With the UFC’s debut on ESPN creeping up, we still don’t have any idea what the future of the UFC flyweight division is. The main event of UFC on ESPN+ 1, which takes place this Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, sees UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo put his belt on the line against UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw in a superfight that will determine the fate of the 125-pounders inside the Octagon. The future of the division is very much hinging on what happens in this fight between Cejudo and Dillashaw.
We all think the UFC is going to close up the division at some point this year, as most signs thus far have pointed that way. The UFC let the greatest flyweight in the history of the sport, Demetrious Johnson, sign with ONE Championship, which was the first sign the division might be shut down. A number of other flyweights have since been released from the UFC, and many others have been asked to move up to bantamweight. There are barely enough flyweights on the roster right now to have a respectable top-15 rankings. But despite all of that, there’s still a chance the flyweights stick around, especially if Cejudo can pull off another upset and defeat the favored Dillashaw to retain the belt.
If Cejudo wins, he’ll be coming off of back-to-back wins over Johnson and Dillashaw, two of the best lower-weight fighters ever. Cejudo is a very marketable fighter with an incredible Olympic wrestling pedigree. He could be one of the faces of the UFC. If he can keep his belt, the UFC would be smart to keep the division around, if only to promote Cejudo more and potentially hope he breaks out into a star. Although Johnson wasn’t able to cross over and become a star for the UFC, it’s possible Cejudo could. If he can go out there and beat Dillashaw, especially if he finishes him, the UFC might as well just keep the flyweight division around just so Cejudo can have a belt around his waist.
If Dillashaw wins, though, that’s where things get dicey. The UFC would ask Dillashaw to make a decision about what division he wants to stick around in, and it would be surprising to see him drop his bantamweight belt when there are bigger-money fights available at 135lbs. If Dillashaw can beat Cejudo, that could very well be the end of the flyweights in the UFC as we know it. After all, what would be the point of having a division if Dillashaw drops the belt and Cejudo is coming off of a loss? As unfair as it is to put that much pressure on Cejudo, it’s very realistic to say that the fate of the 125lbs division rests on his shoulders. The UFC is likely already leaning towards dropping the division, so Cejudo needs to give them a reason to keep it around.
A lot of people were caught off guard when Cejudo vs. Dillashaw was announced as a flyweight bout and not as a bantamweight bout. With DJ gone, most assumed the flyweight division was going to go away with him but the UFC threw us all a curveball when it set the Cejudo vs. Dillashaw fight for 125lbs. There’s a chance this could be the last men’s flyweight bout we ever see in the UFC. If Dillashaw wins, I’d say it’s 99% likely the division is cut. But if Cejudo wins, there’s a chance the UFC could keep the 125ers around for a little bit longer. The future and fate of the entire weight class in the UFC comes down to what happens in this fight, and the UFC’s debut on ESPN couldn’t have a more compelling fight to get the new era of the Octagon underway.