With rumors swirling around that the UFC plans to ax the flyweight division, Ben Askren recently made an interesting case for the promotion to add a 165-pound bracket.
Talk about the possibility of the UFC adding more weight divisions is nothing new, and in recent months there’s been a lot of buzz about the promotion creating a 165-pound class. A key reason is that both the lightweight and welterweight divisions have a lot of talented fighters, and further, the 15-pound gap between the divisions doesn’t work for many competitors. Case in point, Kevin Lee has a tough time making 155, but he would probably be an undersized welterweight.
Of course, talk about a 165 division also spiked when Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz claimed they were going to be fighting for the new division’s belt, but that turned out to be only wishful thinking…
Well, the former Bellator and ONE welterweight champ Askren was on hand at UFC 230 earlier this month, and he reportedly had this to say, while discussing new weight classes (quotes via Bloody Elbow):
“I think everyone wants it,” Askren said. “I think it provides, from a business opportunity – not from me as a fighter – if I’m looking at it from a business opportunity, you now have (and they’re talking about doing away with the flyweights) but you now have an extra belt, right? And the other thing is, it provides a lot of chances for superfight opportunities. I mean, how many times have we had a sitting champion at one of those weight classes – 55, 70, or 85 – go to fight another one. I think the answer is zero. You guys can go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong. I believe the answer is zero.
“And so, I think if you change to 55, 65, 75, 85, man that’s a lot easier to move around. And I just feel, for myself, like… I’m a 70 pounder. I can’t make 55, I can’t do it. I made 163 for the Olympics, I can’t go lower than that. 185? I’m tiny up there. So, I’m stuck. And that’s a 30 lb gap, so it’s not like that’s a small gap. Now, if you have 65 and 75, I can make both of those. And I think you’d have a… Kelvin Gastelum could probably make a 75 and 85. You’ve got a Khabib who could fight 55, 65. And so you’d have more of these superfights, more inter-divisional stuff. Which is good.”
There you have it. Now, much of the talk about the possibility of adding a 165 bracket has been tied to discussions about fighter health and how it could reduce the number of fighters make dangerous weight cuts (although, many have argued that fighters will still test their limits regardless of how many weight classes there are). But, Askren makes an interesting point on how this could provide more all-star match-ups for fans.
Historically the UFC wasn’t in favor of having champs fight champs, unless their respective divisions were cleaned out. But, it seems like this is becoming more commonplace, if not expected (see TJ Dillashaw’s planned, upcoming fight with Henry Cejudo). So why not right?