Demtrious Johnson is the king of the 125-pounders. The no. 1 flyweight in the world, the former bantamweight contender is a clear step above everyone in the division. It’s usually a good thing to have an established champion in your division, but it’s making things hard for a slim and not yet popular flyweight weight class. With only 17 fighters, it’s definitely the smallest division in the UFC and its biggest problem right now is popularity. Fans just don’t know the guys fighting at 125 and that’s the issue.
Thankfully, we’ve been introduced to a few from the tournament that took place to crown the new flyweight champ, but the problem is that not all of those fighters are still in the UFC. Yasuhiro Urushitani got the boot, and while “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall might be a fan favorite, the truth is that he was almost ousted from the UFC too before winning his latest fight.
Right now, the no. 1 contender for the belt is Joseph Benavidez, but the problem with Benavidez is that Johnson has already beaten him once, and such a rematch so soon would really emphasize how slim that division really is. One thing the UFC hasn’t really done is put more flyweight matches on main card events. The division has had so little exposure, with most of it has come from preliminary bouts, that fans just haven’t been able to become acquainted with the fighters yet.
They really ought to start placing more 125-pound matchups on the main televised cards as openers so that fans can at least get familiar with the names.
One step in the right direction is the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, which will feature many bantamweight and flyweight fighters. The only issue with that is the fact that show has seen declining ratings in recent years, though hopefully the aspect of women and men in the house together will see a spike in viewership. The women’s division has seen a big jolt in popularity as the UFC has really tried to push the it into popularity; thus far, they’ve been successful.
I do understand the reasoning behind pushing the women’s division is a little different than doing so for the flyweights and I also get that the relative novelty of women’s mixed martial arts has helped its popularity, but the flyweight division needs a little more attention.
Right now, the biggest solution and most immediate benefit for the UFC and for the flyweight division would be to see some bantamweight fighters drop down to compete at 125. Some natural fits in my opinion would be Brad Pickett, Scott Jorgensen and Norifumi Yamamoto. All three have definite name recognition but haven’t enjoyed overarching success at 135, and would probably be placed in an immediate title race if they could shed 10 pounds.
On a personal note, I’d love to see Walel Watson shave off 10 pounds and win a couple of fights to get the UFC to sign him back. I think it’d be fun to see a 5-foot-11 flyweight fighter. Plenty of other fighters making a living at 135 could come down as well, with Alex Caceres and Sergio Pettis coming to mind immediately.
The division is slim, and its popularity just isn’t there. The UFC needs to rebuild the excitement for the flyweights and get them on the television to showcase their talent level. It also couldn’t hurt to bring a few more fighters or get some established guys to drop down.
In any case, the flyweight division needs to get a little more hype sooner than later, or it’ll be dissolved much like the women’s division in Bellator earlier this week.
James is a MMA Contributor for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter for more news and updates.