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The flyweight division has undoubtedly had their ups and downs.
From a loaded tournament to start the division and a season of The Ultimate Fighter stacked with champs from other organizations to the trading of the divisional GOAT and talks of dissolving the division - there has always been something to talk about. Despite all of these monumental and even controversial events, the thing that gets talked about most about flyweights is the lack of an audience for them. Flyweights rarely appear in the main event or even on the main card for that matter.
That concept is not lost on the division’s newest signee, Brandon Royval. However, Royval believes he knows why they get overlooked and he’s out to change that.
“I know I’m an exciting fighter to watch and I know he’s an exciting fighter to watch. The flyweight division gets not that much love honestly. I just want to go out and set the record straight that us flyweights are f***ing exciting, and we’re out there to put on a show,” Royval said. “At 125 come a lot of wrestlers, I think that’s why we get a lot of ‘no love’ right there because a lot of them are fucking wrestling their way out. I’ve made a career off of knocking wrestlers out of their place. I think every single person I fought was like a collegiate wrestler and they were shooting for their dear life.”
To those scouring over his Tapology page, they may be surprised to hear him talk about wrestlers that way. Afterall, he does have six of his ten wins by submission and his ground work has been lauded by pundits. While he does admit that he is comfortable on the ground and spent most of his formative MMA years working on his jiu jitsu, he notes that a lot of these writers are misguided by just looking at his record.
“There have been articles and stuff about me since this fight was booked, which is awesome, but I’m reading that ‘Brandon is a ground fighter. Brandon is looking to get this fight to the ground,” he said. “I’ve never shot a f***ing shot in my whole entire career. The reason I have submission is because people shoot on me… I have one takedown in my whole career and that’s because he was taking me down and I reversed him.”
And that, to him, is the difference between him and the wrestlers that he says are keeping the division from being as popular as it could be.
“They’re either going to win a 15 minute decision or a 25 minute decision and impress nobody, or they’re going to get choked out right away,” he points out. “Or they’re going to have to stand and bang with me and none of them want to do that.”
This mentality comes from those aforementioned formative years where the fighters he enjoyed watching all fit a particular mold. While there were some dominant wrestlers at the time, Royval was looking up to those who nullified the wrestlers instead - those who put on a show like he now enjoys doing himself.
“When I started I was 16 years old, the champs and my heroes of MMA were like BJ Penn and Anderson Silva - Nate Diaz and Nick Diaz, I liked them a lot. Those are the best fighters to watch. I wasn’t looking up to the wrestlers, no offense to any wrestlers, but I wasn’t looking to take the fight to the ground and do a little bit of ground n’ pound and get through 15 minutes. I was looking at the people finishing fights,” Royval noted. “All my heroes and everybody I looked up to, they are all spectacular on the feet and great off their back and their jiu jitsu is amazing.That’s how I saw MMA going when I was younger. That’s how I shaped myself early on.”
Of course with all of this being said about the wrestlers of the flyweight division, Royval was booked with Tim Elliott, another high school and collegiate wrestler. Royval isn’t upset about it though - in fact, he was pumped to hear Elliott would be his first opponent.
“I couldn’t be happier about [facing Ellliott]. Somebody told me he’s ranked number 11, and so right off the bat I’m giving myself a chance to be number 11 or somewhere in that top presence. It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity. The name itself is a good way to catapult myself - ride some of his coattails and what he’s accomplished.”
It’s not just a chance to make a quick jump in the rankings though, Royval also respects Elliott’s style and the fact that he represents a chance to pick up one of those well-sought after bonus checks.
“My hope is that it takes place on the feet. I’m sure he’s going to shoot on me, but I’m not positive. I know he’s a little bit wild on the feet - I like that fact. I’m a little bit crazy on the feet too,” he shares.“As far as this fight goes, I’m trying to bonus collect. I’m trying to go out there and make an extra 50k out there. If that’s performance of the night or fight of the night, whatever it is I’m going out there to put on a show.”
Royval’s opportunity to do some comes as part of the preliminary card on UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs Burns, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this Saturday.