May 6, 2017

UFC: Adding 125-Pound Women's Weight Class Is A "Fly" Move For the Promotion

By Raphael Garcia

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is taking steps toward introducing a women’s flyweight division. Although the UFC is currently backtracking a bit from the press release that was distributed earlier this week, there’s still excitement from fans about the decision to create another women’s division in the sport’s premier organization. Whether the UFC chooses to admit it or not, this is a much-needed move by the organization, one that creates more opportunities for female athletes to compete at the highest level of mixed martial arts.

This week, Yahoo Sports reported that the UFC is planning to introduce a women’s flyweight division during an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. During the season the competitors on the show will fight for the opportunity to be crowned the first women’s 125-pound champion. The same setup was used to develop the women’s strawweight division, which eventually led to Joanna Jedrzejczyk becoming one of the most popular champions on the roster today. However, the UFC is pushing back on the release, even though Yahoo’s report was based on an official announcement from the organization. According to UFC President Dana White, the release was issued in error and the decision to introduce women’s flyweight in this manner has not yet been finalized.

But assuming that the move does come to pass, the addition of a 125-pound weight class would provide an immediate boost. First, as the horror stories of weight cutting are becoming more prevalent throughout the sport today, and mandated changes to weight cutting and weigh-ins have made it more difficult for many of the women trying to make 115 pounds, adding the 125-pound division would allow many strawweights to compete closer to their natural body weights.

Second, this approach avoids the missteps that the UFC took in creating the women’s featherweight division. The 145-pound title was created with the intention of Cris “Cyborg” Justino becoming the first champion. But as her issues with the UFC unfolded, the promotion was forced to create a bout between Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie. Now the promotion has an uncrowned champion that has proven herself to be a drawing force in Cyborg, and a champion that is shying away from fighting her. Building this division through the use of its reality television series allows the UFC to build its roster from the ground up, instead of playing catchup.

Third, the UFC is struggling to build stronger cards as it continues to increase its monthly schedule. It seems there’s one big card a month, with a number of smaller cards that lack the depth of intriguing and meaningful matchups. While introducing a new champion doesn’t immediately alleviate that problem, it does give the UFC an opportunity to create a new face that entices fans to tune in. The Ultimate Fighter helped build the brands of fighters like Rose Namajunas, and the competition for the belt could do the same for others. “Joanna Champion” wasn’t a darling of the sport when she took the title from Carla Esparza at UFC 185 back in 2015, but in the two years that followed she’s become a fan favorite not only for her violent style, but the personality she displays outside of the cage. Both Jedrzejczyk and bantamweight contender Valentina Shevchenko have openly talked about competing at 125 pounds. Imagine the interest that a fight between these two women – who have fought in Muay Thai in the past – would create for the UFC.

Even though the UFC is trying to make people forget it, the “announcement” of a women’s flyweight division signals a move in the right direction for the organization. It benefits the women currently on the roster, those looking to get on the roster, and a promotion that continues to experience a need for new stars.

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