"Kimbo Slice" manager welcomes James Toney fight but says nothing currently in works
Hold your horses.
Amid rabid speculation this morning that Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson (5-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) may be James Toney's first octagon opponent, his manager told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) on Thursday afternoon that it's business as usual for the bearded brawler.
Slice, who is expected to face Matt Mitrione at UFC 113 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is absent from the promotion's official event page. But Mike Imber, Slice's longtime manager otherwise known as "Icy Mike," said his client was never on the page to begin with.
And Slice's absence does not mean he has other plans.
"I really don't think that's got anything to do with us," Imber said.
Vadim Finkelstein clears the air on Mousasi leaving M1 and Fedor's contract negotiations
If you can sit there and pretend like the name 'Vadim Finkelstein' doesn't sound like some end boss on Castlevania, then you need to reevaluate your childhood. A few weeks ago, Gegard Mousasi left M-1 Global due to reasons that are still unknown (or entirely too complicated to comprehend). Fedor's recent contract negations has led conspiracy theorists to develop complex scenarios in which M-1 Global would take over the Strikeforce brand in international markets. In a recent interview, Vadim Finkelstein of M-1 Global clears the air on what exactly is going on with Fedor, Mousasi and M-1 Global.
"The problem isn't there. The fight will take place. We're planning on showing the bout in over 100 countries. For all of that to go smoothly we had to postpone the event. Unfortunately I do not know the date yet. It's most likely going to be in early May. The bout is also postponed because of some other contract issues. Obviously there are always disagreements and technical questions, but everybody deals with those."
Fedor's a professional; he needs to know the specific date in order to come out in perfect condition. When he finds out that exact date he will start gathering the camp so that he may come out at his peak. He never stops training though, he always stays in shape.
Mousasi has never had a contract with M-1. If that was the case, he would not have been able to simply leave the organization. Where did he go? He still has his contracts with Strikeforce and Dream. M-1 was helping him grow. Mousasi has always been friends with us and Fedor and in return we were helping him go forward. His action was a surprise to me. I plan on meeting with him next week and finding out what's wrong. We used to say that Mousasi is an M-1 fighter, because he was starting in our organization. I'm sure that on our M-1 Challenge and M-1 Selection tournament he will not be the only fighter of that level.
James Toney's Coach, Juanito Ibarra: "He says he wanted Kimbo Slice"
The MMA world was rocked yesterday with the announcement of a former world champion boxer, James Toney , being signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
With a professional boxing record of 72-6-3, Toney is one of the most accomplished boxers of this, and any, generation. Titles in the middleweight, super middleweight, cruiserweight, and heavyweight divisions have all been claimed by “Lights Out” Toney.
Although boxers have made their way into MMA prior to this, none of them have had a resume the likes of Toney.
Just a few hours after the signing was announced, word got out that the champion boxer hired world famous boxing and MMA Coach Juanito Ibarra to help prepare him for his MMA debut
Bleacher Report spoke to Ibarra and he weighed in on his and Toney’s business partnership and what they intend to do.
“We get along real well. He’s a great student. He considers me a teacher. Hopefully this chemistry that we have can carry us to a title in MMA.”
Yes, an MMA title.
According to Ibarra, Toney is taking this transition as serious as anyone can take it and plans to, one day, contend for a championship strap. Some of the toughest competition in MMA wanders around the UFC’s heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, so a climb to the title will be no easy road for the boxing great.
When asked of what he expects of Toney’s MMA career accomplishments, Juanito knows that his fighter‘s mind frame is one that will serve him well against the UFC competition.
“James Toney is a born fighter …I’d hate to be in an alley with a born fighter.”
With his obvious strength being his stand-up, some question what will become of a fight when Toney is asked to do something out his element. Ibarra feels that Toney will be able to hold his own when he says, “James knows some martial arts because his manager [John Arthur] was a master in martial arts.”
Now comes the time where rumor mills spin and speculation over Toney’s first opponent consumes the collective minds of everyone close to the sport.
No announcements have been made, as of yet, but names like Couture and Kimbo have been tossed around as possibilities. Juanito opened up about who he thinks would be a good match-up for his boxing turned MMA fighter.
“James Toney will fight anybody. It’s up to us to help him figure things out. What I would like to see and what his manager would like to see…Kimbo Slice.
