The rumors have been floating around for a while that the UFC is going to close the flyweight division, and this week we saw some concrete evidence of that happening. First, the UFC announced its trade with ONE Championship of former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson for welterweight contender Ben Askren. Then news came out that flyweights Jose Torres and Jarred Brooks have been given their walking papers from the UFC. Not only that, but a flyweight bout set for this weekend’s card between Mark de la Rosa and Joby Sanchez was bumped up to bantamweight at the last minute. All the signs are pointing to the end of the UFC’s flyweight division, which has been a staple of the world’s top MMA promotion since 2012.
We were all expecting to hear an official announcement from the UFC sometime soon about the flyweight division being axed, but late Thursday night we got a huge wrench thrown into those plans when ESPN broke the news of UFC 233’s main event. We have heard the rumors for a while now that UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw would be fighting UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo at this event in January for the bantamweight title, but the tides have changed and now it’s Dillashaw who will be moving down to flyweight to challenge for a second belt. This news came out of nowhere and now you have to wonder if the UFC is reconsidering keeping the flyweight division around for the time being, just with potentially less fighters and with basically only title fights just to sell cards.
It’s possible the UFC still plans to cancel the division and is just going to wait and see if Dillashaw can make history before doing so, but just say Cejudo goes out there and smashes Dillashaw and says he wants to follow in the footsteps of Mighty Mouse and build his legacy at 125lbs. The UFC might be better off keeping the division around and just have Cejudo fight the top guys in the weight class for the title. It’s true that flyweight is not a popular division and never has been, but the UFC loves having title fights at the top of cards. Clearly the UFC is keeping this belt around a little bit longer because of the financial incentive of having the title on the line at UFC 233 and giving Dillashaw the opportunity to win it, so it’s not completely unfair to think the promotion might want to keep the title around for a bit longer, even if most of the rest of the fighters at 125 are either cut or asked to move up to bantamweight.
Of course, if Dillashaw wins the belt from Cejudo it wouldn’t make much sense to keep the flyweight belt around anymore because Dillashaw would more than likely move back up to bantamweight even if he wins a second belt (look at Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier when they won second belts, they stayed at the higher weight class). But if Cejudo wins this fight and then has back-to-back wins in flyweight title fights against two of the world’s top fighters in Johnson and Dillashaw, then maybe the UFC could re-consider cutting the entire division out of the organization. The fact we don’t have any confirmation about the disbanding of 125 from the UFC at all and actually have a report about the title being defended in early 2019 makes it seem like there’s a chance the division isn’t totally going to be cut.
If flyweight is cut, the fighters are going to be hurt the most by it as many of the little guys dreamed of fighting in the Octagon and worked their whole careers to get to that spot. But at the same time, the division wasn’t the most popular as far as ratings go and never really caught on with the fans. The UFC is in the business of making money and six years of flyweight fights showed there was no money to be made. But the UFC does love having title fights, so perhaps flyweight could become like women’s featherweight where the title is defended once or twice a year and barely any other fights in that division take place. The reason being, it’s a business decision to keep another belt around for pay-per-view main events. I wouldn’t totally rule anything out at this point, and with the recent news about UFC 233, it’s possible we all spoke too soon about the UFC flyweight division being no more.