Across combat sports, a lot of people don’t care for the little guys. They just can’t get any love from fans, no matter how exciting they are, how much talent they display, or how many times they steal the show.
In some cases, it could even be justified.
Look at the UFC’s lighter weight classes as an example: featherweight has been completely cleaned out by Jose Aldo, a pound-for-pound great who feasted on minnows in shark-like fashion on the way to killing off the best 145-pound competition out there before his 25th birthday.
Ten pounds below him, Dominick Cruz has juked and jived his way to an undefeated record as a bantamweight, holding UFC gold since it was made to exist at his class.
Still, few people want to watch him (just check the TUF ratings when he coached opposite “bitter rival” Urijah Faber if you don’t agree) and his long injury layoffs are becoming too frequent and too problematic for a generation that wants its entertainment and wants it now.
Thus, when the UFC decided it was going to open the floodgates to a 125-pound class, only the hardest of the hardcore were enthused at the thought.
"Not enough talent," said most.
"Not interested in seeing little dudes fight anyway," said others.
But you know what? In well less than a year, the flyweights have proven to have more substance in the cage and more potential stars out of it than any weight class within 30lbs. of them. With the UFC having faced more than a few difficulties in 2012, that’s got to have them grinning ear to ear.
Which weightclass under 155lbs. has the most star potential?
Sure, they might have mistook the appetite for Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson as fan-favorites and potential stars, but you can’t blame them for trying to make a champion out of a guy they had already put money into marketing since the days of the WEC. Aside from that oversight, everything they’ve touched in the 125-pound class has turned to gold.
They have a legitimate megastar in waiting in Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall, who’s combined accessibility, capacity to entertain, and the best moustache of the modern era into a persona that will only get bigger as he gets more exposure.
TUF alumni like John Dodson and Louis Gaudinot have the looks and personality to become stars as well, coupled with the in-cage excitement that fans crave.
Lesser-knowns like John Lineker and Tim Elliott are guaranteed fireworks the minute they sign on the dotted line for a fight, and will probably get far richer from their inevitable bonus cheques than they will from their fight purses.
And all that is to say nothing of the unseen flyweight scrappers that are still unsigned, yet to debut, or possibly haven’t even been discovered.
Dana White has offered up plenty of rhetoric as he tries to steer the UFC ship through a shaky year of transition over to the FOX family of networks. In the midst of all that rhetoric has been the repeated promise that people will love the flyweight division, because the guys fighting there basically don’t even know how to put on a boring fight.
White may not be right at this exact moment regarding fan interest, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s proven to be. In a month the division will have its first ever champion, and from there a host of potential stars will line up for their shots, garnering fans with every frenzied exchange.
There’s a lot to like about that proposition.