"It makes sense. The weight factor makes sense. Maybe a 220 [lbs.] fight somewhere in there. Two guys who have great names. I would love to see that fight …I think that’s a great opponent …hopefully the UFC would consider something like that.”
The slice is right!
Ibarra made it clear who he thinks his fighter wants to test his MMA waters with.
“He’s said it all over the Internet. He calls him Simba. He says he wanted Simba Slice.”
Apparently, Toney looks at Kimbo as nothing but a cuddly Disney character.
Another topic circulating about Toney and the UFC is at what weight class the world champion boxer would fight at. Heavyweights can be close to 265 lbs. so that may seem a bit too big, even for the solid hands of Toney.
A fighting weight of 205 lbs. seems like the suitable destination for Ibarra’s fighter and he agrees.
“I like it. I think that’s in the plan.”
After a fight with Kimbo, the boxing coach looks ahead and sees what could be a great set up for his fighter’s next bout.
“I’d like to get him down to 205 and fight the winner of a Chuck and Tito. Fights with Kimbo Slice and he goes on to fight the winner of a Chuck and Tito fight …I think it would sell and I think it would be a hell of a fight.”
There has been no word on when and where Toney will have his first fight in the UFC, however, Juanito Ibarra is working hard with his fighter and optimistically sees big things happening in 2010.
“Hopefully they’ll see us fight somewhere, maybe in June. Believe me, as his teacher I’m not going to let him step into the octagon without him being ready …I think we’re gonna shock the world, dude. I believe that.”
Randy Couture Wants James Toney First
While we still don't know who James Toney will face in his Octagon debut, UFC legend Randy Couture has let it be known that he wants to be the one to introduce the former boxing champion to the world of mixed martial arts.
"The Natural" took to Twitter just a couple of hours after the news of Toney's signing was made official by the organization, and wrote: "I hope I'm the first guy they call to fight tony! [sic] :)"
Apparently Couture really wants a shot at Toney, because moments later he tweeted about him again: "I hope they set me up with tony! [sic]."
Message received, Randy. Here's hoping the UFC was reading your Twitter feed last night too.
A fight between Toney and Couture, who has no scheduled fights on the horizon, makes a lot more sense than, say, Toney vs. Kimbo Slice, as some have suggested. Couture is a UFC legend, and in many ways represents what MMA is all about. If we really want to find out how Toney will hang in the Octagon, put him up against one the best MMA fighters of all-time, not someone who will try to outbox him. And forget the fact that Toney has an 0-0 MMA record, while Couture is 18-10. If "Lights Out" wants the best, he should fight the best.
Kamal Shalorus not cleared for WEC 48 fight, Jamie Varner likely off pay-per-view event
A proposed WEC 48 lightweight matchup between former champion Jamie Varner (16-3 MMA, 4-1 WEC) and intriguing prospect Kamal Shalorus (6-0-1 MMA, 2-0 WEC) has been nixed.
Varner first posted news of the dissolution of the potential matchup on his Twitter account Wednesday night, and MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) has since confirmed that Shalorus was forced to withdraw from the event after failing to receive medical clearance for a few lingering, yet not serious, injuries from his hard-fought January win over Dave Jansen.
Bout agreements were never distributed for the contest, and it now appears likely that Varner will re-booked on another card at a later date.
"WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber" takes place on April 24 at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Calif., and features two title fights: featherweight champion Jose Aldo vs. ex-champ Urijah Faber and newly crowned lightweight title-holder Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone.
Shalorus, an Iranian who wrestled for England in the 2004 Summer Olympics, made his WEC debut in late 2009 and replaced Alex Karalexis on short notice at WEC 42. There, he scored a quick, 86-second knockout of Will Kerr. He then followed up the successful debut with a unanimous-decision victory over then-unbeaten Jansen (14-0 at the time) at WEC 46.
A powerful wrestler with potent striking, Shalorus is considered among the WEC's top prospects. An exact timetable for his return has not yet been established.
Varner, who held the WEC's 155-pound title from February 2008 to January 2010, lost the belt to then-interim champ Benson Henderson at WEC 46. The loss snapped Varner's five-fight win streak, which began after a submission loss to Hermes Franca at UFC 62.
Varner returned from a year-long layoff due to hand and foot injuries when he fought Henderson.
