UFC Expansion Benefits Regional Promotions Such as New Jersey-Based CFFC

By: Lutfi Sariahmed
May 12, 2013

Keeping up with the Joneses: It’s this idea that to continue to remain relevant – you have to keep up with those around you.

Your neighbor got a new car? You get a new car. You get the new IPad, so does your best friend. Philosophical discussions about the idea aside, it’s a concept that rears its head in MMA as well. UFC is expanding to new locales? Local promotions do the same. UFC is adding new divisions? Local promotions do the same.

“When we see the UFC doing well with the lightweights, it brings more lightweights to us,” explained Cage Fury Fighting Championships general manager and matchmaker Arias Garcia. “With the UFC promoting the lightweight and flyweight divisions like they do, it gives me a bigger pool of fighters to pick from. It brings more lighter fighters that want to fight and it helps us locally when the local light guys want to fight. We do try to emulate the UFC and bring a big time show to Atlantic City.”

Some of those local fighters coming to the CFFC include former bantamweight kingpin Zach Makovsky. Despite running off eight straight wins during his stint with Bellator and being on the cusp of the top 10 in the division, “Fun Size” dropped down to flyweight for his debut victory at CFFC 24 over Claudio Ledesma.

“I was a little nervous about the cut,” Makovsky admitted to Sherdog. “I hadn’t made 125 since 2003 but I had the best weight cutting partner of all time, Sara McMann, helping me through the whole thing. It wasn’t fun but it wasn’t too bad either. The sport is evolving. Last three guys I fought walked around at over 165; 125 is a division that’s getting some notoriety now so it’s a good time and the right move for my size.”

Don’t look at this move as a concession. The Philadelphia native ended his Bellator stint with back-to-back losses to current bantamweight ruler Eduardo Dantas and Anthony Leone. The move to flyweight for Makovsky is about fighting to a potential advantage in the ever changing MMA landscape.

“I don’t know if I ever feel like that,” Makovsky contended. “I feel like Eduardo Dantas is the most skilled fighter I’ve ever fought. I really do think I have a style that can give him problems if I believe and really attack him. He’s a very tough guy to deal with but I don’t feel like I have to prove anything. My skills will put me among the best flyweights in the world. I think that’s the best spot for me.”

Welcoming Makovsky to the flyweight division in CFFC is promotional champion “Shorty Rock” Sean Santella. After going 8-2-1 to start his MMA career, Santella dropped a unanimous decision to Aljamain Sterling in a bantamweight battle. It was after that bout Santella decided to drop down to flyweight. Since that move back in October of 2011 the AMA Fight Club veteran has won five straight bouts, including a win over Dave Morgan at CFFC 24.

“I feel like I can still compete at 135; it was just the size difference,” Santella noted when asked about the move to flyweight. “Guys are cutting a lot of weight. I walk around at the heaviest 138, 140. With the camp that I’m in and the guys that I have to monitor my training, I don’t see anyone beating me. Whether it’s 125 or135, the best is still yet to come.”

The best may still be yet to come for both “Shorty Rock” and “Fun Size.” Following their respective bouts both Makovsky and Santella were asked about a potential bout against each other. Though not yet confirmed, sources tell Sherdog.com the bout may be scheduled for the next CFFC card in Atlantic City in August.

“He’s got good cardio,” Santella mentioned when asked to assess the potential bout. “He’s a southpaw. He’s a wrestler. If Zach wants to take me down I can finish the fight just like I did (against Dave Morgan). I’m going to be active and I’m also going to work on my stand up. I haven’t really been able to display my stand up, and someone that doesn’t shoot in will experience that.”

For a veteran like Santella, Makovsky represents the biggest name he’ll face in his more than five years of fighting. It’s also a fight that Will Garner more than a few eyeballs and potentially determine who gets the next call to the big show. None of that makes a difference to the man currently holding the CFFC flyweight strap.

“It’s just another guy,” Santella stated. “Any guy that they put in front of me I think is the hardest fight of my career. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the undercard or the main event in the UFC. I’m taking every fight one fight at a time and I’m going to treat it like they’re the most dangerous opponent that I face. It’s just another name.”

“He’s a really good fighter,” Makovsky said. “He’s very good on the ground. Very solid jiu-jitsu. His stand up is pretty good. His wrestling is pretty good. He’d be a tough fight for sure. But I think I have a style that can give him a lot of problems. I think I’m faster. If I’m prepared right I don’t think he can get on top of me. I think it’ll be a great fight.”

For Garcia, keeping up with the Joneses means more notoriety for CFFC when big bouts like Santella vs. Makovsky come together.

“I think it gives us credibility that the UFC is looking at a fight like Makovsky vs. Santella for the (CFFC) title. I think it is do or die for the winner. Sean has been on their radar for a very long time and he hasn’t gotten a call,” Garcia said. “If he does happen to beat Makovsky then maybe he gets the call. We know Zach’s on the UFC radar and if he beats Sean then he could be in there. It’s with pride that someone can say that’s a UFC eliminator match.”

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