(photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports, graphics – Ricky Leone)
Why Is This Manifesto Being Proposed?
UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson just defeated the number one contender and the last threat (on-paper) to his title, Henry Cejudo, with relative ease.
According to MMA Manifesto’s Flyweight Rankings, that means that Johnson has defeated five of the top ten contenders in his division, with the exceptions being other 125-pounders Jussier da Silva (who was defeated by three of Johnson’s opponents: Joseph Benavidez, Henry Cejudo, and John Dodson, and thus, was never able to get a title opportunity himself), Wilson Reis, Dustin Ortiz, Justin Scoggins, and Louis Smolka. The latter four made their way into the top ten after other top contenders like Dodson and Chris Cariaso left it—both of whom fell to Johnson before they did—as well as John Lineker, who couldn’t make the 125-pound limit anymore.
To sum it up, there were two dominant contenders in the flyweight division: Benavidez and Dodson, and Johnson beat them twice. Then Cejudo emerged as an undefeated Olympic Gold Medalist, and we know what happened. Now, no one’s left. So what do we do now?
The topic at the UFC 197 press conference asked the same question of both champion Johnson and UFC President Dana White. White was noncommittal on announcing anything for Johnson’s future, except for a smirk when asked about Johnson possibly stepping up to fight UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz—who Johnson suffered a previous loss to—and an inkling of apprehension regarding the previous idea of having the winner of the upcoming 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) get a title shot against Johnson at the Finale in December 2016—especially considering the UFC just cancelled the tryouts for that season.
So we are proposing a bill to determine the consensus on what the UFC should do with the future of the flyweight division. The manifesto is this: the UFC should abolish the flyweight division. Three pros are listed below supporting the manifesto, and three cons are listed condemning it. At the end, a vote will be placed in your hands to either approve or reject MMA Manifesto 01.
PRO: The Top Ten Has Been Cleaned Out
As it was mentioned, Johnson has cleaned out the division—to the point where the UFC thought it would be an attractive idea for the TUF winner to get a title shot. Alternatively, assuming he were to step up to bantamweight, whoever would succeed him would likely be someone Johnson had defeated already (and in the case of Benavidez, defeated twice), and thus, would lack legitimacy, and it would feel more like an interim title (similar to the predicament UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier is in now) while the real champion is elsewhere.
CON: Unfair to Legitimate Flyweights
We know there are or were 125-pound competitors who should have been fighting at 135 pounds, but moved down for perhaps an advantage in getting an easier road to the title considering how shallow the talent pool was. But what about legitimate 125-pounders who would be naturally disadvantaged at 135? Is it fair to either caste them out of the UFC to continue fighting at their real weight class, or to force them to move up to the bantamweight division?
The critic would say, “just bulk up and put on some weight.” What about natural height and reach disadvantages then? Abolishing the flyweight division would be completely unfair to a typical flyweight whose walkaround weight is around 135-140 pounds, and after a weight cut, should be fighting at 125 pounds.
PRO: Shallow Talent Pool
Moreover, the flyweight division has the least amount of talent in it: 29 competitors. One-third of the division is in the top ten by default. Even the newly-introduced women’s strawweight division has 31 active competitors. Compare that to the lightweight division’s 97, and it becomes very evident that UFC’s flyweight division is still in its infancy some four years after being introduced.
Put the flyweight division away for a few years, and bring it back once the talent pool fills back up—similar to when the UFC cut the lightweight division in 2001, and brought it back in 2006 after it had been rebuilt in Pride FC and on the regional scene.
CON: The Talent Is Out There
Demetrious Johnson may have beaten most of UFC’s top ten, but what about international competitors like ONE Flyweight Champion Kairat Akhmetov, who is undefeated at 23-0, or the WSOF Flyweight Champion, Magomed Bibulatov, also undefeated at 11-0, and specifically stated last year that he wanted to fight Johnson and defeat him for the UFC Flyweight Championship. Moreover, a UFC prospect like Louis Smolka or Sergio Pettis could work their way up to a title shot in the meanwhile. Ending the division is premature and unnecessary—the talent pool will replenish over time.
PRO: It Won’t Make Much of a Difference Anyway
Business-wise, Johnson has taken most of the blame when it comes to not being popular, and thus, the entire division suffering from a lack of star power. But the truth is, the same criticism could extend division-wide. The naysayer would criticize that this is a sport, so it doesn’t really matter, but the truth is the UFC is an entertainment business which only survives from pay-per-view sales, television fees, live gate admissions, advertisements, and merchandising/licensing/subscription revenue—making star power an essential trait for success in the MMA business.
For athletes who aren’t “moving the needle,” they become expendable, and with no stars in the entire division, so does the division itself.
CON: Don’t Like It? Don’t Watch It.
What harm is the flyweight division doing? As an undercard attraction, the 125-pound weight class is awesome. It doesn’t feature “Conor McGregor-like” characters, but nobody said it had to. Flyweights are some of the most technical and quickest fighters on the roster, and some people love watching the fast-paced, exciting action that the division has become noted for—so it serves a purpose for those mixed martial arts fans. For those who have no interest in the flyweight division, the solution is simple: don’t like it? Don’t watch it.
We Want Your Opinion
Vote YEA if you would like the UFC to get rid of the flyweight division.
Vote NAY if you would like the UFC to keep the flyweight division.