Marcus Davis Needs To Chill Out
That's the response from Davis's (and maybe every UFC Welterweight's) latest trash talk target, Dan Hardy. "Yeah I saw [the AIDS tweet]. I laughed. I think he needs to chill out a bit. I think more than anything it is Davis getting to Davis now. I think he needs to see it for what it was and just chill out a bit. It was all meant in good humor, I didn’t say anything malicious or do anything malicious. It was all funny stuff, like the photoshops and the plastic paddy thing. It was just like a back and forward you’d get between mates in our gym any day of the week."
Is James Toney An MMA Freak Show?
Believe it or not, many UFC Heavyweights say no. Most, in fact, had more positive things to say than negative-including Pat Barry, Paul Buentello, Brendan Schaub and Todd Duffee. In fact, Barry even said he wanted to fight Toney. Tonight.
Report: WEC In Calgary On June 20 (Updated)
"We're going to go up to Canada, and we're hoping to do that in the next few months," WEC general manager Reed Harris said recently on MMAWeekly Radio. According to one news article, "the next few months" means June 20. The report cites Calgary Combative Sports Commission chairperson Shirley Stunzi as confirming that WEC has “officially booked” the date in Calgary, Alberta.
UPDATE: A second article says that "A source close to the show said the event is not official and that a date and venue are still being finalized. However, all signs are pointing to a June 20 date at the 7,500-seat Stampede Corral."
Trainer Juanito Ibarra to coach UFC signee James Toney in transition to MMA
Boxing champion James Toney (72-6-3 Boxing, 0-0 MMA) already has a trainer to shepherd him into the world of mixed martial arts.
Juanito Ibarra, a 30-year veteran of boxing and MMA who once trained champions Oscar De La Hoya and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, is training Toney in his Southern California MMA gym.
Ibarra told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) on Wednesday that he's been working with Toney for the past month and will act as head coach for the boxing champion's first MMA fight.
"James and I have good personal chemistry," Ibarra said. "That's what it takes. I just don't jump in with anybody. We respect each other's knowledge."
Toney's UFC signing today came as a shock to many MMA fans who have heard UFC president Dana White rail at aging athletes such as Herschel Walker for turning the sport into a "freak show."
And until now, a deal between Toney and the UFC was thought to be dead in the water. The boxing champion crashed the UFC 108 post-fight press conference on Jan. 2 and confronted White about a possible contract. Before a group of reporters, White was skeptical about bringing Toney into the octagon.
"Listen, let me tell you what: I got blasted this week? Let me make this fight (with Toney)," White said after Toney accosted him. "That will get me [expletive] blasted. I'm the first guy out there going, 'This is a [expletive] freak show. Who would put on a fight like this?' I'm the first guy that would say that. I'm always saying it when freak shows happen."
Afterward, Toney brought cameras to his meeting with White and made his pitch once again.
Days later, Toney called the UFC's offer "laughable" and trashed White in subsequent interviews on various media outlets. As recently as last week, he appeared anything but confident a deal would happen.
"Dana White is a straight up ho!" Toney told Fighthype.com. "He makes me a five-fight offer for chump change and said I can't box anymore if I accept it. He must have lost his damn mind."
The UFC has yet to make an official announcement on the signing, although White has confirmed the deal to multiple media outlets.
Ibarra said he'd like to see Toney make his UFC debut in June, but said that was just his wish.
In the coming weeks, he expects to bring in several well-known fighters to coach Toney in wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, though he declined to give any names.
Ibarra is encouraged by what he's seen so far in the gym.
"He's a student of the fight game," Ibarra said. "He's a born fighter, and I believe in him. I think I can teach him more about his body, his athleticism – how to fight better as an MMA combatant."
To teach Toney, he said, is simply an honor.
"We'll put in the work and see what happens," Ibarra said. "He's starting to get in shape, and he's in it.
"If I can be an asset to somebody, that's fantastic. It's another great opportunity. Hopefully my team will help him and we can go in there and get some victories."
UFC Signs Boxing Champion James Toney, Debut Date Uncertain
After a long period of off-again, on-again courtship, the UFC has pulled the trigger and signed 41-year-old boxing champion James Toney.
UFC President Dana White confirmed the signing to MMA Fighting after it was first reported by FiveOuncesofPain.com.
Toney had actively campaigned for a contract from the UFC, following White around the country to several events and eventually meeting with him. Toney reportedly turned down at least one contract offer before signing.
