After what transpired at UFC 256, it’s hard to imagine that the flyweight division was once on life support in the Las Vegas-based promotion.
Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno put on a show for 25 minutes in Saturday’s headliner at the UFC Apex, battling to a majority draw that was hailed as the greatest fight in the history of the flyweight division. Making it even more impressive was the fact that both Figueiredo and Moreno were competing just 21 days after earning victories at UFC 255.
“I didn’t know, you don’t know [how it’s gonna turn out],” UFC president Dana White said at the event’s post-fight press conference. “Then you start wondering, ‘Well, we’re gonna find out when this thing gets into the fourth and fifth round’ and things like that. Seriously, we throw the word around a lot, but these two are seriously f—-ing savages. Both of these guys are absolute savages.”
Ironically, it was a pair of flyweights who stepped up to save an event that had lost a pair of title fights at the top of the card. In late 2018, it appeared the 125-pound division’s days were numbered. Rumors that the promotion were removing the weight class began with a “trade” of former champion and pound-for-pound contender Demetrious Johnson to One Championship and persisted into 2019 as many flyweight talents were released from their contracts.
Now, the potential dissolution of the flyweight division seems like little more than a distant memory. White claims UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard deserves the lion’s share of the credit for reviving the division.
“I gotta give it to Mick. Mick went in and restructured and rebuilt that division and it’s one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC now,” White said. “Tonight, we put on a potential ‘Fight of the Year’ and potential greatest fight ever in this division’s history. So congrats to Mick.”
Purists will argue that the flyweight division has always had value, even during its darkest times. White, however, argued that the interest level just wasn’t as high in previous years when “Mighty Mouse” reigned at 125 pounds.
“We all know nobody cared about it,” White said. “I sat up here at press conferences before the fight telling everybody why you needed to watch that division and why there were so many great fights. But people just didn’t give a s—t. You can’t make people care. They gotta care or they don’t.
“Mick had some ideas. He wanted to make some tweaks in the division. He did it and here we are today.”
And what exactly were those tweaks?
“I think you can figure it out if you look at it,” White said. “Look at the roster. It’s all exciting guys. Guys that are fun to talk to. You’ve got a guy who’s a real Mexican from Mexico and fights like a Mexican from Mexico.”
White, of course, is referring to Moreno, who became a star by virtue of absorbing everything Figueiredo had to offer in the UFC 256 main event. Moreno, too, was a casaulty of the flyweight purge following back-to-back losses to Sergio Pettis and Alexandre Pantoja. But “The Assassin Baby” worked his way back after being released and the UFC is better off for it.
“To the body, to the head, the shots he was taking—It’s funny because leading up to this week he was telling everybody that his hero is Julio Cesar Chavez and that’s who he wants—when people remember him and his career—he wants to be remembered like a Julio Cesar Chavez,” White said. “When you look at typical Mexican fighters, [Moreno] is the prototype. He is exactly what you think of when you think of real Mexican fighters. He looked damn good tonight.”
It appears that a return date between Figueiredo and Moreno is inevitable — exactly when is unknown.
“You absolutely, positively do that rematch,” White said. “That’s another fun fight for us all to look forward to in 2021.
“These guys just fought twice in three weeks. They’ve got nothing but time. They can take as much time as they need.”