The organization was started in 2001, by Scott Adams and Reed Harris. Between 2001 and 2006, most of their events were held in Lemoore, California and aired on HDNet.
In December 2006, Zuffa purchased the WEC. With the purchase, the WEC continues as a separate promotion with its own roster of fighters. Adams was retained after the purchase as the organization's matchmaker. Harris and Adams were named co-General Managers and are both active in the new WEC.
Zuffa made several changes to the promotion after the purchase. It discontinued its pentagonal cage for a modified version of the UFC's octagonal cage. The championships of fighters who were contracted UFC fighters were vacated. The promotion moved to focus on lighter weight classes, abandoning their heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions and championships, and retaining their bantamweight and featherweight divisions—two divisions not currently present in the UFC. Since the purchase, several of the WEC events have been held in Zuffa's hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, much like the UFC.
The WEC currently airs their events live on Versus, formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network, The Sports Network in Canada, and on The Score, also in Canada. WEC's first live event was broadcast on June 3, 2007 on Versus from The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The WEC announced that it would dissolve their light heavyweight and middleweight divisions after their December 3, 2008 event to further their concentration on lighter classes. Fighters from the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions started fighting in the UFC after the dissolution of their divisions. Also, on February 3, 2009, the WEC officially announced the creation of a 125 lb. Flyweight Division and the dissolution of its welterweight division (Flyweight is the last division under the "Unified Rules of MMA" remaining, excluding Super Heavyweight, to be activated under ZUFFA). Fighters from the welterweight division started fighting in the UFC after the dissolution of their division. The only weight class remaining to cross-over between the WEC and the UFC is the 155 lb Lightweight division.
UFC President Dana White recently announced his intentions of bringing the WEC to Pay Per View in 2009. No WEC fights were on PPV in 2009, however, there is still intent to do this at some point in the future. WEC General Manager Reed Harris confirmed on January 29, 2010 in an interview on the Dave and Mahoney in the Morning Show on KXTE Las Vegas X107.5 that WEC will be making the move to pay per view in the near future. The pay per view will be on April 24 and a main event of Jose Aldo vs. Urijah Faber is planned.
On January 8, 2010, World Extreme Cagefighting announced that AMP Energy will be the official energy drink of WEC. Amp Energy will also sponsor three of the WEC's top stars - featherweight Urijah Faber, featherweight Chad Mendes, and bantamweight Joseph Benavidez.
On April 24, 2010, the WEC held its only pay-per-view event, WEC 48, which featured two championship fights. The main event featured WEC Featherweight Champion José Aldo defending his title against former champion Urijah Faber. On October 28, 2010, UFC President Dana White announced that the WEC would merge with the UFC.
Relationship with UFCEdit
Due to its shared ownership under Zuffa, fans and commentators have continually speculated about a unification between the WEC and the UFC, particularly the lower weight classes. The 125-145 classes are of particular interest because the WEC's champions at those weight-classes are competitive with the best MMA fighters in the world, whereas the 155-pound class (and prior, heavier weight-classes) have been effectively minor-league caliber compared to their UFC counterparts. The relationship between the WEC and UFC has also been complicated by their respective primary partnerships with cable television channels, Versus and Spike. Fight Magazine reports:
[Keeping the WEC] made a certain kind of sense in that it allowed Zuffa to extend its reach without overextending the UFC staff while squatting on Versus, a cable channel interested in broadcasting MMA. Why Zuffa decided to retain a 155-pound division in the WEC remains a mystery, but discussions about a 125-pound flyweight division and a contract extension with Versus despite the fact that the channel was dropped by DirectTV pointed to at least a couple more years of promotional independence... But then... the UFC announced that it would air events on Versus in 2010. On its face, the deal further jumbles an already confusing relationship between the UFC, WEC, the UFC’s basic cable partner Spike TV, and Versus...No one is kidding themselves about the WEC staying independent forever – the promotion will be folded into the UFC eventually, if for no other reason than trying to promote an MMA fighter who isn’t in the UFC is a Sisyphean task... But by keeping the WEC independent for as long as they have, and maintaining a presence on Versus, the UFC has positioned itself beautifully for future TV deals and given Versus a major bargaining chip in future negotiations with DirectTV....Versus is owned by Comcast, which just acquired NBC Universal. NBC flirted with MMA through it’s late-night Strikeforce show but a UFC card in primetime would deliver NFL-playoff like ratings and ad revenues for a network that is struggling to retain what few young viewers it has left.
On October 28, Dana White announced that the WEC would be merging with the UFC in early 2011.