While still actively running as a fight promotion, the WEC was seen as the UFC’s little sister promotion; an event which produced exciting fights, but wasn’t quite on the level of the UFC.
This was fine for the fighters at bantamweight and featherweight; though they weren’t getting as much recognition as their heavier peers, they also had no other group to be unfavorably compared against — if you were the WEC bantamweight champ, you were very likely the best bantamweight in the world.
Such was not the case with the lightweight division. The UFC had a stacked 155lbs. division even before incorporating the WEC’s roster and most saw it as harboring the more talented fighters of the two promotions. Results have proven otherwise, with WEC lightweight standouts Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Danny Castillo and more giving solid accounts of themselves since making the move to the big leagues.
Perhaps surprising to some is the fact that former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson, who lost his belt to Pettis in the final WEC event, has come farther than them all. Bendo has taken out Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida during his UFC run to earn a shot at UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, which comes tomorrow night in the main event of UFC 144.
But, if you expect Edgar — who has held onto his belt through repeated battles against BJ Penn and Gray Maynard — has underestimated Henderson as inferior competition, you’ll be disappointed to hear that the champ sees him as anything but and has been readying himself for the wave of talent crashing over from the WEC since the absorption of the promotion was announced in 2010.
“Nah, I wasn’t (one of those underestimating the WEC fighters),” said Edgar. “Especially in the 155lbs. division, it’s so stacked. Obviously the UFC was stacked, but you could tell that the depth in the WEC was pretty deep, too.
“I think (Henderson’s) a just number one contender,” he added later. “The last three guys he beat were considered contenders themselves and he beat them in good fashion. So, I know I’ve got my hands full.”
UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson goes down tomorrow night from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. FightLine will be back on the night with our live, ongoing coverage of the event.