Why Does the UFC Have So Few Men’s Flyweight Fights as Main Events?

Why Does the UFC Have So Few Men’s Flyweight Fights as Main Events?

The UFC Mexico City fight card this weekend is notable for its focus on the lower weight divisions. Not only is there no fight heavier than lightweight, but the main event is a flyweight fight. This is a real novelty.

The table below shows the spread of main events by weight class in the last 100 UFC fight cards, going back to 9 October 2021:

Weight ClassMain Cards
Light Heavyweight13
Women’s Bantamweight5
Women’s Strawweight5
Women’s Flyweight3
Women’s Featherweight1

As you can see, there is a slight over-representation of the heavier weight divisions. Among the men’s divisions from bantamweight to heavyweight, the spread is still fairly even though. The women’s weight divisions are under-represented, with a total of 14 main events out of the last 100.

The real standout from this list is the even more under-represented men’s flyweight division, with only one main event out of the last 100. This will double to two this weekend, but it will still only be the second UFC flyweight main event since the end of 2020. It also still leaves the flyweights way short of the other men’s divisions.

Why are there so few headlining UFC flyweight fights?

The UFC only had its first flyweight fight in 2012. It is fair to say that in the early days, the flyweights struggled to gain popularity with fans. At times, it looked as if the UFC might remove the division altogether. By 2019, the UFC only had 12 fighters in the men’s flyweight rankings. They could not even fill a top 15.

Traditionally, in combat sports, particularly boxing, the heavier weight divisions have been more popular with fans. This bias may have fed into fan perception of flyweight fighters and fights. It may also have led to assumptions being made in the UFC about how popular the division could become. This in turn could have impacted how they promoted it.

Are things changing?

There are signs that perceptions are changing among UFC fans and the flyweight division does seem to becoming more popular.

There is no doubt that flyweights often produce great fights. They can be really competitive, exciting and high-paced with plenty of action. A great example was the flyweight title fight between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Moreno at UFC 290, which was one of the best fights of 2023. You also see many a good flyweight fight buried in the early prelims of UFC cards.

Because flyweights rely less on power than the heavier weight divisions, they have to be technically better to succeed in the UFC. They are also faster, more athletic and have better stamina. You won’t see a ranked flyweight gassed out by the second round in the way you often see heavyweights do.

Certainly, the bantamweight division (the next division above flyweight) is very popular and is widely felt to have the best depth of competition of any weight class in the UFC.

What does the future hold for the UFC men’s flyweight division?

Hopefully, Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval will showcase a great flyweight fight this weekend. This is a real opportunity to promote the division to the UFC and its fans.

To continue to grow in popularity, it of course needs better promotion and more main events. Since there is no sign of the UFC reducing their use of the Apex for Fight Nights, it makes sense for at least some of these events to be headlined by flyweights.

The upcoming Apex Fight Night on 2 March 2024 is to be headlined by the heavyweights Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Shamil Gaziev. On the same card, there is a flyweight fight between Alex Perez and Muhammad Mokaev (currently ranked #7 and #8 respectively). This is a much more interesting fight, is likely to be more watchable and would make a better main event.

Five rounds of Rozenstruik vs Gaziev or five rounds of Perez vs Mokaev? I know what I would prefer. I think the UFC have missed an opportunity here and would be well advised to give greater consideration to the flyweight division going forward.

If you're feeling generous:
Mark Lawson avatar