The Forgotten Featherweight

UFC 162 on Saturday night showcased four of the best featherweights in the world. So, consequently, the featherweights have been a hot topic of discussion in the days following the event. Due to the ‘out of sight out of mind’ nature of this sport, Ricardo Lamas’s name has been missing from these discussions. Lamas, it seems, is quickly becoming the forgotten featherweight.

Lamas actually started the year in style by impressively finishing Erik Koch in January at UFC on Fox 6; a man who would have fought for the title in 2012 if it wasn’t for the injury bug. However, since then Lamas just can’t catch a break.

First, less than a fortnight after his win over Koch, the UFC announced that Anthony Pettis would drop down to 145 pounds to challenge José Aldo. Even though, that meant Aldo would be fighting a guy who had never competed at featherweight before, for the second consecutive time. Then, last month, when Pettis got injured and was removed from his UFC 163 title bout with Aldo, Lamas was again overlooked for the title shot. Instead, the UFC called on Jung Chan-Sung aka the Korean Zombie. Despite the fact that Lamas is currently above the Zombie in the UFC’s official rankings and he is riding a longer winning streak in the division.

Following UFC 162, and just in case Lamas hadn’t been disregarded enough, all the talk of Aldo’s next challenger was focused on Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson. Many are proposing that the two should fight to determine a number one contender. Some have even suggested that Swanson has done enough and should fight the winner of Aldo/Zombie. A quite ludicrous notion when you consider that Lamas submitted Swanson in 2011 and hasn’t lost since, arguably defeating higher caliber opponents along the way.

Lamas’s career is strikingly similar to TJ Grant’s, albeit with a different outcome. Both had respectable, but not exactly dazzling, stints in one weight class before a move down in divisions reinvigorated their careers. Lamas and Grant went from being middle of the pack in one division to elite contenders in another. They did this by going unbeaten at their new home, beating everyone the UFC put in front of them. Although, neither possesses a big name or personality, Grant’s performances alone were enough to get him a title shot. Lamas on the other hand, is still waiting for his.

It is starting to feel like Lamas isn’t ‘sexy’ enough for a shot at the title. By which I mean he doesn’t have a flamboyant fighting style, a loud mouth or any star power. Neither does Grant you might say, which is true but there was basically no other option at lightweight. Featherweight, however, has almost a plethora of contenders to choose from. Twice now, Lamas has lost out to the sexier option. First there was Pettis, a much flashier fighter with a bigger name. Then there was the Korean Zombie and come on, what is sexier than a Korean Zombie?

It is an arduous time for fighters like Lamas in the UFC. This year the likes of Chael Sonnen and Nick Diaz have jumped the queue and received title shots based on their star power and marketability, rather than merit. A few months ago the UFC introduced their official ranking system, which theoretically should stop this type of practice in its track. However, the fact that the UFC chose the Zombie to face Aldo instead of Lamas who is ranked higher shows that this isn’t the case. By rights, Lamas should face the winner of Aldo/Zombie and Edgar vs. Swanson should determine the number one contender after Lamas. His immediate future though is unclear, he reportedly still received his show money after the Zombie was removed from their UFC 162 bout but as of yet he does not have a fight booked.

MMA is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of sport and Lamas needs to fight while he waits for the outcome of Aldo/Zombie. Otherwise, the title moves further and further away from him. An impressive performance from another featherweight in the meantime or an injury in training while he waits would again result in him missing out on a title shot. Other than remodeling himself into something he isn’t, winning is all Lamas can do in order to avoid becoming the forgotten featherweight.

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