When the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) merged with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and, in turn, absorbed all its talent, they also brought in two new weight classes, featherweight and bantamweight.
Known for their lighting speed and cat-like maneuvering around the cage, the smaller weight classes have never disappointed, often being referred to as the most entertaining fighters in the sport. After seeing the little guys go at it, it's easy to see why.
Now, the UFC will have an even smaller weight class; the flyweights, who compete at 125-pounds.
The tournament will include two promotional newcomers in Tachi Palace Flyweight Champion Ian McCall, who is considered to be the best flyweight on the planet, and Yasuhiro Urushitani, current Shooto bantamweight champion. Their opponents will be current UFC bantamweights Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, respectively.
Benavidez, who's only two losses have come to UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, has been speaking about the opportunity to compete in a division that he feels is custom made to display his abilities as an overall fighter.
Speaking to Larry Pepe on ProMMARadio, Benavidez says that not only does he feel this is the proper weight class for him, but he will make history by becoming the very first UFC flyweight champion.
On the excitement of the new weight class and the importance of being the first ever UFC flyweight champion:
"I'm just motivated all over again and I'm more inspired than I've ever been, I can't wait and it's just a great opportunity. It's huge at just being the first ever (champion). That's like immortality; no one can ever take that away from you. For the rest of time in the sports world you are the first ever person to hold that title. People are really excited about the weight class right now. It's really going to do a lot for my career itself. So just being a part of history it's huge. I feel this weight class is made especially for me and I'm looking forward to being a great champion. The other thing I'm looking forward to is finally getting some notoriety on the pound-for-pound list. If you're a champion, they kind of have to throw you in there too and pound-for-pound is about fighting in different weight classes and I have proven what I can do at 135 and now 125."
With stablemates Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes lined up to compete against Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz and Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, respectively, Team Alpha Male is on pace to potentially have three champions at the same time:
"It's awesome and we are hoping to have three champions on team Alpha Male. Chad going for the championship, Urijah and Me, you know how amazing would it be for the three of us to be world champions. I was going to keep plugging away at 135 and be world champion again, and I wasn't going to lose to anybody else, but this was just meant to be you know, for all three of us to be champions."
Finally, Benavidez discussed his upcoming opponent and the difference between American and Japanese fighters:
"I don't know much about him, I know just from other people that tell me how great of a fighter he is and how he is been the top flyweight in Japan for a long time. So I did watch his fights and I'm pretty impressed by him. He is the typical Japanese fighter, very technical, but not that athletic and explosive, has lots of heart and he's a southpaw. I think it's going to be a great fight; he is so respected internationally and in Japan, so he is going to come down and try to take his crack at the best, and I think it's going to be a great fight but I definitely see myself coming out on top. I want it a lot more than he does. I'm definitely looking forward for people see me dominate him and say, "Wow, another Japanese guy I'm not impressed with." I like the Japanese fighting style and respect it. I think it's just the genetics. Athletically, Americans are just a little bit more aggressive. You see these guys come in and they are super technical, but the guy that they are fighting is just as technical with a little more speed. I've trained with a lot of Japanese people, and I think their intensity is what they are lacking. That is how most of them get overwhelmed."
His size, combined with the fact that two of his stablemates are contesting for titles in the weight classes immediately above him, made a drop to flyweight essentially inevitable.
Not lacking confidence, Benavidez knows he has a tough road ahead of him if he wants to achieve his goal of capturing a UFC title as three other eager competitors are looking to make some history of their own.
Now that the participants have been announced, who do you think is the early odds on favorite to win the first ever UFC 125-pound tournament once the flyweights are unleashed on March 3, 2012?