SEATTLE – For Dana White, dealing with the lighter weight classes, in particular the flyweight division, seems like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't proposition.
If the UFC puts the 125-pound weight class on display in the main event, as it did Saturday night with UFC on FOX 8, the promotion's president often is met with questions of why he thinks the flyweights can attract enough attention to carry a card.
But do something like make them the co-main event on a pay-per-view just below a Jon Jones title fight, as was the case at UFC 152 this past September, and he hears about that, too. Why doesn't he think the flyweights are good enough to headline a big card?
In the buildup to UFC on FOX 8, which took place at KeyArena in Seattle, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1 MMA, 6-1-1 UFC) and challenger John Moraga (12-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) got plenty of attention. But the co-main event between welterweights Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger might have stolen the show leading up to the card.
That certainly wasn't the case come fight time. MacDonald beat Ellenberger in a lackluster co-feature that had most of the 7,000-plus fans at KeyArena booing the perceived lack of activity. But Johnson and Moraga put on an exciting fight that, while dominated by Johnson, had just enough moments of challenge from Moraga to keep things interesting – and that Johnson submitted his opponent with an armbar with just 1:17 left in the five-round fight put a needed cap on the second half of the main card.
And still, White hears the criticism about the flyweights, and about Johnson not being a finisher, a criticism he put to rest on Saturday with his first finish in the UFC after seven straight decisions.
White heard the critics after Johnson's most recent headlining effort before Saturday, as well – a "Fight of the Night" winner at UFC on FOX 6 in Chicago in January. (His win Saturday netted him another bonus for "Submission of the Night.")
"Let me tell you what, if you were talking smack – it's like the Dodson fight. If you didn't like that fight, you're not a fight fan," White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) following Saturday's post-event news conference. "If you don't like the lighter-weight guys, who gives a s--t? Don't watch 'em. I don't know what to tell you. If you don't like what you saw tonight in the main event, you're not a fight fan. 'Oh, they're small and I don't like 'em.' OK."
And such situations typically get White riled up enough that he has no will power to not fire back at the fans who levy the most complaints at the UFC putting the 125-pounders on display.
"I mean, what do you say to something like that?" White said. "Listen, we've all got to listen to stupid s--t on the Internet and Twitter and everywhere else. You can't fall into the stupidness. If you don't like that fight, you're just not a fan of fighting. Don't watch. I don't watch you to watch. They love when I tell them that – that I don't want them to watch. 'F--- you, don't watch it' – yeah, they love that."
Instead, likely a good share of the same critics of the lighter weight classes were wishing the MacDonald-Ellenberger fight was the main event instead of Johnson-Moraga. And instead of that being the potential barnburner it was billed to be, it was greatly overshadowed by the little guys.
And White acknowledged that after the co-main event, Johnson's performance very well might have saved the main card, or at least kept fans from leaving with a bad taste in their mouth.
"I don't really think about it that way – it's not like I have high hopes," White said of Johnson. "The kid's one of the best in the world. He puts on an amazing performance. That (MacDonald-Ellenberger) fight sucked so bad, and it was a fight that had so much heat on it. It was a very important fight."