It seems like being a top featherweight contender doesn’t get you a spot on the main card.

It’s the life of a fighter in the lighter weight classes, still trying to fight for people’s attention.

Hatsu Hioki is set to fight Ricardo Lamas at UFC on FX 4 this Friday, and on a card that is lacking a lot of the top talent in their respective divisions, Hioki is on the undercard. Heck, Ross Pearson and Cub Swanson get a main card spot and they’re fringe top-10 featherweights.

Hioki is arguably the second best featherweight on the planet, and if it weren’t for what seems to be his insecurities about being ready for a title shot, he may very well have been the man to have the next go at UFC champ Jose Aldo. Instead, we’re stuck with something as perplexing as an Erik Koch title shot.

That’s besides the point though, as Hioki is coming off a big win over Bart Palaszewski at UFC 144 in Japan where Hioki displayed his great ground control and improved striking. A win over Lamas could give Hioki the next title shot against Aldo, whenever Aldo returns from injury and likely beats Koch.

Having Hioki on the undercard doesn’t help build a fan base that knows of the Japanese fighter. Having him on FX would help sell a future title fight and help bring in viewers for either the PPV or free card on TV, which seems to be a bit of the problem in trying to sell the Aldo/Koch featherweight title fight.

Sticking Hioki on the undercard and having Pearson/Swanson on the main card tells me one thing: the UFC is going for the sure-fire exciting fight on the main card. Hioki’s fight could be boring, much like his UFC debut against George Roop. Or you could get the Hioki who was charged and ready to go in his last fight.

Many people don’t know about the former Sengoku champion, who also holds two wins over Mark Hominick and wins over Jeff Curran and Marlon Sandro. So wouldn’t a free card on FX be the perfect opportunity to push this fighter over the edge and show people, “Hey this guy is in the mix for a title shot” instead of putting him on Fuel TV, which very few have on their TV dials?

Last year, the same happened to then No. 1 contender Chad Mendes. Mendes was heading into his UFC 133 fight against Rani Yahya on the Spike TV portion of the card instead of the main PPV portion. Really?

That wasn’t all that great of a move back then either, considering the same thing needed to happen with Mendes. He needed to be built up for a title shot when he was one win away from obtaining it. The difference between the Mendes and Hioki situations though is that Fuel TV is available to far less people than Spike TV. You can actually make a case more people would see Mendes on Spike than on the actual PPV card. You can’t do that with Fuel.

Both fighters are contenders in the division, yet they’re relegated to undercard duties.

Hioki is still improving as a fighter, but who knows how much further he has come since the Palaszewski fight. He might actually prefer to keep the fight standing this time around and test himself to see if he is ready for the monster striker Aldo is.

If this was Spike TV, I wouldn’t sit here and complain like a middle-aged man who thinks his job sucks and his wife doesn’t cook enough. But putting a fighter as good as Hioki on the undercard on a channel that won’t be seen by many people is crazy.

Photo: Hatsu Hioki looks for a submission at UFC 144 (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.