Flyweights, who?

The 125-pound division has seemingly flown way under the radar in the UFC since the promotion introduced the women’s bantamweight division earlier this year. Even before the ladies took center stage though, the flyweight division was barely promoted or seen on anything but a preliminary card.

Now, the introduction of the women’s bantamweight division has cast an even darker shadow upon the male flyweights and shed light on how neglected those diminutive fighters have become compared to the ladies.

Preliminary fights on FX or Fuel TV, sometimes even on Facebook—this is where the flyweights go. Unless it’s a big name like Joseph Benavidez or flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, don’t expect to see a 125er land on an event’s main card.

Then there’s reality television. There hasn’t been a season of The Ultimate Fighter for the flyweights yet, and flyweights haven’t coached on the show either.

Meanwhile, the UFC has moved fast to put the women’s division in the spotlight, including champion Ronda Rousey. The next season of The Ultimate Fighter not only has women coaching the show, but also has women participating in the TUF tournament. The ladies are certainly deserving of the attention, but the promotion’s efforts there only help to highlight the disparity in attention given to the two separate groups.

This overlooking of the flyweight division has started to show the UFC’s real interest in the weight class. It isn’t a highly touted division, doesn’t have any big stars to push and doesn’t bring the interest of promoting the first female, well, anything.

That’s just the problem though—if the UFC had this intention to bury flyweights on the prelims and only promote a couple of guys, it just seems like a waste of money. The flyweights deserve to be heavily promoted. “Mighty Mouse” is perhaps one of the quickest guys—scratch that, the quickest—that the UFC has under contract. Not only is he a deadly fighter, but he is a clean-cut champion and a professional to the tee, which is something the UFC could use to help not only promote the division, but the sport as a whole. Here we have someone like Johnson, who can help shed the negative perception of mixed martial arts fighters, yet he doesn’t receive nearly the amount of attention as a Miesha Tate, let alone a Ronda Rousey.

The flyweight division has a lot of problems, beginning with the ill marketing it has received. In order to make any sort of progress, the promotion needs to market the goods. The flyweight goods have barely been touched and haven’t been heavily promoted since the flyweight tournament began last year. Some of this could lie with the tendency of flyweight fights polarizing crowds—divisional fights that some find highly entertaining have been criticized by others for their lack of finishes or sustained action and the UFC has even resorted to promoting the division’s title fights while omitting the “flyweight” label entirely.

Yet the UFC could potentially be sitting on a gold mine, as the flyweights are perhaps the most technical fighters on the planet. Here is where skill beats strength and power. Here is where a close decision could always be the outcome as two fighters go at it for three rounds with incredible cardio and incredible pace only rivaled by those old-school martial arts movies. Every division will have fights that generate a negative reaction from fans, but for some reason the UFC has responded to those jeers in a unique way when it comes to the flyweights. Instead, the promotion should remain persistent in highlighting the virtues of the weight class and give it more chances to flourish (preferably in higher-profile slots on its cards and through its reality series).

I’m not saying the women don’t deserve the spotlight, because they absolutely do. The problem here is that the flyweights have not received similar attention, even before the women’s division was introduced, and since then the interest has deteriorated to the point of nonexistence.

The UFC could have easily used this upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter to showcase both the women and the flyweights, but it didn’t happen. All it takes is one moment, one fight, to build interest, and this season of TUF could have been it. With the attention on Rousey’s appearance, the flyweights could have gained some attention from sharing the stage.

But here they are. Still in the dark. Still waiting for the opportunity.

Photo: Demetrious Johnson (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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.

  • unbeknownst

    Just like TUF 14, half the guys that fight at BW in this TUF tournament will fight at FlyW once officially in the UFC. With 3 fights in 6 weeks, on the show, it’s hard for these guys to cut to 125lbs 3 times in that span. So it makes sense that they make the show competitors compete at 135lbs.

  • chrs

    The flyweight division has more problems than that — check out the recent Bagautdinov v. Marcos Vinicius debacle. Thanks to the miracle of weight cutting, will ALL the hacks from Bantamweight and Featherweight move down to try and beat on 5′ 3″ers with jabs from the cage and triangle chokes? It was a treat to see the Russian KO that embarrassment, but it almost didn’t happen…