Joseph Benavidez Baffled By the UFC’s Plan for the Flyweight Division

Joseph Benavidez admits he didn't expect to be buried on the undercard as the No. 1 ranked fighter at flyweight but then again nothing seems right with the UFC's 125-pound division lately

Joseph Benavidez has been out of action for the past 18 months dealing with a knee injury but in his absence he was excited to see what the flyweight division looked like when he returned.

This weekend at UFC 225 in Chicago, Benavidez will face Sergio Pettis in a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 5 ranked fighters in the men’s 125-pound division. Typically that kind of fight would come with potential title implications or perhaps a marquee spot on a card to promote such highly ranked opponents.

Instead, Benavidez and Pettis will face off in the third fight of the night on UFC Fight Pass rather than getting a spot on the pay-per-view main card or even the television prelims on FS1.

“There’s no other No. 1 ranked fighter in the world with six wins in a row in any weight class, of any individual in the UFC that would be the third fight on the card, just buried,” Benavidez said about his placement on the card. “There’s not another person. There’s not another weight class where a person would be shoved down like that. It doesn’t effect the fight but I just want to know why?

“I can’t make sense of it at all.”

The problem might start at the top of the division where flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson has been absolutely dominant, going as far as breaking the all time record for title defenses last year.

Unfortunately, Johnson was also at odds with UFC president Dana White during the latter half of 2017 when the promotion tried to match him up against T.J. Dillashaw, who was at the time a former bantamweight champion. Johnson had no interest in the matchup and he went onto roll through another flyweight contender in Ray Borg.

The proposed fight gained more steam after Dillashaw took back the bantamweight title in November and it appeared a bout against Johnson was in the works but ultimately it never came together.

Now Johnson is rumored for a potential rematch against Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo — a fighter he already defeated with a first round knockout — and the flyweight division continues to move forward.

For Benavidez’s sake, he was actually hopeful that the division would find some new contenders and things would be shaken up a bit in his absence. Instead he’s returning to fight on the early preliminary card with no clear direction for what comes next in the flyweight division.

“It’s kind of weird. That was something I was kind of hopeful for when the injury started, maybe I’m stuck in this place in the division maybe there will be some crazy mix up while I’m out and this is just what I needed to be out and come back to whole new flyweight division,” Benavidez said. “To tell you the truth, through this year that I’ve been out, it’s actually gotten worse.

“Demetrious is the champion, he broke the record and everything but I feel it’s still getting less and less respect and publicity, maybe because the whole fight with T.J. [Dillashaw] fell through and there was just crazy stuff going on. Not really crazy but nothing. There were rumors of it being shut down. I think there’s obviously something going on where they don’t want to promote it. Me and Sergio Pettis are No. 1 and No. 5 in the world and we’re on the Fight Pass prelims so we’e kind of buried there. I think it’s actually gotten worse since I’ve been out.”

Benavidez can’t do anything but fight this weekend and hope the UFC turns things around for the flyweight division in 2018 but he has no idea if that will happen or not.

That’s why it’s hard for Benavidez to even give his take on the status of the division because right now he says there isn’t one.

“There’s not a state of the division,” Benavidez said. “There’s nothing to talk about. A matchup that would be good to promote or put out there for people to watch is buried on the undercard, which I think is wild.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.
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