The UFC aims to capitalize on Deiveson Figueiredo’s dominance at UFC 255 and a ready-made fight with surging contender Brandon Moreno, and the promotion doesn’t want to wait.
Rather than book the champ and No. 1 contender in the next three to six months, UFC President Dana White wants it to happen next month. The fighters have verbally agreed to face off at UFC 256.
“We’re going to keep him here,” White told reporters after Saturday’s pay-per-view at UFC APEX in Las Vegas. “He’s not going to fly back to Brazil. We’re going to turn him right around.”
Champions often fight only once or twice a year in the modern UFC. Rarely do they make quick turnarounds, and performances in consecutive months is unheard of when they must make weight and potentially fight for five, five-minute rounds.
Figueiredo has already missed weight in one title fight, coming in heavy for a meeting with Joseph Benavidez for the belt left vacant by former champ Henry Cejudo. Figueiredo won by knockout but was booked for an immediate rematch, where he made weight and won the rematch by first-round submission.
The champ isn’t the only one who has to make weight, of course. Moreno would also need to make a quick turnaround to shed pounds to make sure he didn’t take the title off the table by coming in heavy. Moreno called out Figueiredo after an impressive win over Brandon Royval on the UFC 255 preliminary card.
Asked whether he’s concerned about weight being an issue, White smiled and said, “Yeah.” He added he hadn’t decided on which card Figueiredo vs. Moreno will take place; championship fights are most often booked on pay-per-view cards to take promotional advantage of the gold on the line, though former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, who currently holds the UFC record for most title defenses with 11, frequently found himself slotted on Fight Night cards.
White, though, believes he’s got a different type of attraction on his hands.
“This kid (Figueiredo) is so much different,” he said. “He’s mean. This kid’s mean. He comes in with bad intentions, and he looks like he’s got bad intentions, and I think people gravitate toward those type of fighters more. Let’s see if he can go on a run that can make you a legend.”
Johnson’s run ended with his 12th title defense, a split decision loss to Cejudo, who defended the flyweight title before moving up to bantamweight and capturing gold there. After defending the bantamweight belt, Cejudo vacated it and opened up both divisions.
It was Cejudo that reportedly saved the flyweight division after White threatened to scrap it during a contentious period with Johnson as champion. Much has been written about the difficulty of promoting smaller fighters in combat sports where the “baddest man on the planet” carries the most prestige, and gate receipts during Johnson’s reign did little to dispel that notion.
White frequently derided Johnson’s critics as fans who didn’t really love the sport and should stop watching it. After Figueiredo submitted Alex Perez in half the time he used to tap out Benavidez, the UFC executive did the same.
“If you don’t like this guy, stop watching fights,” White said. “You need to find a new hobby if you don’t like watching him.”
UFC 256 is scheduled to take place on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas. The next UFC card this year is scheduled for Dec. 19, and its fight card has filled rapidly. Whatever date is ultimately decided, if White intends to make a new flyweight title fight, the champ and challenger are going to have to start preparing extremely soon.
Asked about having a backup fighter at the ready in case there are any issues, White said, “I don’t know.”