiring. If he manages to get past Pettis in December, the unification fight sits on the horizon.
Regardless of who wins in the Edgar-Maynard contest at UFC 125 on New Year’s Day, Henderson says he will be prepared to prove himself inside the Octagon.
“It would mean a lot [to become the UFC lightweight champion],” he said. “It’d be a dream come true. I want to be the best on the planet, so I’ll probably eventually fight both guys. I want to beat everybody — not my buddies, but everybody else.”
While Henderson and Pettis are relatively new additions to the WEC roster, Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres are not. They were longstanding champions in their respective divisions, and both men helped grow the brand by putting on action-filled fights. For Torres, the merger has produced mixed feelings.
“It’s definitely bittersweet, because I’ve been with the WEC a while, and I’ve been fighting since ’98. I think I’m a pioneer, but now the future is open to me,” said Torres. “I think it’s really good. It’s going to give us lighter guys more attention. We’ve sort of been viewed as second-tier fighters, and now we’ve got the opportunity to show the world that we belong in the UFC.”
Faber, on the other hand, looks wholeheartedly toward the future and even feels a sense of relief that the brands have finally merged.
“I’m excited, man. I’ve been pushing for [the merger] for a while now. We WEC guys haven’t been getting the credit or the exposure that we deserve. It’s also going to mean better paydays, which is obviously great,” Faber said. “Not having to explain the difference, or lack of a difference, to the fans is going to be nice. I’m looking forward to the satisfaction of there finally being no difference between the UFC and the WEC. I didn’t think there was a difference before, except the initials, but now it’s official.”
One fact all four men can agree on is that the new surroundings of the UFC’s massive, 30-foot Octagon will not negatively impact the action for which WEC combatants are known.
“I don’t think [the larger space will affect the action]. The WEC is known for putting on exciting fights. There are potential ‘Fight of the Year’ nominees on almost every card, and that’s because WEC fighters go out there and get after each other,” said Henderson.
“You could put us in the middle of the ocean or the desert, and we’re still going to push forward and have an exciting fight.”
The 30-year-old Canadian on Wednesday announced he had been released by the promotion following his unanimous decision loss to Lawlor at UFC 121 “Lesnar vs. Velasquez” on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Lawlor grounded Cote at will throughout their 15-minute encounter and racked up points with ground-and-pound.
“I had a little hope but finally got the release word from the UFC,” Cote wrote on Twitter.
Cote, a former two-division TKO champion, has also held titles inside the King of the Cage and Maximum Fighting Championship promotions. He owns notable victories against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Kendall Grove, former middleweight King of Pancrase Ricardo Almeida and current Strikeforce standout Scott Smith. He has delivered nine of his 13 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
A five-fight winning streak carried Cote into his UFC 90 title bout against Silva. A non-contact knee injury thwarted his hopes in the third round, led to two knee surgeries and put him on the sidelines for more than a year. Cote was a finalist on Season 4 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series.
This week begins with the last of the preliminary fights. Dana White thinks Dane Sayers has been ”thrown to the wolves” in facing Sako Chivitchyan, and he might be right. Sayers was outclassed in his opening fight, but he got by on pure guts. White says that Dane isn’t near Sako’s level (or anyone else’s for that matter).
GSP says that it’s by choice that Dane Sayers was held back to fight last. Georges wanted to squeeze in as much training time as he could before putting Sayers back in the cage. Dane was the last fighter chosen and his lack of expertise made him a huge underdog in the eyes of most of his competitors and the coaching staff.
During fight prep, one of Team GSP’s trainers, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky, is trying to tap into what makes Sayers tick by pushing him and telling him that this is his country, and that Koscheck needs his permission to be here. Dane has “red pride” stemming from his Blackfoot and Chippewa Native American heritage. Skarbowski thanks Dane for letting him into America in a gesture meant to either inspire Sayers or possibly create an ally in case the French and Indian War kicks up again.
Meanwhile, Sako’s background is a compelling one. He emigrated from Armenia to LA and became a judo bad ass, which comes as no shock since he is from Gokor Chivichyan‘s family circle. It hasn’t all been black belts and sunshine for Sako, however, as he was shot in the leg a few years ago by “gangbangers.” Now he’s turned himself around and is trying to join the Parisyans and Gamburyans that have roamed the UFC.
There is also still the matter of the wild card fight. Unlike the past few seasons, more than a few fighters are eager to get that second chance. Spencer Paige is out with a broken hand leaving Jeff Lentz, Andy Main, Marc Stevens and Aaron Wilkinson all eagerly waiting to hear if they will have new life.
Not a week goes by that Josh Koscheck isn’t trying to be a pest to someone on Team GSP, and this week it’s staff medic Brad Tate. Tate comes under fire as the teams file in and out of the training area. Koscheck makes it a point to bump into the big medic.
“You’re a male nurse,” says Koscheck after Tate won’t back down.
An awkward amount of time passes as Tate and Josh stare at each other. Josh continues to point out Tate’s male nurse status. Later, Koscheck tells Brad through the camera that “you’re not a fighter,” adding “I’ll choke your ass out.” .
Eventually Tate leaves the room after sticking around to show that he’s not intimidated, but anyone who’s seen the promos for future episodes knows that this does not end well.
“I’m f—ing Canadian,” says GSP, shaking his head as he walks onto the Las Vegas 51’s baseball field. That’s right folks – it’s time for the most exciting time in any TUF season: the coaches challenge! It’s that special time when you learn that the titans of MMA can’t dribble a basketball or swing a racket without usually looking like a buffoon.
This time, St-Pierre and Koscheck will face off in what Dana White calls a “batting showdown.” In other words, we don’t expect home runs, but here’s a bat and helmet. Go nuts.
There’s a graduated scoring system with a series of fences starting just outside the infield. The usual brick of cash is put on the line with as well as some extra juice for the winning coach’s team.
Koscheck takes a few awkward cuts before catching up to a some balls and scoring some points. Poor GSP pirouettes after whiffing over and over and is forced to hear Sevak Magakian berate him from the bleachers, proving that America has rubbed off on the Armenian.
Josh’s second round of swings yields a similar score, but then Georges shows why he’s almost superhuman, somehow figuring out baseball in 10 tries and cranking out solid shots, closing the lead.
Impressive. A guy who’s never picked up a bat is only down by a few points going into the last round. Koscheck taps into his youthful muscle memory and starts stroking the ball, doubling his previous point total and putting GSP away for good. Koscheck relishes the win, of course, and his boys whoop it up over the earnings.
With all that out of the way, it’s time for the fight, and in the first round it’s a different Dane Sayers that shows up. Sako chases after Dane, lunging wildly while Dane shrugs him off. “Don’t lock hands with him, Red Horse!” Cries GSP. Every time they tie up, Sayers obeys St-Pierre and stifles the judo master. Shocking that for all his pedigree Sako isn’t imposing his will on Dane. Sayers is even getting the better of it in the clinch and only misses a few takedowns due to “Psycho” grabbing the fence.
It was a close first round, but Sayers’ offense was mostly limited to a guillotine attempt at the beginning. In the second round, Sako continues to push the pace, getting a takedown and working some good ground and pound. On their feet, it’s a lot of slow dancing only made interesting by the fact that Sayers isn’t being dumped on his head. The first round was close, and the second obviously went to Sako, but it seems more people were impressed with Dane’s effort despite Sako’s 20-18 decision win.
Afterward, Dana White doesn’t care about who the coaches want but brings them in anyway. He wants to hear which fighters are his best options for the wild card fight. Koscheck offers Stevens and Wilkinson, and while GSP agrees with Wilkinson, he offers Sayers up as a true work in progress. Dana says “I need the two best guys,” and after their closed-door huddle, DW and the two coaches make their way back into the training area to tell the fighters that they have chosen Marc Stevens and Aaron Wilkinson, rocking the faces of all the hopefuls.
Next week we see the fallout of that choice, and it appears that the beef growing between Koscheck and Team GSP medic Brad Tate will get physical. Make sure to stretch out before reading.
Thursday, Oct. 28
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Mike Bernhard (185.75) vs. Dragan Tesanovic (185.5)
Tony Lopez (204.5) vs. Raphael Davis (205.5)
William Kuhn (170) vs. John Kelly (172.25)
Ralph Acosta (135) vs. Tulio Quintanilla (135.5)
Frank Carrillo (184.25) vs. Moyses Gabin (184.25)
Igor Almeida (184.5) vs. Dan Cramer (185.5)
Bounmy Somchay (161) vs. JP Reese (159.25)
All fighters competing at Bellator Fighting Championships 34 met their contracted weights at Wednesday’s weigh-in, including main event combatants Hector Lombard (Pictured) and Alexander Shlemenko, who will compete for the former’s middleweight title.
Lombard (183.25) captured the title by winning Bellator’s Season 1 middleweight tournament, turning back Jared Hess in the final to become the promotion’s inaugural 185-pound champion. Lombard is the owner of a 19-fight winning streak, with his only blemish in that span being a draw to Kyle Noke in 2007. Since winning the Bellator middleweight title, the American Top Team fighter has been on a tear, finishing all but one of his six opponents in the first round. His last two fights have been demolitions, as the native Cuban ran through Jay Silva and Herbert Goodman in six and 38 seconds, respectively.
Shlemenko won Bellator’s Season 2 middleweight tournament to become the number one contender for Lombard’s title. Like Lombard, the Russian is on quite a roll, having won 15 of his last 16 contests. A knockout specialist, Shlemenko (184.75) holds nearly two-thirds of his 30 career wins by KO, including his first-round stoppage of Bryan Baker in the Season 2 tournament final.
Fujii (113.5) has long been considered one of the pound-for-pound best in MMA, as she has amassed a perfect 22-0 record, with 18 submission victories to her credit. Training under former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, “Mega Megu” is coming off an armbar submission victory over Lisa Ward in the women’s tournament semi-final.
Frausto’s last appearance was not as impressive as Fujii’s, however, as the “Warrior Princess” eked out a contentious split decision victory over the spunky Jessica Aguilar at Bellator 31 to advance to the final. Frausto (114.5) owns only one loss, a March 2010 defeat to Strikeforce 135-pound contender Miesha Tate.