Asked when Toney would debut, White said he had "no idea."
With a professional boxing record of 73-6-2 with one no contest, Toney is among the great boxers of his era, winning titles in six different weight classes ranging from middleweight to heavyweight.
In the past, White noted that he'd have some trouble passing Toney off as a legitimate mixed martial artist after criticizing other late career changers like Herschel Walker, but he always voiced an interest in Toney as a "real fighter" capable of making the transition.
Toney has reportedly been training in MMA for some time in hopes of making his octagon debut. Now it appears he'll finally get the chance he's campaigned for.
Georges St-Pierre on Dan Hardy: I want to take him out as quickly as I can
While UFC welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy (23-6 MMA, 4-0 UFC) continues to remain in the headlines due to ongoing verbal conflicts with some of his past opponents, the British slugger's date with Georges St-Pierre (19-2 MMA, 13-2 UFC) at UFC 111 later this month is fast approaching.
St-Pierre, the popular French-Canadian champion, hasn't yet found himself as much of a target for Hardy's famed trash talking, but that doesn't mean "The Outlaw" isn't firmly in the sites of "Rush."
"The longer a fight is, the more you can get hurt," St-Pierre recently told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). "I want to take him out as fast as I can and go home."
St-Pierre currently carries a six-fight win streak, and the 28-year old has fought into the championship rounds in three of those six fights. St-Pierre dominated the latter stages of each of those contests. Nevertheless, he said he has little desire to give Hardy a chance to connect on any of the powerful punches that have quickly become his hallmark in MMA.
And while many MMA observers have questioned Hardy's readiness for such a challenge, St-Pierre believes his own previous victories over many of the division's other top contenders make the Brit a perfect opponent.
"He deserves it," St-Pierre said. "He's undefeated in the UFC, and he's a great challenge for me. He's a top-10 guy, and we haven't fought yet. Most of the contenders at 170 pounds are guys I've already fought.
"It's a mathematics problem. It's a new problem that I'm going to solve. It's going to make me a better fighter. I'm going to grow from that."
St-Pierre has already dispatched the welterweight division's perennial top-three contenders in Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck, he avenged his lone career losses to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, and he's beaten lightweight champion B.J. Penn twice. Because of his success at 170 pounds, many believe there are simply no challenges left in the welterweight division. But St-Pierre refuses to speculate where his next step might lead until after he's made it through his upcoming challenge.
"It all depends on the outcome of the fight," St-Pierre said. "I want to fight the best guy that deserves it. I don't want to fight for nothing.
"I'm the kind of guy that the reason why I fight mostly three times a year – I don't fight anymore five times a year – is that every time I fight, it's a big fight. I prefer it like this because I want to get the big fish. I want to get the best fighter. At the same time, it give me the opportunity to improve more between fights because I have more time to train. I become a better version all the time than the guy that I was in my last fight. That's why I like it that way."
And while most fans believe St-Pierre is a notch above Hardy, the Team Rough House product does own UFC wins over Mike Swick, Marcus Davis, Rory Markham and Akihiro Gono.
St-Pierre believes in the skills of his foe, and he knows that an impressive victory is necessary for him to reach his ultimate goal: to be the best.
"I always want to fight the best guys because I want to be the best," St-Pierre said. "By fighting the best guy, you improve more. I don't want to fight too often, but when I fight, I want to fight the best guy.
"I don't want to fight guys that don't deserve shots. I want to fight guys that are on top of the food chain, and when I fight, I want it to be worth it."
Quinton Jackson Has To Get In Shape Just To Get Into Shape
And according to the latest smack talk from UFC 114 foe Rashad Evans, it's not just any camp. "He's in the UK right now training. He's doing a Forrest camp, so that's how fat he is. Rampage gotta get in shape just to get in shape. He's in rough shape right now. He's been sitting on the set for a while, in the trailer, waiting to do scenes and getting served food and everything else." Rashad refers to the time Rampage spent filming the upcoming movie "The A-Team".
