The first thing to come to mind when the topic of adding a weight class arises is how many divisions and champions there are in professional boxing.

Well, for anyone keeping track, the number is 17, ranging from the minimum weight of 105 pounds up to the unlimited heavyweights. The majority of those weight classes are separated from three to eight pounds, with the top two (heavyweight and cruiserweight) being the exception. With fighters often times changing and moving up in weight spread across four widely regarded sanctioning bodies, it is very easy to get confused as to who the champion is at any given time.

This makes it very easy to understand someone’s apprehension about MMA going down the same road. That is, until the same person starts complaining about there not being enough title fights to justify the amount of pay-per-views the UFC puts on every year.

Of course, the phrase “comparing apples to oranges” also comes up when we start comparing MMA to boxing. Yes, they are both combat sports and have a number of similarities, but they are still two very distinct sports with very different and complex issues. This is why a person must not jump to conclusions for fear of having the same problems as MMA’s sister sport, but they should look to learn from past mistakes and see how changes can be better implemented, if at all.

Currently, there are eight weight classes in the UFC. Nine, if you count the lone women’s division. UFC President Dana White has talked about the possibility of adding a men’s 115-pound strawweight division, and recently announced he would be adding a women’s strawweight division as well. Even with those additions, the total number of undisputed champions would be 11. Seems like a lot, but when you factor in that the UFC is planning to hold over 40 events in 2014, it doesn’t quite seem enough.

The flyweight division, currently reigned over by Demetrious Johnson, has had trouble gaining the traction and respect it deserves from mainstream fans. However, those title fights are often provided free of charge on Fox’s family of networks. The other recent addition to the lineup, women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, has been fortunate to receive pay-per-view billing for her most recent and upcoming title defenses, but both cards were relatively stacked, and it remains to be seen if she can carry a pay-per-view card all on her own.

Overall, the UFC does a good job of building stars, but it has had a hard time building new divisions with fighters who don’t already have pay-per-view star power. That’s why the answer to increasing title fights to accommodate a growing schedule is not to go down, but go in-between.

One weight class that does not exist in the UFC, or MMA for that matter, but would instantly have former champions and contenders in its ranks who to this day headline Fight Night and pay-per-view cards is a super-middleweight 195-pound weight class, also known as “Franklinweight.” It’s not unprecedented. The UFC has held catchweight bouts in the past, specifically for Rich Franklin, on more than one occasion, hence the division’s nickname. It’s also not unprecedented for an organization to decide what weight class it would have a champion at, as the now defunct EliteXC’s lightweight championship was contested at 160 pounds.

Such a weight class could not only become the new home to fighters who have been viable contenders at middleweight and/or light heavyweight, such as Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen Lyoto Machida, Gegard Mousasi and Michael Bisping, but would also increase the possibility of superfights while addressing the massive 20-pound weight difference—the largest of any two divisions—between middleweight and light heavyweight.

It’s possible Belfort or Machida will eventually become the UFC middleweight champion, but it’s also just as possible Chris Weidman or Anderson Silva will take the belt home in their rematch and hold onto it for a number of years to come. Although diehard fans will always tune in to see legends fight, those legends don’t tend to get more popular with casual fans without a belt around their waste, regardless of how many highlight-reel head kicks they deliver. Besides, a rematch between Silva and Belfort would be much more intriguing if one of them was the middleweight champion and the other was the super-middleweight champion.

As noted, the 20-pound separation between middleweight and light heavyweight is the biggest in MMA. The next largest is the 15-pound difference between lightweight and welterweight. Below that, everything is separated by 10 pound increments, which is a fair amount and a far cry from being the three to eight in boxing. The addition of a weight class where things are made more fair would only allow for better match-ups and fights. It would also increase the possibility of superfights among those involved, as a 10-pound jump is an easier choice to make than a 20-pound one when talk of “champion vs. champion” bouts inevitably emerges.

Unlike trying to add smaller weight classes where known talent is hard to find and pay-per-view headliners are unlikely, a super-middleweight division gives the UFC established headliners and another belt to help promote them. The championship could be determined just as easily as the flyweight one was, judging controversy aside, by having four top guys fight in a mini-tournament. It could even be Machida against Mousasi, which is already planned at 185 pounds, and Belfort against Sonnen. No one would complain too much about seeing the winners of those bouts decide the new champion.

The biggest concern would most likely be the effect this would have on the neighboring divisions and the loss of talent necessary to build up the next generation of contenders. In some ways, that is a valid concern. The UFC would be losing a number of top-10 and even top-five contenders who decide to move up or down in weight for a greater chance at gold. It would also make rankings difficult, as fighters would be more likely to jump between divisions until they find the spot where they can be most successful.

However, think about what happened when Zuffa folded the WEC into the UFC. Since then, we’ve seen a number of lightweights make the drop to featherweight, featherweights make the drop to bantamweight, and now bantamweights making the drop to flyweight, all without hurting the depth of their original division one bit. It’s just part of the maturing process of the sport and, if anything, it helps make room for the crop of fighters in the rankings.

No one wants to see fighters get an easy shot at a title, but it must be frustrating for young fighters trying to get recognition they deserve while knowing damn well that it will take a Tito Ortiz sort of losing streak before someone like Dan Henderson or Belfort is out of consideration as a top-10 fighter. It would also be good for someone like Silva, who seems to care more about big-name fights than defending a title at a specific weight class. He could become this sport’s Roy Jones Jr. if he only had to worry about moving up in weight 10 pounds at a time, instead of 20.

Dana White and the rest of the UFC brass assuredly have a plan for continuing their world domination, and it may or may not include bridging the gap between middleweight and light heavyweight. If it does, then they’ll be able to add more credibility to their already growing pay-per-view schedule. If they don’t, then we will live in a world where Sonnen may never become a UFC champion, Bisping may never fight for a UFC title and Machida and Silva will have to figure out if they will fight each other or not.

It’s a shame, because in boxing, with all its faults, a similar group of men would all become world champions. It wouldn’t matter if their belt said WBO, WBA, IBF or WBC, they would still be considered world champions. In MMA, however, there are only three letters that truly matter if you want to be considered a world champion, and those letters belong to the UFC. There are only nine of those titles up for grabs, and none of them are for a 195-pound weight class. And that’s the bottom line.

Photo: Rich Franklin (R) battles Wanderlei Silva (Sherdog)