Ask Ant: Nov. 16

By Anthony Walker Nov 16, 2018

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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DS 66 asks: What do you think of TJ coming down to 125 to fight Cejudo for the Flyweight belt to “kill the division,” despite the UFC's plans to eliminate the division?

It’s hard to for me to make sense of the decision to have T.J. Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo meet each other at flyweight. If the 125ers weren’t being so abruptly being booted from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Considering that the former king of the division isn’t around for a well-deserved rematch and there aren’t any clear cut contenders outside of him, it makes some sense.

It will give the UFC another of the champ-versus-champ matchups that are so sought after by the promotion; after all, there’s nothing better than putting two belts on one poster. It would’ve the flyweights left in the wake to sort out an obvious challenger for whoever emerged victorious. From a competitive standpoint it would probably make for the more intriguing match up. Dillashaw has run through the majority of the opposition he’s faced in the larger weight class, so the idea that the smaller coming up would fare any differently is a much harder sell. Having the larger man sacrifice size (and likely stamina from the weight cut) might even the odds a bit more on paper.

However, that’s not the reality. The flyweights are being shown the door and there’s no reason to keep it going in any stripped down form, especially at the expense of the line of worthy men in the top ranks of bantamweight.

Just imagine the mix up if Cejudo wins. Dillashaw will have lost to a smaller man who will no longer carry the belt for another weight class since it will no longer exist in the UFC. Oh, by the way, he’s publicly stated the end of the division could mean he decides to leave the company along with his colleagues. If he is still stays in the organization (if there’s a champion’s clause in his contract, it would likely be invalidated) the next logical move would be an immediate rematch.

If that rematch takes place, a contest at bantamweight would probably be the next step. Dillashaw will then have to defend his belt against the man who just defeated him. If it happens at flyweight, it’ll prolong the charade of a title in a nonexistent division. Not to mention it will only keep worthy challengers like Marlon Moraes and Raphael Assuncao on the back burner even longer.

The only person this makes sense for Dillashaw. Cejudo will only be winning the right to another title fight at bantamweight. On the other hand, Dillashaw will have the opportunity to achieve double champ status without fear of losing the belt he’s already won and no threat of handling the task at both weight classes. This all just seems like a big favor for Duane Ludwig’s prized pupil.

Remember in June of 2017 when Demetrious Johnson said the UFC attempted to force a fight with Dillashaw on him saying that he was “taking away TJ’s opportunity” in that lengthy statement? That’s beginning to make a lot more sense now.

Glove asks: The UFC desperately needs far more effort in promoting their events. What ideas do you believe could be helpful in reversing this problem?

I have one very simple idea: stop putting on so many events. We understand why the UFC schedule is so busy. They have many television contracts around the world and have an obligation to give them content. But that doesn’t change the reality of a revolving door of random Fight Night cards, identical Reebok gear and Farmers Only advertisements. It gets repetitive and with no room to breathe between events, it’s hard for anything to stand out.

Check the promotions social media and like clockwork every Tuesday, the proclamation is made that “It’s Fight Week!!!” Aside from the occasional stacked mega-event or that one interesting matchup, it’s hard to sift through the noise. Fighters with standout performances get a fraction of second to shine before the show goes on. Great moments get brushed aside to make way for the next fight week to start in just a few days.

It’s hard to blame any of the marketing staff for the company either. Needless to say, their time is likely stretched very thin. It’s no wonder why the commercials feel the same, the posters look the same, and every Saturday we largely have the same experience. Unfortunately, the pace will not slow any time in the near future.

Since my No. 1 idea is not happening anytime soon, I’d recommend attempting to highlight personalities outside of the typical bunch. Using the diversity in the roster could open doors for new audiences. While the company has attempted this at times -- think of Ronda Rousey bringing in a wider female audience -- its efforts usually involve looking lost if the fighter doesn’t fit the established promotional mold. This may or not bring long term interest from otherwise untouched demographics, but it could at least boost the profile of some events.

Korolla asks: Have we seen the pinnacle of the UFC‘s dominance now that PPV numbers stagnate and other orgs seem to be catching up by creating their own stars and collecting top talent? I‘m thinking of Aaron Pico and Gegard Mousasi in Bellator, for example. Is the PPV model outdated and, if so, what other financial model should the UFC embrace?

Great question. I honestly am not sure how to answer this. That’s because mixed martial arts is going through a transitional period. The UFC has strayed from some of the strengths of its earlier days, while competitors like Bellator MMA and One Championship have tried to pick up the pieces. In addition to the changes within MMA, sports and television in general are going through a transformation.

The emergence of streaming sites has provided a lifeline to promotions that struggled to get traditional television deals. Those traditional television outlets have seen massive drops in ratings across almost all of their programming as they scramble to catch up to the technology. Everything in the world of televised sports, especially combat sports, is up in the air.

It is clear that the pay-per-view model is not going to last long. The occasional big fight can sell, as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor showed last month. However, that is the exception and not the rule. The WWE, which as a business the UFC has studied and drawn much inspiration from, has even moved away from pay-per-view to fully embrace streaming. UFC Fight Pass might eventually be on par with the WWE Network, but it’s a long time coming.

As far organizations catching up, they can certainly gain some ground. Signing a top prospect like Aaron Pico to a development deal is a smart and simple way to look toward the future. Signing a world-class contender like Gegard Mousasi shows an eye toward the present. But Bellator realistically has a lot of ground to gain. The UFC has already begun following the Pico model with some Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series fighters like Greg Hardy being signed to similar deals. They also still have an overwhelming hold over the large majority of the top talent in the world.

One is onto something with signing “Mighty Mouse” and immediately establishing a presence in the growing e-sports market. However, that’s not MMA. Even though other promotions are making great moves and keeping their names relevant, it will be either a very long time or take something catastrophic and dramatic to knock the UFC out of its No. 1 position.
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