Shinya Aoki Will Take Off His Tights, Submit Gilbert Melendez & Restore PRIDE's Heyday To Dream
In recent comments posted by DREAM, DREAM LW Champion Shinya Aoki discussed his fight with SF LW Champion Gilbert Melendez, plans to bring the belt back to Japan, and even fighting without his famed "stretchy pants". "Yes, I will have to take off my tights. I think the prospect of being able to see my bare legs is attractive, so I want the fans to come all the way to the US for it." As for the pending defense of DREAM Lightweight title against Tatsuya Kawajiri, he expressed his eagerness and assured the fans that he will not defect from DREAM to fight overseas.
Report: UFC 115 In Vancouver In Jeopardy
MM-Eh in May could wind up becoming MM-Nay, at least for UFC. Former fighter-turned-analyst Paul "The Mauler" Lazenby, a Vancouver resident, was on hand at yesterday's meeting of the Vancouver Athletic Commission to inquire about obtaining his promoter's license as well as get more information about the upcoming Zuffa event. And according to a post on his blog, paullazenby.com, it didn't go well. Says Lazenby, "In spite of Vancouver City Council's approval of a two-year trial period for MMA, I found out that there are still no regulations in place to promote the sport professionally within the city. The problem lies in the fact that the city is still expressing grave concerns about legal and financial liability, while movement toward a resolution of those concerns appears to have been extremely sluggish. At one point, newly-elected VAC chair Mirko Mladenovic (a supporter of properly-sanctioned MMA) asked Mr. Hammel when the legal issues might be resolved, to which Mr. Hammel replied, "About two months" in a manner that indicated to me that it may be even longer."
Strikeforce Fighters to Appear on 'NCIS: L.A.'
Synergy was the word of the day when Strikeforce lightweight champion Gil Melendez, former titleholders Josh Thomson and Cung Le, and others joined the cast of CBS’s “NCIS: Los Angeles,” shooting this week in Hollywood, Calif.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” stars Chris O’Donnell and L.L. Cool J as agents with the Navy’s crime investigative service. In this episode, Cool J goes undercover as an MMA fighter to investigate the death of a Marine tied to the sport.
Strikeforce fighters Dan Henderson, Frank Shamrock and K.J. Noons also guest-starred as themselves, assisting Cool J for his cage debut against Eric Christian Olsen (“Fired Up!” “Dumb and Dumberer.”) Referee “Big” John McCarthy “officiated” the former rap star’s emphatic turn in the cage.
The episode airs on Tuesday, April 6 at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST on CBS, while Strikeforce returns to CBS’s “Saturday Night Fights” on April 17.
"Strikeforce: Nashville" on CBS officially announced for April 17
Strikeforce's second trip to network television is finally a done deal.
CBS on Tuesday officially announced its broadcast of "Strikeforce: Nashville," which takes place April 17 at Bridgestone Arena (formerly known as the Sommet Center) in Nashville, Tenn., airs live at 9 p.m. ET (tape delayed on the West Coast).
Strikeforce and CBS officials told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) the broadcast will run approximately two hours with apparent room to run over the allotted time if needed.
The San Jose, Calif.-based promotion is aiming high for the event's main card with no less than three title fights scheduled for the televised portion of the evening.
In the main draw, middleweight champion Jake Shields (24-4-1 MMA, 2-0 SF) makes his second title defense when he meets top-tier import Dan Henderson (25-7 MMA, 0-0 SF).
After serving most of his career at welterweight, Shields bulked up to defeat Robbie Lawler this past June for the promotion's first-ever middleweight belt; he then successfully defended the belt against Jason "Mayhem" Miller on CBS' initial Strikeforce broadcast in November 2009. Henderson, a former UFC light heavyweight contender, has fought in the middleweight and light heavyweight classes. The former two-title PRIDE champion made a highly publicized split from the UFC this past December.
"It's been a long time trying to put this fight together, and I'm super excited to have a main event on CBS against such a great fighter," Shields said. "I've fought a lot of tough fighters, but he's probably the toughest fight of my life. I'm up for the challenge."
Light heavyweight champ Gegard Mousasi (28-2-1 MMA, 2-0 SF) makes his first title defense when he takes on budding rival Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (6-0 MMA, 1-0 SF).
Mousasi, a former DREAM middleweight champion, signed with Strikeforce this past July and immediately made good on his hype when he defeated Renato "Babalu" Sobral's in 60 seconds to take the promotion's 205-pound belt. Lawal, a former collegiate wrestling standout, earned his stripes in Japan's Sengoku event series before he migrated to Strikeforce this past October. Two months later, he knocked out UFC veteran Mike Whitehead in a litle more than three minutes at "Strikeforce: Evolution."
