Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavaidez put it all on the line at UFC 152 with five rounds of non-stop, back-and-forth action that was hard to follow with the naked eye. During and after the fight the pair of world-class flyweights weren’t greeted with respect and adulation, they were vociferously booed by the 16,800 that filled the Air Canada Centre in Toronto that September night.
It was hardly the coming out party that the 125-pound division wanted for their first championship fight on a major pay-per-view but this can serve as a major warning to the UFC as they feature the flyweight championship fight on national television.
While it’s absurd and preposterous, the average man that would be at a bar on a Saturday night while combat sports unfold sizes up their smaller counterparts then takes a big chug of their beer and thinks “I would kick that guy’s ass”.
This is a hurdle that the UFC will have to fight for a long time. It’s going to take time for a division to establish itself, featherweight and bantamweight already had several years of a head start and they cannot translate their diverse skillset to being a smash hit at the box office either.
I have a few friends that love soccer. One time a group of us partied into the early hours of the morning, when we stumbled back to a buddies house someone switched on a soccer match that grasped their attention. For an-hour-and-a-half they cheered and chanted as they got completely caught up in this scoreless game.
I laid across a couch in a drunken haze watching this match with a stoic look on my face and when it came to a close my cohorts discussed all the near goals and technical wizardry that their famed heroes did on the grassland that morning as they gracefully glided around the field.
I, on the other hand wondered what I was doing with my time as I watched some dudes run and kick a ball for 90 minutes and in the end NOBODY WON!?!?
These are men who have sat up into the wee hours of the night to watch soccer matches in another time-zone for years and I just crushed their spirits with an overwhelming amount of ignorance. In the same sense, this is exactly what the 125-pound fighters are dealing with as they are swimming upstream.
Just as I don’t understand how great a winless match of kick-ball is, an average fight fan doesn’t get how talented the smallest fighters in the UFC are.
If you’ve paid any attention to the UFC’s marketing for the upcoming headlining event on FOX you probably noticed that something was missing from their promotional package, namely the weight-class that the headliners compete in. The package at the top of the page makes sure to tell you that it’s a ‘Championship fight’ without mentioning that the headliners weight a buck-twenty-five.
The first main event fight on FOX featured a championship fight too, and every package reminded you that it was a heavyweight championship as Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez determined who was the baddest man on the planet but the lighter weight-classes aren’t being treated with the same level of respect.
This weekend’s FOX card is the perfect formula for what I want on a major card on the flagship network – Some fantastic fights with championship implications to open proceedings, a former divisional champion in his final UFC fight against a rising star and an action-packed title fight for the icing on top.
On paper that sounds like a great way to spend an evening but what happens when the casual viewer that was promised a championship showdown sees two men 140-pounds lighter than what they expected step into the Octagon? In all likelihood they will probably change the channel.
It seems the UFC are showing so little faith in the headliner and hoping the lure of a shiny, gold ten-pound piece of hardware will draw the audience, the real dilemma is if they can keep them as their are hundreds of other distractions on a Saturday night this time of year.
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