FRENCH: Going back to go forward – How a tournament could spark interest in Flyweight Division

By Daryl French, MMATorch contributor

Demetrious Johnson

Going back to go forward!

How about exploring bringing back the fabled tournament format could help combat stagnation in some of the UFC’s weight divisions?

The Flyweight Division in the UFC has long been a difficult division to market and it’s come up short in terms of pulling in viewers and PPV buyers. The Flyweight Division holds some of the most exciting fighters in the UFC including John Dodson and, arguably one of the most dominant champions that the UFC has ever seen, Demetrious Johnson (who is ranked no. 1 in the Pound-for-Pound category in the September MMATorch Rankings). This being said, it has been very difficult for the UFC to market the division and generally it draws low PPV buys. This could be a combination of a lack of personality within the division or just general disinterest.

The tournament format may be see by many as outdated, a return to the so called “dark ages” of MMA. That being said, the tournament format is wildly popular and is used in nearly if not all Olympic combat sports and has been used by promotions such as Bellator and Glory kickboxing. The strength that the tournament format has is that it is unpredictable and brings so much excitement around the fact that everyone who enters has a chance of walking away a winner.

The tournament format also offers a chance for fighters to step forward and become superstars, fighters such as Ken Shamrock, Don Fyre, and of course Royce Gracie made their names with the tournament format. In my opinion, with Mighty Mouse removed, the Flyweight Division lacks real star power within it. A tournament win could bring forth a name that can transcend the weight division and be able to bring in the buys and ultimately the interest to the division.

The reintroduction of the tournament format could be the flame that can rekindle the division. The rising popularity of submission-only events that use the tournament format such as the Eddie Bravo Invitational do prove that a winner-take-all-tournament could reignite interest in a division that has plenty of talent and huge potential but just needs a hook to attract viewers. A tournament would grab the attention of today’s fans who have heard of and watched back old UFC tournaments, but never watched a contemporary version of one.

(MMATorch contributor Daryl French has been following MMA since he flicked through TV channels and saw a Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva fight. He’s attended events in his native country of England and regularly watches BAMMA and UCMMA.)

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