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The History of the WEC: A Timeline

World Extreme Cagefighting, an event with humble beginnings as an entertainment program for an Indian reservation casino in California, will join the MMA's World Series when it merges with the UFC in 2011.

Over the past decade, the WEC has succeeded in spotlighting lighter weight fighters as well as the creating of stars such as Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo and Miguel Torres, whom otherwise might not have received the same amount of recognition.

Let's take a look back at the history of the WEC after the jump.

June 30, 2001 -- Answering a call from the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino (then the The Palace Indian Gaming Center) in Lemoore, Calif. for MMA events at the venue, Scott Adams and Reed Harris start up World Extreme Cagefighting and the first event is headlined by Dan Severn vs. Travis Fulton. Leonard Garcia, who has stayed with the WEC until the end, is in the second fight of the night and wins by knockout.

Aug. 31, 2002 -- At WEC 4, the promotion runs a show at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., the first and only time, the WEC pre-Zuffa, would leave California.

March 27, 2003 --
At WEC 6, the WEC promotes its most publicized show to date, setting the stage for the return of Frank Shamrock after a three-year absence. It was Shamrock's first fight in the States since "retiring" as UFC champion in 1999. In the main event of Return of a Legend, Shamrock defeats Bryan Pardoe to become the first-ever WEC light heavyweight champion. After the fight, Shamrock would take another three years off until his full-time return with Strikeforce in 2006. On the same card, Nick Diaz makes his one appearance for the WEC, beating Joe Hurley to become the first-ever WEC welterweight champion.

Jan. 16, 2004 -- At WEC 9, Chris Leben defeats Mike Swick to become the first-ever WEC middleweight champion. The two shortly join The Ultimate Fighter 1 and renew their rivalry.

May 21, 2004 -- Gilbert Melendez becomes the first-ever WEC lightweight champion at WEC 10.

Oct. 28, 2005 -- Long before HDNet became "Your Home for MMA," it tested the waters of MMA by beginning a partnership with the WEC. A taped WEC 17 event airs on the high-def channel.

Jan. 13, 2006 -- After the WEC 17 special, the WEC goes live on HDNet with WEC 18.

July 8, 2006 -- A special WEC 22 card was held in honor of Ryan Bennett, sports commentator, former UFC broadcast member and a co-founder of MMAWeekly, who passed away in a car accident two months prior. Fighters fought for free and proceeds went to the family of Bennett.

December 2006 -- Zuffa purchases the WEC. Zuffa removes the heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions and moves the WEC out of Lemoore, Calif. All seven WEC events in 2007 were held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Co-founders Reed Harris and Scott Adams stay with the company as general manager and matchmaker, respectively.

Jan. 18, 2007 --
With the WEC out of the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino, Christian Printup filled the MMA void by starting the Palace Fighting Championships in its place. Printup, Tachi's Director of Entertainment, had helped Harris and Adams since the beginning of the WEC and retained many of the local fighters who were left unsigned by Zuffa. The PFC would run for a total of 22 shows until Dec. 3, 2009.

Jan. 20, 2007 -
At WEC 25, Zuffa held its first WEC event that saw "Razor" Rob McCullough winning the vacant WEC lightweight title against Kit Cope and Urijah Faber making a successful featherweight title defense against Joe Pearson.

June 3, 2007 -- Fights off the first three Zuffa-owned WEC events aired taped on Versus, but beginning with WEC 28, WEC events become televised live. Faber, who would become the WEC's biggest star, headlines his first WEC on Versus event.

Feb. 13, 2008 --
After dominating the Midwest circuit for eight years, Miguel Torres finally receives long-deserved national attention by beating Chase Beebe to win the WEC bantamweight title.

Nov. 5, 2008 -- Urijah Faber's 13-fight win streak comes to an end at the hands of Mike Brown and finally loses his WEC featherweight title after five successful title defenses.

June 1, 2008 -- A star is born. Jose Aldo debuts for the WEC and in his first U.S. fight, stops former 143-pound Shooto champion Alexandre Franca "Pequeno" Nogueira.

November/December 2008 -- Sean Shelby replaces Scott Adams as WEC matchmaker ... Looking to focus on the lighter weight classes, Zuffa folds the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions. Light heavyweight champion Steve Cantwell and contender Brian Stann head to the UFC; as does middleweight contender Chael Sonnen -- but not champ Paulo Filho.

February 2009 --
The WEC continues to consolidate, phasing out the welterweight division as well. Final champion Carlos Condit heads to the UFC.

Oct. 8, 2009 -- PFC owner Printup and the Tachi Palace Hotel have fallout leaving the venue on the lookout for a new promotion. This time the Tachi Palace Hotel teams with Gladiator Challenge's Ted Williams to create Tachi Palace Fights. Urjiah Faber's protege, Chad Mendes, headlines the inaugural card.

Nov. 18, 2009 -- The reign of Jose Aldo begins. Aldo stops Mike Brown to win the WEC featherweight title.

March 21, 2010 -- WEC is no longer the only promotion on Versus. The UFC begins a new UFC Live series on Versus with a card featuring Brandon Vera vs. Jon Jones in the main event.

April 24, 2010 -- The WEC debuts on pay-per-view with WEC 48 headlined by featherweight champion Jose Aldo taking on hometown favorite Urijah Faber in Sacramento, Calif. The promotion resumes to running shows on Versus following WEC 48.

Oct. 28, 2010 -- UFC president Dana White announces WEC will merge with UFC in 2011. The WEC's bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight divisions will join the UFC. Jose Aldo automatically becomes UFC featherweight champion.

Dec. 16, 2010 -- WEC 53, headlined by Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis, will be the final WEC event. The winner of Henderson vs. Pettis will challenge the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard for the UFC lightweight title.

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