The UFC made a successful, to some, platform debut on its new home channel of ESPN and ESPN+ on Saturday, Jan. 19. It was the final fight for UFC veteran Dennis Bermudez and the UFC debut of controversial former NFL star Greg Hardy. Staples such as Paige VanZant, Joanne Calderwood, Donald Cerrone and current flyweight champion Henry Cejudo all put on stellar performances.
Cejudo took on current UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, who was coming down to the flyweight division for the first time to try to become another two-division champion. Dillashaw would have actually been the first champion to capture a belt in a higher weight class and then move down in Weight, rather than the other way around. However, his dreams were crushed in just 32 seconds in what some have been calling a controversial stoppage that gave Cejudo the victory. Cejudo himself said after the fight he had no issue with a rematch, but it was his next remark that stood out. Cejudo issued a challenge to compete at bantamweight for Dillashaw’s title.
Many fans and pundits thought that a Cejudo win would save the flyweight division from being dissolved. That might still be so, but Cejudo’s desire to challenge at bantamweight gives the UFC the perfect opportunity to eliminate the flyweights after all. If Cejudo is victorious a second time around, it will show that the flyweights can “hang” with the bantamweights and create a tangible reason why flyweights should move up.
This is the problem with all of these champion-vs.-champion fights. There will always be one fighter who gains no additional gold around his waist, even if he or she is the victor. If Dillashaw had defeated Cejudo, he would have been a two-division champion. Instead, the bantamweight division is now going to be in a logjam due to the impending rematch. Other contenders are going to be sidelined while waiting for the champ to fight Cejudo again.
It’s hard to believe that Cejudo doesn’t see this as a possible outcome, but he is also riding two of the biggest wins in his career. Yet, many fans and outlets had Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson as the victor in their flyweight title fight, and the controversy that surrounds the stoppage against Dillashaw doesn’t help either. In the end, though, it’s not a fighter’s job to stop a fight. That is at the discretion of the referee inside that Octagon.
It’s safe to say the flyweight division is on its way out, but it’s amazing to think that one of the factors that could expedite this is the champion of the division itself. Cejudo needs to think about where he wants to spend the rest of his career, division-wise, before jumping back into the fold at bantamweight.