Additionally, the recently re-crowned lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (17-2 MMA, 7-1 SF) faces DREAM lightweight title-holder Shinya Aoki (23-4 MMA, 0-0 SF) in a long rumored match-up.
Melendez, a longtime Strikeforce fighter, won the promotion's first-ever 155-pound title against UFC standout Clay Guida in June 2006. He went on to defend the title once before a hard-fought decision loss to Josh Thomson two years later at "Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson." This past April, he took the interim 155-pound belt with Thomson sidelined due to persistent injuries and unified the title eight months later in a pitch-perfect rematch with Thomson.
Aoki, long considered one of the world's best lightweights and MMA grapplers, will make his U.S. debut on the heels of a three-fight win streak. The Japanese star drew controversy in his most recent performance when he broke Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota's arm and taunted him afterward at K-1 "Dynamite!! 2009" this past New Year's Eve.
The broadcast team for "Strikeforce: Nashville" includes veteran play-by-play commentator Gus Johnson, former UFC champion Frank Shamrock, and color analyst Mauro Renallo.
"When you have one event with three championship fights and this many top-ranked athletes, it's more than just a great card; it's a big night for MMA," Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President, Primetime, CBS Television stated. "Audiences are going to see a great range of mixed-martial-arts skills, styles and talent on one broadcast."
"We are excited about returning to CBS Primetime with a card featuring some of the top mixed-martial-arts fighters in the world, including three title fights and the Strikeforce debut of MMA legend Dan Henderson," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker added in a prepared statement. "CBS has shown a tremendous commitment to furthering the sport of MMA on network television, and we appreciate the home they have given Strikeforce to deliver world-class cards for MMA fans everywhere."
Matchmaker says WEC 155-pound class isn't going anywhere
WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby shares a portfolio of fighters looking to fight in the 155-pound division with UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. Since this past March, the lightweight division remains the only weight class in which the two Zuffa, LLC-owned promotions share a common division. Why the overlap? In a recent interview with MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio), Shelby said the 155-pound division is a necessary tool to keep fans invested in the UFC's lighter-weighted sibling. "I really think it's a situation with the WEC that the future is the lighter-weight category," Shelby said. "The [155-pound fighters are] a fantastic bridge into the [145-pound fighters and 135-pound fighters], which are extremely well-established in the UFC, and they've had a great history in the UFC." Shelby points to boxing as a model for the popularity of lighter-weight classes. Fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao are doing the biggest business in boxing's recent history – with the days of heavyweight dominance in steep decline. "That's where all the money's at; that's [what] everyone wants to see nowadays," Shelby said. The WEC is just beginning to scratch that surface. Meanwhile, lightweights headed no less than five UFC events in 2009 due in no small part to UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn's popularity. Three 2009 events featuring Penn have cracked the 500,000 mark in pay-per-view buys. "It's one of the last frontiers in MMA," Shelby said. "I don't think we're 100 percent there yet, but people are appreciating the lighter-weight guys." And often, the loyal fans of both promotions wonder why the WEC's top lightweights aren't fighting in the UFC. If they're so good, and the promotions are linked together, why not try them out against the UFC's best inside the octagon? Some fans want Jose Aldo to move up in weight and challenge Penn for UFC lightweight title – even though Aldo hasn't defended his own featherweight belt. Shelby is confident that while WEC lightweights could hold their own in the UFC, the division needs to mature before Zuffa, LLC addresses the issue of swapping 155-pound fighters. "I don't think we [can] cross that bridge yet because there's so many questions that aren't answered in the [155-pound] division in the WEC," he said. "I think if you have a guy who's just completely just decimated the division, then you can maybe start talking about that. But I don't think we're at that point yet." Keeping the divisions separate also means more work for fighters looking to make their marks in the sport. "There's enough to go around right now; there's enough talent," Shelby said. "When you watch these 155-pound fighters (in the WEC), I've never had a person come away going, 'I can't believe you had the [155-pound fighters] on there. That sucked.' They're always fantastic fights in the WEC. They're fan friendly fights. These guys are awesome fighters." Shelby said, in time, fans will come to appreciate the WEC lightweight division on its own. "I could put these fighters against anybody, and they would not only hold their own, but they would excel," he said.