What Does the Future Hold for the UFC’s Bantamweight Division?


Part 2 of my ‘What Does the Future Hold?’ series takes me to the bantamweight division, a division in the past few weeks has been flipped upside down with the unexpected retirement of champion Henry Cejudo. Cejudo had just beaten a returning Dominick Cruz and then shocked the world by announcing his retirement from the sport, leaving a huge question mark over the future of the division. 

The bantamweight division has seen its fair share of changes in the past few years. Dominick Cruz, who recently returned after a 3-year break, was considered by many one of the greatest bantamweights to ever grace the octagon. His reign over the division was then broken up by newcomers in T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt, who had their own legendary rivalry which saw Dillashaw come up on top. 

Many believed the future of the division was in those two fighters, and it seemed it would be this way for quite some time until Garbrandt lost twice to Dillashaw and from that point free fell with loss after loss after loss. Dillashaw on the other hand was enjoying his time as champion until the previously mentioned Henry Cejudo came along and knocked him out in the first round. That loss then sparked the downfall of Dillashaw that saw the news that Dillashaw had tested positive for PED’s after the fight and it threw his whole championship reign in to question. Funnily enough, Garbrandt had accused Dillashaw of using PED’s, in fact, the exact PED he tested positive for, during their rivalry but many just ignored the claims due to the serious bad blood between the two. 

There is a sad side to all this drama that doesn’t include any of the fighters that I have mentioned previously. Whilst all this was going on and earning the UFC a lot of money, many rising stars in the division were making moves up the rankings and cementing themselves as some of the best around, but with all this drama going on, they were constantly ignored for title shots. 

Fighters like Peter Yan, Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen, Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes had all been racking up the wins in the division but were never even considered for a title fight, other than Moraes who had a shot at Cejudo but fell short. Even before Cruz made his return to the cage, the title fight that was being spoken about was Cejudo vs Jose Aldo and many were annoyed that Aldo was even being thought of for the title shot because he hasn’t been on a good run of form for a while. 

Now that Cejudo announced his retirement however, the bantamweights that I mentioned in the previous paragraph finally have a chance to fight for the title and get title shots in the future. If it was up to me, I would make Sterling vs Yan for the title, Moraes is ranked number 1 but he had his shot at Cejudo and failed. You could also make a case for Sandhagen to get his shot too, which brings me to another idea for the title. 

You could have a 4 man tournament for the title, have Sterling, Yan, Sandhagen, and Moraes in the tournament and have them fight it out for the championship, not only does this give everyone a fair shot and a chance that they’ve earned for quite some time, but it also gives the fans 3 blockbuster bantamweight fights that they’ve been waiting to see for some time now. You could even extend it to 6 men and include Pedro Munhoz and Raphael Assuncao, to make it an even bigger event. 

The future of the bantamweight division is really bright, the fighters at the top of the rankings all deserve their fair shot at the title and a tournament for the title could really boost the popularity of the new age in the division. UFC fans have been wanting these fights for quite some time now and it’s a really good opportunity for the UFC to give the fans what they want, and also helping themselves out by investing in the future of the bantamweight division and making stars out of those highly ranked fighters like Sterling, Yan, and Sandhagen. 

Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports