It feels like every week that goes by brings news of a fighter challenging someone outside of their division. Let's be honest, it usually involves #ConorMcGregor. It seems everyone is eyeing an opportunity outside of their weight class.
In this new era of the sport, any fight could happen. We are seeing #champions leave their division behind to fight at a higher weight, stars attempting to hold two titles at once. Grudges and rivalries are luring fighters to heavier weights.
Conor McGregor won the featherweight championship but was never seen at that weight again. Shortly after becoming a two-weight class champion he was stripped of the 145 pound title. #JoseAldo was promoted to #featherweight champion but he wants to move up to lightweight as well. The two weight divisions have been sent into disarray. I went into that further here.
The middleweight and welterweight divisions looked to be crossing over recently too. #MichaelBisping and #TyronWoodley, two champions of their respective divisions, flirted with the idea of a superfight. Since then, Woodley has been announced in a rematch with 'Wonderboy'. However, that doesn't mean Bisping versus Woodley can't happen in the future. As Joey Diaz would say: "The seed has been planted!"
After out-striking a master of movement, #CodyGarbrandt appeared on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. He had a lot to say as the new 135 pound title holder, calling out two champions outside of his division. 'No Love' said he is eyeing a catchweight superfight against McGregor and a featherweight bout against Aldo. These are certainly fun fights but what about Dillashaw's shot?
This is happening on the #Bellator side of the MMA coin too. Chael Sonnen has vowed to move up and down the divisions. He has said he will fight at 'gangsterweight', basically he will take on anybody that wants a piece.
Jumping between divisions is not a new trend though. Most famously, B.J. Penn has fought in four weight classes. He even attempted to become a simultaneous two-weight champion against GSP but was unsuccessful. One of the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva of course fought at light heavyweight as well as his championship winning weight of 185.
With all that being said, why is it that the weight classes are cross-pollunating? The most key factor is that people are looking for the biggest money fight possible. This industry is at a point where you have to become the biggest star possible in order to gain enough money worth getting kicked in the head for. Being famous is no bad thing either. Superfights and chasing bouts with stars bring this kind of notability.
The new entertainment focus that is often talked about these days could also be responsible. The UFC love narrative and drama nowadays; the image of two champions facing off looks great on a poster. A champion versus champion match sells mountains of tickets and pay per views.
This next point could be slightly controversial but perhaps it is also to avoid difficult weight cuts. We of course know that fighters often drop a ridiculous amount of weight in order to reach the smallest division possible. Cutting a lot to fighting weight would make you bigger and stronger than most of your opponents.
The problem with this is it means people are often going through dangerous weight cuts, dehydrating their body, practically killing themselves. A topical example is former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos. His cut to 155 pounds was brutal, he allegedly passed out for ten minutes the day before losing the belt to Eddie Alvarez. He has recently announced that he will move up to welterweight to fight at full vitality. Some could be moving up in order to avoid these kinds of weight cuts.
I should note, I see these catchweights and superfights as a good thing. Bouts where people are moving to a different division are exciting provide they are done right. At best, MMA fans will get to see fun all-champion superfights, should they actually materialise. At worst, divisions will continue to be put on hold. Top contenders will not get their shot and there will be even more interim belts.
Whatever happens there are some amazing fights coming up. To stay up to date with all things MMA and more, subscribe. If you enjoyed this article please share it with your friends.