Jussier Formiga is arguably the best UFC flyweight who has never fought for the title.
The 34-year-old Brazilian has long been ranked near the top of the division — and currently sits at No. 1, just below champ Henry Cejudo. He has often been one win away, or perhaps deserving of a title shot, but things simply have not lined up the right way at the right time.
Formiga, who is currently riding a four-fight winning streak and has only lost twice in the past five years, is set to meet Joseph Benavidez later this month at UFC Minneapolis. Under normal circumstances, that would be a fight that almost certainly determines the next title challenger, but it’s taking place in a strange time for the division.
Last year, there were reports that the UFC was getting rid of the 125-pound division. Though there has been no official announcement, the promotion has slowly released more and more flyweights. As of now, there are only 13 flyweights in the official UFC rankings — not even enough for a complete top 15. In addition to that, Cejudo is fighting for the vacant bantamweight title against Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 this weekend; depending on how that fight goes, his days at 125 pounds could very well be over.
Because of the uncertainty in the flyweight division, the stakes for Formiga vs. Benavidez — a rematch from their 2013 fight which Benavidez won by first-round TKO — are unclear. But Formiga is focused on one thing and one thing only: UFC gold, even if it has to come at 135 pounds.
“I think I deserve my chance,” Formiga told Bloody Elbow. “I will prove in my next fight against Benavidez. I will win. I don’t care [what] division. I want my belt, I want my chance. That’s it.”
Formiga said he thinks Moraes will beat Cejudo, prompting “The Messenger” to return to flyweight. And in an ideal world, Formiga said, that’s where he wants to fight Cejudo, should he get past Benavidez on June 29.
Formiga said he doesn’t believe Cejudo should have moved up to bantamweight to fight Moraes; he believes Cejudo is doing it only for the “money.”
“I think Cejudo is no win; I think Marlon (will) win,” Formiga, who lost to Cejudo by split decision in 2015, said. “Cejudo will be back for 125. I want Cejudo. I’m focused on my next fight against Benavidez. After this, I want Cejudo.
“I want my chance at 125. If 125 (is) finished, it’s no problem, I want my chance at 135.”
Formiga doesn’t seem all that worried about the potential demise of the flyweight division, but that’s not to say he thinks the promotion would be making the right move by getting rid of it entirely.
“I don’t understand for the finish of the division,” Formiga said. “125 (has) the better guys — me, and Benavidez, and Cejudo, and (Alexandre) Pantoja, and Deveison Figueiredo. A lot of guys, very good guys.”