mma / Columns

Henry Cejudo and the Flyweights: The End…?

January 22, 2019 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Henry Cejudo

Y’know, I always get a little confused when Dana White goes off on a referee for an action taken during a fight that he personally doesn’t agree with.

Why? Because this is the biggest way he can say the sport of MMA is comparable to the major team sports. Just look at last Sunday and the bad calls that were made near the end of the AFC Championship game or the blindingly obvious pass interference call that wasn’t made during the NFC Championship game and it really makes it seem like our sport isn’t so different from the NFL.

TAKE THE COMPLIMENT, DANA!

Of course, Dana’s outrage over the conclusion of the very first Fight Night event on ESPN+ may have more to do with just a referee possibly stopping a fight early.

It may have to do with the end of the flyweight division…maybe.

The rumors have been going for a while that UFC was ending the flyweight division, due to the audience’s lack of interest in the fights combined with the UFC’s inability to promote smaller fighters that don’t talk like Conor McGregor.

It really shouldn’t have been that hard to pump some dollars into the system to make Demetrious Johnson come across like the stud all the hardcore fans knew he was, but I guess it was.

And now he’s in Asia. All because he was a respected expert of his craft and UFC couldn’t figure out how to make money with that. For shame…

At least we got to see DJ pass the torch before he left, dropping a somewhat controversial yet welcomed decision to Henry Cejudo at UFC 227, opening the door for Cejudo to…immediately make a challenge to UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw for a super fight.

Man, this whole “Champ Champ” stuff really jumped the shark, didn’t it? It hasn’t been a thing for that long but we’ve already reached the point where UFC booked a super fight between a champion who, in his current reign, had defended his title once clashing with a champion who literally just won the belt.

I get that part of the reason for making the fight was that it was a more attractive option in terms of viewership than booking either man against whoever the top contender in their weight classes actually are, which is sad. It’s a sad reality we live in.

Still, the thought of seeing Cejudo and Dillashaw bang it out for 25 minutes was an intriguing one, even with the fight being moved from Payperview to ESPN+, which Dana can say was so the UFC could enter the ESPN deal with a bang but it still reads to me like he didn’t feel confident the fight would sell on Payperview so it made more sense to kill UFC 233 (RIP) and hope that a title fight, any title fight, would boost ESPN+ subscriptions and make them look good to their new business partner.

Whether it worked or not likely depends on how much you enjoyed Stephen A. Smith yelling at you.

I’ll say the event was good in that the main card had the pacing of a Payperview so it didn’t feel like it was dragging the way so many Fight Nights on FOX did but it’s still kind of asinine that I have to turn off of ESPN to see the top fights. UFC just has to find new ways to test the patience of its fans.

Despite the added hassle, it was worth tuning in to see all the action, even though you literally could have just waited until the show was over and seen all the finishes on Sportscenter, with the added bonus of having Chael Sonnen scream conspiracy theories over each and every highlight.

That really did seem like the best way to watch Greg Hardy make an ass of himself getting disqualified in his UFC debut by throwing an illegal knee. At least the ref called that correctly…

The former NFL’er is raw but he does have a lot of potential. He’s more Brock Lesnar right now than CM Punk so, whether we like him or not, we’re probably going to see him again.

And, if we’re lucky, we may see the flyweight division again after Cejudo stopped Dillashaw with strikes in 32 seconds.

Yep, there was no 5 round war here. Cejudo dropped Dillashaw with a right hand less than half a minute into the fight and proceeded to drop him a couple more times before the referee chose to intervene and earn the ire of Mr. White.

It can definitely be argued the fight was stopped early and should have been allowed to go longer but the refs are supposed to look out for the fighter’s safety and, while Dillashaw may have been able to recover, he may have also been about to eat a lot more punches. Some people aren’t going to be satisfied with a stoppage unless one of the fighters is concussed and drooling on the ground.

Dillashaw should be happy he still had the mental capacity to bitch about the fight immediately after it ended, especially if it results in him getting a rematch with Cejudo.

Personally, I think both guys should now focus on defending their belts against other top contenders but I also know there’s not a fight bigger for these two guys than going after each other again, either at 125, which is what TJ wants, or at 135, which is what Cejudo said he’d do for TJ as a way to smooth things over, that sly bastard.

“Sorry you lost tonight. If it makes you feel better, we can fight again with your belt on the line, allowing me the shot at glory you were unable to attain.”

I could be okay with that. I just hope that booking it doesn’t mean UFC is going to axe the flyweights, not when Cejudo is looking as good as he is and Joseph Benavidez is on as hot a streak as he’s been in years.

It really wouldn’t be that hard to book Cejudo-Benavidez II as a major headliner. With the history these two have combined with the level of skill both possess, it shouldn’t take much to get people excited if UFC wants people to be excited for it.

That’s a big if as far as the UFC’s concerned but, after what happened Saturday, maybe Dana will rethink things now and throw the little guys the life preserver they need, even though they know how to swim better than 99% of the active roster.

Time will tell on what The Fate of The Flyweights will ultimately be. I just hope that, even if UFC goes through with dissolving the division, they still treat the fighters with respect and do right by guys like Cejudo and Benavidez so they don’t get unceremoniously dumped the way Johnson was.

Because if UFC thinks fighters like Hardy are going to drive Payperview buys or ESPN+ subscriptions long term, then I guess we know what kind of product to look forward to in the future, although I’d be surprised if they put together a card as relevant as the one we got Saturday on ESPN+ ever again. Makes me wonder what’s stopping me from canceling my 7 day free trial.

Sorry, Thompson-Pettis. You sound great, but are you worth $5 a month to sit through commercials on a service I’m already paying for when I can see all the best parts on cable later that night? I’m not so sure.

Maybe I need Stephen A. Smith to yell at me some more. Who knew he’d become an MMA expert as soon as his employer started paying him to be?

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

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Henry Cejudo, Evan Zivin