CHICAGO – Anyone who has watched any kind of programming on Fox in the past month is probably aware that Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson will fight for an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt in the main event of Saturday night’s card on the network.
Fox has been promoting the UFC on Fox 6 event ad nauseam, including live reads from uncomfortable-sounding NFL broadcasters during the playoffs.
One key detail was left out of nearly all of those advertisements, though.
For whatever reason, Fox would not refer to the weight class. Promos called it simply a championship bout or a world title bout, choosing to avoid making reference to the flyweight division.
The 125-pound weight class is the newest in the UFC. Johnson, 26, just won the title in September as champion of a four-man tournament. This will be the first defense of the flyweight belt.
UFC president Dana White refused to concede the promotional angle was in any way a slight to the division or the two 5-foot-3-inch fighters who will compete for the belt.
“I don’t think it was specifically designed not to talk about the flyweights. That was just the way they put the commercials out,” White said. “I’m not concerned about it at all. To say you don’t like a fight because the guys aren’t that big, that’s crazy.
“Guys look bigger on TV anyway, so maybe it won’t matter that the ref is 4 feet taller than them.”
Johnson, who won a split decision over Joseph Benavidez in the tournament final to claim the belt, doesn’t concern himself with the branding.
“So what if they’re saying flyweight or not,” Johnson said. “It’s for a world title, and that’s what they should be advertising. It’s a world title fight. You should put two world-class athletes in there and that’s all that really matters, no matter what weight class we are.”
Dodson, 28, is thrilled just to have the opportunity. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter is 3-0 with two knockouts since joining the UFC in December.
Dodson thought he should have been included in the four-man tournament, but is satisfied with getting the first shot at the newly crowned champion.
“It’s awesome, to tell you the truth. Like how many people can say they’re in the main event in their third fight in the UFC and being only in the UFC for like a year?” he said. “I’m blessed to be here, and I want to make sure I can put on a good show and make the flyweights known all across the world.”
Dodson said it would have been fine with him even if Fox had decided to promote a different fight on the card.
“I’m still getting in there to fight,” he said. “If they want to advertise it as UFC on Fox 6 or UFC on Fox 6 Showtime (Anthony Pettis) versus Cowboy (Donald Cerrone), it doesn’t matter to me.”
What the fighters lack in size, they make up for in speed and athleticism. Johnson and Dodson move around the cage at a blistering pace. Johnson has shown terrific endurance, and Dodson has showcased more power, particularly during his short stint in the UFC.
Both fighters, and the UFC, are banking on the flyweights’ exciting style and fast pace to help the division overcome whatever qualms some fans might have about watching the little guys.
“I believe the UFC gave us the spotlight of a national television audience on Fox” for a reason, Johnson said. “Me and John have a chance to show what the flyweight division can do and to educate the fans on just how good it is. We just have to put on a good show.”
The event, which also features a lightweight bout between Pettis and Cerrone, airs live at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Also, light heavyweight Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on Glover Teixeira in what probably will be the final UFC appearance of Jackson’s career.
■ NOTE – UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes officially announced his retirement Thursday during the news conference to promote UFC on Fox 6. He has been named the UFC’s vice president of athlete development and government relations. Part of his responsibilities will be helping to implement the organization’s new conduct policy, which also was announced Thursday.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.