Following Deiveson Figueiredo’s victory over Joseph Benavidez at UFC Norfolk, the UFC flyweight title remains vacant. Does this spell the end for the division as a whole?
The Flyweight Title
“Joe B-Wan Kenobi” really was the flyweight division’s only hope. Eventual winner Figueiredo missed weight for their title bout, rendering him ineligible to win the belt. The 125-pound division has been on the chopping block since Demetrious Johnson‘s trade to ONE Championship, and this scenario does not help.
With Johnson, the flyweight division had stability and identity. When Henry Cejudo upset Johnson, snapping his all-time UFC title defence record in the process, this halted. Cejudo defended his title once against then UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. He then opted to ascend to bantamweight himself, winning Dillashaw’s soon vacant bantamweight strap.
Since capturing his second title, Cejudo has been vying for fights with reputable bantamweight names rather than flyweights. The self-proclaimed “Triple C” reportedly declined flyweight rematches with Benavidez. Subsequently, this resulted in a messy title relinquishment process with the UFC.
The bantamweight champion strived for more illustrious bouts, and it seems to have worked. Cejudo is set to face former UFC featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, at UFC 250 in Brazil. Ariel Helwani even suggested the UFC reinstate Cejudo as the flyweight champion and have him defend against Figueiredo instead.
Just give the belt back to Cejudo and book him vs. Figueiredo in Brazil in May. Who says no?
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) March 1, 2020
Why keep flyweight around after UFC Norfolk?
The UFC may be tempted to finally scrap the division once and for all. The division only boasts 20 currently contracted fighters. Not too long ago the UFC could not even complete the flyweight rankings due to a lack of competitors. This is a vast improvement, showing intent and investment within the division.
Despite this, it is still one of the shallowest divisions in the company. The majority of these fighters could be deemed expendable by the ruthless UFC. Staple names such as Benavidez would surely be able to continue their UFC tenure at bantamweight. However, the same cannot be said for the majority of the division.
Johnson, Cejudo and even Benavidez are staple names amongst MMA fans. They all offer the division a sense of identity it currently lacks without a champion. The UFC might view this as an identity crisis, but there is a silver lining. This revamp of the division gives it a fresh, unpredictable new lease of life. The transitional period will allow new talent to inject excitement at the summit of the division which it has lacked for so long.
The bottom line is simple. Flyweight gives us some of the most exciting and compelling bouts in the UFC. Their pace, speed and intensity are at times unrivalled. The process of scheduling another vacant title fight may seem inconvenient and a burden in the eyes of the UFC, but it’s worth it. Hopefully, they give the division a chance and crown a new lord of the flies.