For years, the lightest weight class in the UFC was lightweight, putting the promotion’s smallest fighters at the 155-pound range.
After the purchase of WEC, they brought over featherweight and bantamweight. This let 145-pound and 135-pound fighters get to show their skills on the world’s biggest stage. Eventually, after a tournament, flyweight was added, letting the 125-pound fighters of the MMA world join in.
From its inception, the division was dominated by one man – Demetrious Johnson. “Mighty Mouse” proved big talent can come in compact athletes, showcasing a diverse skillset and never having a boring matchup. From his crisp striking to his amazing grappling and his defeat of Ray Borg with what was arguably the greatest finish in UFC history, Johnson broke records as champ and seemed untouchable.
Henry Cejudo failed at dethroning Johnson the first time they met, instead being finished after a barrage of knees. In their UFC 227 rematch, Cejudo won a razor-close decision and claimed the title. Then shortly thereafter, he entertained the idea of moving up to face bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. Then Johnson was traded to ONE Championship in exchange for Ben Askren, marking a historic moment.
It also seemed to suggest there was little interest in a rubber match between he and Cejudo – in any other case, this would likely be unheard of. But it brings to mind suspicions that the UFC’s youngest weight class may have already reached its expiration date and be nearing its end.
On Joe Rogan’s podcast, Cejudo says: “I think more than likely that T.J. (Dillashaw) fight might happen. That T.J. fight might happen if they’re going to be done with the flyweight division. I think that cat’s out of the bag and Dana had mentioned that to me.”
For over a year, White pressured Johnson to move up for a super fight with Dillashaw. At times, there were even rumors Dillashaw could move down in weight. But Johnson seemed content to face contenders in his own division and showed no interest in a super fight. Some believe he priced himself out of it, while others say he doubted Dillashaw could make the weight cut.
With Johnson not opting to take the fight, the UFC could feasibly be happy to see him move on – he wasn’t exactly a massive draw despite being a massive talent, and having him break Anderson Silva’s title defense record takes away a bit of the achievements marketability by association. If the flyweight division was eliminated, most of the fighters would likely move up to bantamweight.
Johnson has expressed the desire to finish his career in ONE, while Cejudo seems content to challenge Dillashaw for the bantamweight championship. It’s rough to see an entire weight class hang in jeopardy, but there aren’t a ton of hugely surging contenders in this class. Those who are successful may find similar results in bantamweight.
At the very least, the division will have been known as a source of many exciting fights and memories.