This past weekend 6’4″ 259 pound Francis Ngannou was matched up with 5’11” 228 pound Bojan Mihajlovic at UFC Fight 20 on Fox . When the two engaged in the customary stare down, I did not find myself questioning the outcome of their impending fight, I found myself wondering why this fight was taking place at all? Who signed off on the notion that the weight of fighters is irrelevant once they cross the 205 pound threshold. In a era of the sport where stringent drug testing policies are being implemented in the name of fighter safety, how could a safety oversight like a 40 pound weight advantage be ignored? Luckily for Mihajlovic his fight was stopped early before he could take any serious damage. With the recent banning of IVs to discourage the practice of drastic weight cuting, what is a fighter who competes in the 230-240 range to do.
Let’s say average Joe UFC fan has zero interest in fighter safety and just wants to see the best possible fights. The creation of a 205-230 division would appease even the most casual of viewers. Combatants who are closer in weight will create more competitive fights. The weight differential is not always an advantage for the bigger fighter, 20 plus years of professional mixed martial arts competitions have taught us that size has a point of diminishing returns. Think Cain Velasquez vs. Bigfoot Silva, Bigfoot’s coordination was noticeably less developed than Cain’s. The division would be highlighted by guys like Cain, Stipe and Dos Santos, while giants like Overeem, Hunt and Struve would be left to battle it out among the true heavyweights. This leaves the door open for the once every five years champion vs. champion match up when the pairing makes sense.
I understand that talented big men are hard commodity to come by and from a promotional stand point it would considerably thin the talent pool. But in a time where the sport has become a worldwide phenomenon and fighters have become household names across the globe, the belief that a 30 man roster could not be filled in each division seems absurd. Mixed martial arts is growing at an unprecedented pace and freak show match ups like Ngannou and Mihajlovic on the sport’s largest stage, only help to confirm the naysayers preconceived notions that mma is more carnival sideshow than legitimate sporting event. The cuiserweight division would signify one more step out of the dark ages of mma and into the limitless future.