Despite calls to drop it and fighters being cleaned out the UFC flyweight division is still standing.
Kiwi fighter Kai Kara-France believes the 125lb (57kg) division could soon be in for a resurgence, and his next opponent could be a telling sign for its reanimation.
The Herald can confirm Kara-France, the UFC's No9 ranked flyweight, will fight American Mark de la Rosa in Shenzhen, China on September 1 (NZ time), ending a six-month wait between bouts. De la Rosa, who boasts an 11-2 professional record, will move down to flyweight for the bout after having three of his four UFC bouts at bantamweight.
"He's a natural flyweight," Kara-France said of de la Rosa. "He's a bit smaller at bantam, and I think a few are going to follow in his footsteps.
"It's promising and it's something positive to take out of the whole situation – the flyweights live on and we do have another fight lined up."
The 26-year-old Kiwi has been impressive since joining the UFC late last year. In his debut against Elias Garcia last December, he claimed the win and a $74,000 performance bonus, before taking a split decision win over Brazilian Raulian Paiva in February.
However, he was forced to take time off fighting after the win over Paiva to deal with a hand injury. It was the first in a number of setbacks to getting back into the octagon for Kara-France, but he said the lay off had done a world of good.
"I ended up getting a cortisone injection [in my hand] – obviously USADA approved," he said.
"Once I started getting back into a good routine, it just took a while for me to get a good consistency with my training. I kept getting a bit rundown and sick – you know how it is living in New Zealand and training over winter, everyone gets sick. Finally we're starting to see some consistency now and everything's falling into place.
He'll head into familiar territory to take on de la Rosa, having fought in mainland China five times already in his professional MMA career, most recently in November 2017.
"The crowd, hopefully, will be familiar with me and I feel like it's a good card to be on so I can build my fan base there a bit more. I know the UFC wants to build a bit more of a presence there with the new performance institute opening in Shanghai, so I feel like it's a good card to be on."
"Hopefully this time I can get a finish. I've said it my last two fights, they've both gone the distance, but if we can solve the Mark de la Rosa puzzle early, we can put him away."