John Lineker (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)Brutal Reality: Lineker’s Loss Should be the UFC’s Gain Aidan O'Connor November 13, 2014 News, Spotlight It was a crazy weekend in the world of MMA. Confusing callouts, decision robberies and a record number of finishes highlighted the aversion to logic that has, at times, defined the sport. Of all the intriguing narratives to emerge from the UFC’s respective ventures to Australia and Brazil, it was perhaps John Lineker’s request for a title shot in the hours following his cancelled co-main event bout with Ian McCall – for which Lineker failed to make weight – that took the gold medal for peculiarity. “Since I wanted to fight (McCall) and ask for a shot at the title, why can’t I just go ahead and fight the champion?…UFC, please, give me this opportunity. I have evolved a lot since my first fight in the UFC, and I’m 100 percent ready to fight for the title.” While Lineker is allegedly ready for a title challenge, any bout with the current champion – Demetrious Johnson – risks eliciting a slew of negative consequences. The ramifications of granting Lineker his wish are far greater than the immediate risk of missing weight. In the long term, such an ordeal could hurt an already underappreciated flyweight division, and ultimately harm the UFC as a whole. Lineker tipped the scales at 126.7lbs on Friday night, marking the fourth time he has missed weight under the UFC banner. His opponent Ian McCall was on point and slated to take twenty percent of Lineker’s purse before the American succumbed to a lingering blood infection and UFC doctors declared him unable to compete. The bout was scrapped altogether, delivering yet another blow to a card already decimated by injuries. Lineker would later cite confusion over the weigh-ins’ scheduled start time as the reason for his egregious error. Unfortunately for him, the excuse will not carry the same weight as the indictment. Exhibiting a consistent problem making weight over a three year period, Lineker’s struggle with weight is so well entrenched in the minds of fans and media that the personal battle he faces ahead of fight night stands to detract significant attention from the bout itself. In a fledgling division looking to establish itself on par with the upper weight classes, any deviation from the astounding speed and technique showcased at flyweight in the promotional build to a title contest simply cannot be tolerated. Among casual MMA fans, the flyweight division strangely lacks the credibility it deserves, a sentiment previously echoed by McCall on The MMA Hour. A lack of history relative to the UFC’s other divisions and a soft-spoken, yet dominant champion in Demetrious Johnson – who makes his challengers appear vastly inferior – are two contributing factors. However, it is a handful of previous controversies at 125lbs dating back to March 2012 that have compounded the division’s troubles and proved most damaging from a promotional perspective. The inaugural tournament to crown the UFC’s first flyweight champion – employed with the intention of providing clarity and structure to a division populated by less familiar names – was tainted by an error in Johnson and McCall’s semi-final bout. Australia’s athletic commission incorrectly tallied the judge’s scorecards, adding confusion to the entire scenario. More recently, Johnson’s title defence against Ali Baugautinov at UFC 174 was soured by the post-event revelation that Baugautinov tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO). A testament to Johnson’s ability, but a condemnation of Baugautinov’s conduct. The Russian remains suspended from active competition. The UFC is not at fault for these mistakes, but ultimately a victim of them. The gravity of demeanours like Lineker’s is escalated by the lack of depth in the division, accentuating the need for the promotion to stay as far away from another problem at flyweight as possible. A title shot for the Brazilian would also, albeit indirectly, communicate an apathy to the importance of making weight, relegating such professionalism to a secondary requirement at a time when the topic of cutting weight is so contentious and prevalent in sports discussion. In recent weeks, the California State Athletic Commission’s Executive Director Andy Foster has spoken openly of his efforts to reform the dangerous practice of rapid weight loss in MMA and boxing that recently dominated headlines ahead of UFC 177. If the UFC granted Lineker his request for a title bout, the promotion would not only trivialize Foster’s agenda but also demoralise competitors who have gone to great and uncomfortable lengths to meet the required weight limit even at the expense of their performance on fight night. The worst case scenario would be three-fold: a scrapped title fight; further acrimony directed towards flyweights; a strengthened argument that competitors at 125lbs are not ready for the higher positions on event cards; and the UFC rendered vulnerable to criticism from sports and mainstream media. While the climate at flyweight is not ideal, it is imperative that the UFC stays true to the model of rewarding deserving competitors that has made its brand so famous. For the short term solution of finding Demetrious Johnson a new title challenger, a title shot for John Lineker is a risk simply not worth taking.