UFC president Dana White hasn’t always been the biggest supporter of the promotion’s 125 pound division, but he’s definitely a fan of Deiveson Figueiredo and the work his new flyweight champion did on Saturday night at Fight Island 2.
“Pure violence,” White said when asked to describe his thoughts on the main event. “That was ... no controversy on this one! We have pretty nasty champions in those two divisions [125 and 135].”
There were some real questions regarding the future of flyweight for a while, with White threatening to shut down the division as relations with former flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson soured. He stopped holding a gun to the division’s head after Henry Cejudo claimed the title, but it was hard not to wonder if the UFC was really committed as they cut a number of 125 pound fighters.
Cejudo jumping up to bantamweight, his seeming disinterest in defending the flyweight title, and then his stripping followed by Figueiredo missing weight for first flyweight title fight against Benavidez were just more hits to a division that really needed a break.
But according to White, flyweight is no longer on the chopping block.
“When is the last time I talked about getting rid of [flyweight]?” he asked during the post-fight press conference. “Yeah, it’s here. Look at how good this guy looked tonight. Look at what he did. Ton of controversy in the first fight from the weight to headbutts. You know. No controversy in this one. This guy came in and did what he said he was going to do against the number two guy in the world. And he looked damn good doing it.”
But once again, it sounds like the new flyweight champion is already looking upwards at 135 for bigger names, both physically and draw wise.
“I’ll accept a superfight if they want to give me one, but I’ll move up to 135,” Figueiredo said through a translator. “I want to be a two division champion, but I want to defend this belt as well.”
“That’s definitely a fight that all the fans would want to see, me against Demetrious Johnson,” he said when asked about the former flyweight GOAT, now fighting for ONE Championship. “If the UFC wants to bring him back, I’m gonna be very happy, and I’m gonna knock him out with a lot of pride. Very happy to do that.”
“I’d like to have a fight at 135, you know? I’d like to be the guy to bring back Cejudo back from retirement. I think he was looking for a worthy opponent, and I think I’m that guy so I’d love to move up and be able to fight him at 135.”
Figueiredo’s whole UFC career has gone down at 125 and he’s only missed weight once - the previous February attempt against Benavidez where he came in at 127.5 pounds. So he’s clearly capable of hitting the mark ... but it sounds like it may be getting harder? Difficult to say given the unusual circumstances COVID-19 has forced fighters into.
“My goal this week was to make weight,” Figueiredo said. “And obviously after six days locked up in a room in Sao Paolo and then two more days locked up here in quarantine, I got out of the room right before weigh ins. So it was really tough, and it was really mind over matter to make weight. I said I was going to come and finish Benavidez and that’s exactly what I did, but my goal was to make weight and gladly, I’m here holding the belt.”
As of this moment, there’s no clear cut number one contender for Figueiredo’s belt. So in theory, there’s no reason why he couldn’t move up and challenge someone at 135 pounds with a bigger name. But with the flyweight division continuing to be asked questions about its relevance and legitimacy, its champions always looking upward at bantamweight certainly doesn’t help.