EXCLUSIVE | Former UFC flyweights give their thoughts on the state of the division

Henry Cejudo
Image: UFC on Instagram

The future of the UFC’s flyweight division is murky.

It was previously reported that the division was going to close down at the end of 2018. However, that was not the case. Rather, the division stayed on, and headlining the first card of 2019 was a flyweight title fight. Although the fight was considered a ‘superfight’ given TJ Dillashaw was moving down in weight to take on Henry Cejudo.

Henry Cejudo, TJ Dillashaw
Image: UFC on Instagram

There, Dillashaw said he was going down to kill the division. However, that didn’t happen as Cejudo knocked out Dillashaw in 32 seconds. Then, rumors started to swirl again that Cejudo would move up in weight to fight for the bantamweight title, which is now happening at UFC 238.

With the flyweight champion out of the division, it is very possible the UFC closes down the division.

Three former UFC flyweights in Jose Torres, Louis Smolka, and Alex Perez, they all think the division is on its last legs.

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“It seems like it isn’t a division now,” Smolka said to BJPenn.com. “They are just doing marquee fights. It is like Joe Benavidez fights someone, or this guy fights this guy. Flyweights are just being sprinkled in. I think we may be seeing more catchweight type fights, just like two guys who are big lightweights like Kevin Lee, and say Khabib and they want to do it 165 or something. I think we will have more catchweight fights. The promotion may give us more wiggle room to do what we want to do and feel more comfortable for us. They really want us to put on great fights.”

“Yeah, I could see that. I have no control over that so I am just ready to fight at flyweight or bantamweight,” Perez said to BJPenn.com.

Torres isn’t exactly sure what to make of the division. All he knows is that Cejudo is not the ‘flyweight savior’ he says he is. Rather, Torres thinks the division was going extinct regardless if Cejudo had beat Dillashaw that night or not.

“I wouldn’t call him the flyweight savior because, by the time he fought T.J., 80% of the division was already cut. Then you have Jussier Formiga who had been ranked number one for about six months before he just fought,” Torres said to BJPENN.com. “He fights because he wants to stay marketable, and he wins against another top-five opponent. Then they tell him he has to fight again to get a title shot. I don’t think that is fair. Yeah, did Cejudo beat the 135-pound champ? Yeah, but that was at flyweight and it could have been a whole different fight at bantamweight. So why give Cejudo a shot at the belt? Is it is money fight?

“Sure, but you only have maybe 12 flyweights left so why not finish the division. Have these guys fight out their contracts or fight until they lose which is what they are doing. Or, bump them up to bantamweight,” Torres continued. “Really, they are creating a big hassle and a lot of drama for these flyweight fighters. Luckily for me I was able to sign another contract with a big promotion, but for a lot of these guys they are getting screwed over. It really is a hard time for us small guys. How are they supposed to get famous if they can’t get a title shot they deserve? Honestly, these rankings are BS. It sucks.”

Although the division is on its last legs, it has given the opportunity to Smolka and Perez to move up to bantamweight. Yet they always thought that would be the move, or even worse they would have been released.

“A little bit, but that is why I have the best management in the game in Iridium Sports,” Perez said, wondering if he was going to be cut after his last loss. “I let them do their jobs, if I had to find another job elsewhere, it was a great time in the UFC. Nothing much I can control after that outcome.”

“I was planning on moving up anyways. I was having a rough time making weight, so I was bound to move up anyway. It was too hard,” Smolka explained. “The way I’m seeing it, they are letting flyweights go, where they are going to other promotions and getting more respect because of coming from the UFC and not getting released on a losing-streak, rather because the division is closing. It is like being let go from a job in a company layoff, so it isn’t hurting their earning power. They are going to other promotions and potentially make more, like RIZIN, ONE and potentially headline and make more money. If they are making more money, it is good for everyone.”

Jose Torres

Meanwhile, ‘Shorty’ Torres was not given much of a chance in the UFC. He was the Titan FC flyweight and bantamweight champion but wasn’t even offered to move up to bantamweight. Instead, the UFC, as they did to most flyweights, cut him after a loss. With that, Torres wishes he would never have signed in the UFC in the first place.

“I wish I would have signed with Brave before I had signed with the UFC,” Torres explained. “If I would have known the UFC was getting rid of the flyweight division, I wouldn’t have bothered signing with the UFC. It was like a bad relationship where in sense I was the side chick. I was belittled, and they didn’t care. I believe because if I was any other weight class I would have been highlighted.”

Ultimately, if this is the end, the three of them are sad to see the division go. They know flyweight fights are entertaining, and the most technical division there is. But, Smolka has an idea why the division wasn’t a big draw.

“As much as the hardcores do love watching flyweight fights, the casual fans don’t really seem to care about it,” Smolka said. “They care about size and gigantic size and want to see knockouts.”

For now, the division holds on, but barely. How long it remains a division is up in the air. But, if these three former flyweights have any idea, they think it’s only a matter of time before the flyweights cease to exist in the UFC.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/31/2019