The fans have been asking for it.
The fighters have been asking for it.
The writers have been asking for it.
And at UFC 58, everyone will get their wish when the UFC officially re-introduces the lightweight division. The two fights on the card that night also fit the theme of USA vs. Canada, as the very popular and widely considered uncrowned 155lb champion of the UFC, Yves Edwards makes his return to fight Mark Hominick, and “Ultimate Fighter” season one participant, Kenny Florian, drops to his natural fighting weight to take on TKO veteran Sam Stout.
UFC 49 was the last time the lightweight division was featured when Edwards took on top fighter Josh Thompson in a battle that many believed should have been for the title, but despite having no championship on the line, Edwards still took out his opponent in what is widely considered the greatest knockout by a kick in the history of the UFC.
Since that time the UFC has gone onto have the most success the company has ever felt with the “Ultimate Fighter” reality show and with the onset of multiple events per year with both pay per view and live Spike TV broadcasts, it only made sense to feature one of the most exciting divisions in all of mixed martial arts.
Fans would have to travel all the way back to UFC 41 to see the lightweight title on the line, when B.J. Penn took on Caol Uno. Unfortunately, the fight ended in a draw, and no champion was declared, and the title remains vacated to this day. The last person to hold the UFC lightweight championship was “Lil’ Evil” Jens Pulver, who never actually lost the title, but relinquished it after contract disputes forced him out of the UFC.
While there has been no mention of the championship being brought back to life, it can only be a matter of time before the UFC starts to seek out it’s next champion. The company cannot go through another period where fights are taking place in a weight class but there is no champion (the middleweight title was vacated after Murilo Bustamante left the company in 2002 and no champion was crowned until Evan Tanner won it in 2005.)
One has to wonder if the UFC is starting to see the error of their ways when they dropped the lightweight division with the recent success of the Pride lightweight Grand Prix that took place last year. In what has to be considered one of the greatest tournaments of all time, every fight was spectacular and not a single fan was disappointed with the results.
The lightweight division is sure to bring a whole new level of excitement to fresh fans to the UFC that have never seen the smaller guys go at it. What the heavyweight division has lacked in exciting fights recently, the lightweights are sure to bring plenty of action to every fight.
It will be interesting to see in the coming months, who the UFC will go after to feature in this weight class. Yves Edwards coming back is a huge plus for the lightweight division, and with Kenny Florian’s popularity from the “Ultimate Fighter” show, the UFC has two ready made superstars in the division.
Josh Thompson was as exciting as any fighter in the 155lb division, and if he’s able to win in his upcoming fight on the Frank Shamrock/Cesar Gracie card, its almost a lock that he would come back.
Another name to throw into the mix will be Sean Sherk, who has expressed interest in dropping down to the lightweight division, and would be a very formidable opponent for any fighter in that weight class.
And what about Jens Pulver? He was probably the most popular fighter the UFC ever featured in the lightweight division and he would make a great addition.
Other fighters like Mac Danzig, Urijah Faber, Ivan Menjivar and Gilbert Melendez are all fighting in North America and would make fantastic contenders in the UFC (yes, a couple of them fight at 145lbs, but it’s no secret that fighters will gladly gain or lose weight for a shot at the UFC).
Hopefully everyone will show their support when the lightweight division is reborn at UFC 58, and let’s truly hope it’s here to stay this time around.