[Opinion] Respect The Flyweights
If you have been watching the NFL Playoffs at all, you have likely seen the UFC’s promos for a FOX-televised “World Title Fight” between champion Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson on January 26th in Chicago, Illinois. This purposely ambiguous advertising is an obvious sign that the UFC has not truly put their faith in the Flyweight division, which is not mentioned once in the FOX promo.
This misleading hype is meant to garner the attention of the coveted casual sports fans, which the UFC appears to believe would not care if they knew the size of the fighters in said championship bout. It’s a disappointing mindset, but far from surprising. Since their addition to the UFC, the Flyweights have typically been relegated to the bottom of fight cards except for the inaugural tournament and championship final.
Even amongst the most ardent MMA fans, there is a certain lack of support for Flyweight fighters. The small stature of these competitors has become a turnoff for a notable section of the fan base. It is particularly strange to see this criticism of the Flyweights as the lighter weight classes consistently deliver more action-packed fights. Many of these same fans claim to despise aspects of the sport like fighters gassing out quickly or the lay ‘n pray style, both rarely seen in a Flyweight bout.
The typical criticism of Flyweights is that they lack power and their fights always go to a decision. But this is more of a myth than a reality. For example, let’s look at this Saturday’s challenger John Dodson. In just his last fight against the highly regarded Jussier Da Silva, Dodson finished the Brazilian with punches in the second round. In fact, Dodson has won by knockout or submission in 8 of his 14 professional wins. Newcomer John Moraga has come into the UFC with a bang, knocking out Ulysses Gomez in his debut and submitting Chris Cariaso last month. We have also seen perennial contender Joseph Benavidez stop his opponents in 12 of 16 professional victories.
It’s also strange to see this negative connotation associated with a decision. All fight fans love a knockout or submission, but there’s plenty of exciting contests that went the distance. Wouldn’t you rather see constant, fast-paced action for five rounds than an exciting start which turns into a sluggish finish? That is what the Flyweight division, like most of the lower weight classes, is able to offer.
One legitimate concern is that the UFC’s Octagon may be too big for Flyweight fights. The size of the cage is a definite factor and contributes to the mindset that these 125 lbs. fighters are simply bouncing around the cage. The WEC featured a smaller cage and perhaps this is something the UFC should look into going forward. This would force the UFC to have cards be exclusive to the lighter weight classes though, which could be detrimental to the quality of their fight cards.
The UFC should simply embrace the Flyweights by highlighting their strengths. Instead of hiding their size in promos as they have done for tomorrow’s event, the UFC should promote the furious action these two competitors will bring to the Octagon. Instead of succumbing to the preconceived notions of fans, educate them on just how exciting the Flyweights can be. I’d bet on Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson putting on great fight tomorrow; I simply hope UFC officials and fans alike will look at the UFC Flyweight Championship as the prestigious accolade that it is, not an inferior title to the well established championships of the organization.