Today marks the end of what I fully believe will one day be remembered as one of the most important Mixed Martial Arts promotions of all time. Just like the UFC itself broke down barriers with the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and live, free events on Spike TV, the WEC broke the weight barrier by putting all the best lighter-weight fighters together and making them fight each other time after time. In the process, the WEC helped proved that weight is only a number, and that exciting finishes and amazing fights can happen regardless of how big or small you are. I know I’ve only been a fan of the WEC for a short time, and believe me, I wish that wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, since all the major sites are bidding farewell to the WEC in their own special way, here’s my top 5 memories from my all-too-brief time as a WEC fan.
5. Leonard Garcia vs. “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.
While I think it’s debatable that this fight was one of the year’s best, it’s certainly one of the wildest brawls I’ve ever seen. I know that MMA purists like to point out that it’s a guilty pleasure at best, considering that it was basically two iron-chinned strikers throwing sloppy punches for fifteen minutes. Plus you had the outright robbery of Jung courtesy of a ridiculous call by the judges. But none of that matters to me: for fifteen minutes I got to see an amazing fight by my standards, one that might not have been masterfully technical, but one that I was glued to my screen for. It’s a bout I won’t be forgetting for a long, long time.
You knew when it was time for Urijah Faber or Miguel Torres to fight. The mood changed, the air seemed to positively crackle with electricity. These two were the best of the best for a long, long time, and I immensely enjoyed watching them blast back competition again and again. Their numerous wars and hard-fought victories will always be an integral part of the WEC’s success.
3. The Ascension of Jose Aldo.
The first time I saw Jose Aldo, I had no idea what to think about him. I generally feel that way about any debuting star I’ve never heard of. Then, of course, Aldo immediately changed my perceptions. In an era where once-dominant champions continue to fall, Jose Aldo looks to be one of the rare cases of a dominant champion remaining dominant no matter who is put against him. Aldo is a phenom inside the cage, and I’ll likely never forget the way he ran straight to the top with reckless abandon and destroyed everyone in his path.
2. Seeing the WEC on Pay-Per-View.
This show was a success on so many levels. First and foremost, it was one of the best cards of the year. And if you believe the reports, the show did surprisingly well. Here’s a comparison that just might floor you: at anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 estimated PPV buys, WEC 48: “Aldo vs. Faber” beat out both PPV shows held by the short-lived Affliction promotion, both of which featured Fedor Emelianenko. WEC’s first PPV was an incredible achievement and an incredible night of fights.
And my #1 memory just had to be…
1. My First WEC Show.
Here’s something you may not know about me, fans and friends: for the most part, I have a terrible memory. I say this because I honestly can’t remember what my first WEC show was, it’s all a happy blur to me. But I can say that I remember my exact feelings the first time I ever saw two men fight in that fancy blue cage. My initial thoughts were very hesitant, then I saw my first fight and thought “Well, that was pretty good.” After another few fights, my thoughts shifted to “Wow, those were even better.” And when I saw my first WEC main event, my final thoughts of the night were “Holy crap, that was amazing. I need to see more.” And ever since then, I was hooked. I’ll never forget the feeling I had after watching my first WEC show, because all it took was one WEC event to permanently change my opinion on lighter-weight fighters.
So that’s my list, fans and friends. What about you? What are your fondest memories from your time as a WEC fan?