The first UFC Flyweight fights were held on March 3rd 2012, over a year later the division sits at 13 fighters under contract. The next FLW title fight will feature a challenger who was on the Facebook Prelims in his last fight... not the prime place for a potential title challenger to make a name for himself. What's worse is that it really didn't take too much thought to see that the Moraga vs. Cariaso winner could be in line for a title shot, or at least a number 1 contender's fight. So why hasn't UFC invested more, and used a better strategy for promoting this division?
There are a couple of reasons for this.
1 - The main reason the FLW division has not grown is that Bellator does not have a FLW division, so if UFC goes out and signs a bunch FLWs, it will leave some Featherweight, Lightweight, and Welterweight prospects out there and available to their competition's strongest, and most credible divisions. For the first 3 years of Bellator's existence they were just another glorified regional organization as far as Dana White was concerned. Their tournament format was interesting, but they did not have the resources, or serious TV partner to challenge (or hold onto) UFC for top talent on a consistent basis. That all changed when UFC signed with FOX, leaving SPIKE TV and Viacom to swoop in and cement a partnership with Bellator. Not only does Bellator now have a viable and stable TV partner, but they also have an ownership group that can compete financially with UFC, if it chooses. This makes them a direct threat. Bellator has top 10 fighters at FW, and LW as Champ, and Ben Askren is easily a top 15 if not top 10 WW. UFC lets too many other potential top fighters slip through the net, then these division could become credible threats over the course of 3-6 years. The last thing UFC wants is to have to get into an Eddie Alvarez style bidding war for every top fighter coming out of Bellator. The UFC has had great success with guys like Wandy, Big Nog, Shogun, Rampage, and now Diaz who had their biggest successes outside of UFC, but it still prefers to bring the talent up from with-in like it has with GSP, Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, and now Johny Hendricks. When it comes to Flyweights, UFC is the only serious game in town, and they know that they can sign the prospects whenever they feel like getting around to it. There is no reason to pay health insurance on guys until UFC is totally impressed, or really needs them.
2- The other reason is that Demetrious Johnson is no Ronda Rousey when it comes to star power. Even as UFC launches a season of TUF with Male Bantamweights that will certainly see some fighters drop to FLW, it is Rousey who is the no brainer as coach, not Johnson. Even though Johnson is re-habbing an injury, and the extra time off that comes with coaching TUF might help him. Ronda Rousey has proved to have the star power that the FLWs are lacking, and only about a month after the first female fight, UFC has already signed 11 female Bantamweights, with Dana White saying that the number is going to go at least to 15 in the near future, and with TUF I'm guessing the number will actually be around 20 by the end of the year. I guarantee that none of Ronda's challengers will be having their previous fight on the facebook prelims anytime soon. Henry Cejudo might be the FLW answer 2-3 years down the road if he develops into the top flight fighter, and star many expect him to be but, or it could be a another fighter who polarizes the Asian, Mexican, Brazilian, British, or Canadian markets. Until UFC finds this future star they will do enough to keep the division viable so that the Champ can allow UFC to market "World Title fights" at the top of three more cards a year.
For the record... If I was playing Joe Silva and Sean Shelby I'd make offers to add these guys to the FLW division soon.
Sergio Pettis, Steve Swanson (UFC has done well with Diaz, Miller, and Nogueria brothers why not use some of Anthony, and Cub's success to try and sell their brother's in this division), Sean Santella, Darrell Montague (Ranked in top 10 by most people), Henry Cejudo (I'd ask him to get one fight against a fighter with at least a .500 record at FLW, and then I'd sign him), Pedro Nobre (a FLW prospect should have never been put in with a BW contender to start with, let this guy have a chance in the right division), Josh Sampo, Will Campuzano, Dustin Ortiz, and Giorgio Andrews (Never hurts to have an undefeated British guy).