A bad thing happened Friday. A worse thing happened Saturday.
Friday’s unpleasantness occurred at the weigh-in for the UFC Norfolk card when Deiveson Figueiredo checked in for a scheduled flyweight title fight at 127.5 pounds. On the advice of his team, Figueiredo did not continue his weight cut. With that, Figueiredo’s weight was recorded and the UFC announced he was ineligible to win UFC gold if he defeated Joseph Benavidez. On Saturday, Figueiredo defeated Benavidez by knockout early in the second round.
Perhaps trying to beat the Sunday rush, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto got the first “is this the end of the flyweight division?” take in 24 hours before Saturday’s fight card began.
This is pure speculation, but definitely wonder if the flyweight division will survive if Deiveson Figueiredo wins this fight. The title would still be vacant. Unreal, really. Cejudo saves it. Now Joe B has to save it. And a flyweight (Figueiredo) is actually trying to kill it.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 28, 2020
Before this all gets out of hand, let’s clear up some things. First, Henry Cejudo didn’t save the flyweight division when he defeated Demetrious Johnson in 2018. Second, if the 125-pound men’s weight class disappears from the UFC, it won’t be because Figueiredo missed weight and then knocked out Benavidez.
The future of the UFC flyweight division was up in the air in late 2018 and early 2019. During that time the promotion released a fair number of its 125-pounders, in what was an ongoing and obvious purge. That talk died when Cejudo became a two-division champion in June 2019. However, with Cejudo surrendering the 125-pound title in December – and Figueiredo’s win leaving the belt gathering dust under White’s desk – talk of the future of the flyweight division will heat up again.
Questions about the flyweight division can’t be dismissed. The promotion could leave the title vacant and book Figueiredo in another fight, where they mandate he hit the 125 pound mark. And if he won that, give him another chance to win the belt. Another option would be to schedule another scrap for the vacant title. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see the UFC give Kai Kara-France a shot in June when the promotion heads to Perth, Australia for UFC 251. Including Kara-France on that card would give Auckland’s red-hot City Kickboxing two title fights at the top of the event.
Cejudo also made a post-event proposition to return to 125 pounds, telling Dana White he wanted to “keep the flyweight division great!” And that he was “coming back down to take all their headsheads!” Which... maybe?
Whatever they do, however, it’s important to remember that UFC president Dana White will decide the future of the men’s flyweight division. He might get some assistance from the promotion’s accounting department, which will let him know how much money the UFC can save by releasing the 17 fighters who compete at 125 pounds — 16 if you remove the 127.5 pound Figueiredo.
Either way he decides, Figueiredo missing weight and Benavidez losing will likely have little to do with that decision. No fighter has ever saved a weight class. No fighter has ever shuttered a weight division. Those decisions come down to the whim of one man. That man is the most promoted individual in the history of the UFC. And don’t allow anyone to pretend differently.