As speculation continues that the UFC is going to shut down the men’s flyweight division, Joseph Benavidez has made a compelling point as to why it’s shouldn’t do so, particularly right now.
For weeks now there’s been talk that the UFC is looking at punting the 125 division, and those rumors reached new heights after former champ Demetrious Johnson headed to ONE Championship. Then, after flyweights like Justin Scoggins and Jose Torres started reporting they had been let go, many concluded the shutdown was a done deal.
Well, amidst all the talk (and Dana White stopping short of saying the division is in fact done), Benavidez is scheduled to fight Alex Perez Friday night. While speaking to the media recently about the state of the flyweight division, the perennial contender said this (quotes via MMA Junkie):
“The flyweight division is honestly more exciting than ever,” Benavidez said. “The division is really brand new, and it hasn’t seemed brand new. It seemed like it has such a long history with DJ’s title reign, but we’ve had one champion. It’s a young, young division. We’re on our second champion, and I think we let this thing breathe a little bit, and stars are going to keep coming out – fights, matchups.
“It reminds me of the 185-pound weight class for a while, where Anderson Silva was so dominant that the fights at the end were just like, ‘Why is this happening?’ He had just some weird fights, and you’re like, ‘Well, he has to fight these guys because he hasn’t,’ and it made the division look stale because the champion was so dominant. When he lost to Weidman, everything opened up. Now you look at like the top eight guys, they could all be champions on one given day.”
Now, yes, some will likely argue that by the time Silva fought Weidman, his level of fame was far greater than Johnson’s current profile. So, comparing the middleweight division then, to the flyweight division now, isn’t really the same.
But, there did seem to be a renewed interest in the 125 division after Johnson lost to Henry Cejudo this past summer. That bout also seemed to take place at a juncture when more casual fans were coming around to how great Johnson really is. There also seemed to be some buzz around the possibility of a rubber match.
Further, Benavidez’s comments about the need to let the division “breathe” are spot on. Why not see where things lead after Cejudo fights TJ Dillashaw on January 26th? Regardless of who wins the belt?
If Cejudo wins, there’s the potential for a title fight at 135 with TJ, which would only bring more attention to the flyweight champ and the division. Or, if Dillashaw wins, why not see if he can join Daniel Cormier in defending another division’s belt? If Benavidez beats Perez this Friday, a fight between him and his former teammate sounds interesting no?
At the end of the day, flyweight fights consistently provide some of the best action in the game. It would be a shame to see the world’s biggest promotion close the doors on it.