Is Termination Looming For The UFC’s Flyweight Division
By James Lee
Last night saw Deiveson Figueiredo beat Joseph Benavidez in the second round, in what should have been for the vacant flyweight title.
As former champion Henry Cejudo relinquished his title late last year, last night’s UFC Norfolk main event was supposed to finally clear up the top of the division. However, the Brazilian failed to make weight the day prior, meaning he was ineligible to win the title and therefore although he won, the title is still vacant.
Regardless, the pair showcased some of the best skill in the sport with back-and-forth action that combined both the grappling and striking aspect. Unfortunately, the belt is still vacant. However, with several contenders vying for their chance, the question remains about whether the division can be reignited or whether the flyweight stage is falling down a path of omnipresent failure.
On a rendition of his podcast a week prior, UFC commentator Joe Rogan said that there is something about the division that fans can’t get behind and albeit true for the current landscape, it isn’t necessarily evident whether that will forever be the case.
Boxing hasn’t struggled to make smaller fighters marketable. Past years have seen Manny Pacquiao and Pernell Whittaker become global superstars fighting at the smaller weight classes. In the current day, fighters like Vasyl Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis and Naoya Inoue are some of the sport’s most exciting and well-known, despite weighing close to that of the UFC’s flyweight division. Moreover, Carl Frampton is one of the UK’s most noted boxers having fought the large majority of his career at super-bantamweight.
Perhaps the boxing community appreciates skill more than the mixed martial arts community, especially with its early fixation on intensity, with those most violent in the sport are still held in a higher regard than those with more skill. Take for example Justin Gaethje, who despite having a record of 4-2 inside the UFC, is more favourable amongst fans than other fighters with superior records.
As boxing fans enamour the technical ability of Lomachenko, fighters like Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo are appreciated by the MMA community, but not nearly enough for them to ever become one of the sport’s most marketable.
Perhaps the division’s downfall came through Demetrious Johnson being too successful. Maybe a consistent changing of the guard would have sparked notable mainstream interest and with the current flyweight division being evenly-matched, it could provide a string of interest with a cycle of change.
There is oddly something about a long-reigning champion that fans cannot get behind. Unpredictability is the foundation for the sport’s viewership so as Johnson seemingly had already beat people before the contest, the mystique surrounding the contest was lost.
There is little to suggest a long-reigning champion can be extremely marketable in the sport unless the community wants them to lose. Take for example Jon Jones.
Perhaps though as the flyweight division is now wide open, the time for progression and reignition is now, although the unfortunate looming ruination is seemingly on the verge.
Photo Credit: Peter Casey – USA TODAY Sport