It is only fitting that an organization with a reputation built on staging MMA's most exciting fights goes out with a card that promises to be one of the most entertaining of the year.
The WEC, not too long ago considered an infant in the mixed martial arts world, has grown up before our eyes. Once unknown throughout the national scene, the corporation now carries a roster filled with some of the best featherweight and bantamweight fighters on the planet. Now, at the crest of their popularity, World Extreme Cagefighting faces the ultimate validation -- being absorbed by the multi-billion dollar king of the sport, the UFC.
"This is kind of the culmination of all of our work." owner and founder of the WEC, Reed Harris explains.
Understandably, Harris has been afforded a unique perspective over the last nine years on the fledging company that somehow joined forces with the big-boy. In retrospect, the WEC did things the right way. In a world populated by marketing gimmicks and publicity stunts -- such as the late EliteXC's foolish strategy of revolving their whole organization on an Internet sensation that can't really fight -- it is refreshing to see such transparency. The brand never focused on publicity stunts, but rather, functioned with the revolutionary notion that filling cards with spectacular fights would be enough to develop a name for themselves.
It seems like a self-explanatory mantra, but the sad fact is that more organizations than not tend to forget the idea. After all, the foundation of this sport is built on the fighters and the fights, not the marketing.
It wasn't always easy though. Harris, a former real estate agent, describes the long set up to WEC's very first show nine years ago akin to throwing a party; a one-off idea intended to test the waters. It was a bold and daring move, yet one Harris felt he had to make.
"One show. We thought, ‘We'll do this show. We'll kind of step back afterwards. We'll see if the casino likes it.'" Harris explains. "We had about 4,000 people at the event. I was standing on the stage overlooking this huge crowd, and the guy that ran the casino came up and said, ‘Let's talk about doing number two.'"
And here we are; number two somehow turned into number 53. Yet, like a fine wine, Harris and the WEC has have only gotten better with age. Thursday's card promises to be a spectacular event, filled with exciting young fighters that are sure to bring the fireworks to a hungry Jobing.com Arena.
"This is going to be historic. I got a feeling it's going to be one of the best cards we've ever put on, as far as the fights, top-to-bottom." Harris says.
Still, in a time of so much joy and reflection, there is bound to be a tinge of sadness. The WEC may not have the following of the UFC, but those that call themselves WEC fans are among the most dedicated and enthusiastic fans in the community.
In the end, the blue gloves and the blue cage meant something to a lot of people, fans and fighters alike. While nothing but good will likely come out of this storybook ending, it will still be sad to see them go.
"It's going to be bittersweet." lightweight champion Ben Henderson says. "It's been a great ride."