TJ Dillashaw makes his flyweight debut on 19th January when he challenges Henry Cejudo for the flyweight world title, something he has been very vocal about since reclaiming the bantamweight title in November of 2017.
On an individual level, a win for Dillashaw has huge implications – he’d join a prestigious and list of fighters to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously, and be the first to capture the second title at a lower weight. History could be made, but this fight will affect much more than just Dillashaw’s legacy.
TJ Dillashaw rallies to fight Cody Garbrandt in the UFC Bantamweight Title Bout during UFC 227 at Staples Center on August 4, 2018 in Los Angeles, United States.
Dillashaw’s repeatedly claimed that UFC president Dana White has “sent him down to flyweight to finish the division off” – that he’s going to win the title, and then the UFC will scrap the flyweight division. And White has hinted at this being a possibility, noting that flyweight title fights draw disappointing PPVs.
Making life more difficult for the flyweight division was last year's history-making trade between the UFC and ONE Championship that saw long time flyweight king (and the division’s biggest draw, Demetrius Johnson) go to ONE Championship in place of undefeated welterweight Ben Askren. And established flyweight contenders like Sergio Pettis have already moved up to 135 lbs, while some fighters, like Justin Scoggins, have been cut from the roster completely. All signs, then, seem point to a Dillashaw victory spelling the end of a men’s flyweight division in the UFC.
The pressure is clearly on Cejudo to win - not just for his own legacy, but the future of his weight class.
We may, however, be getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s not forget that the UFC is a business and that their bottom line is profit, made from high viewing numbers and PPV buys. If this fight draws in a lot viewers, it could save the flyweight division, regardless of the outcome.
If Dillashaw wins, he makes history, and is the brash, outspoken champion that could finally draw the more casual fans to the flyweight division. If Cejudo ends up victorious, he’ll have beaten two of the top pound-for-pound fighters of this generation in his last two fights. This could catapult his career, and turn him into a superstar overnight - which we have seen can be all a division needs to become the company’s premier weight class.
Henry Cejudo celebrates his UFC Flyweight Title Bout win over Demetrious Johnson during UFC 227 at Staples Center on August 4, 2018 in Los Angeles, United States.