The Ultimate Fighter
The flyweight division is a weight class notorious for non-stop, fast-paced action where the combatants involved cover every inch of the Octagon canvas. No other weight class under the UFC banner can compare to the speed and frenzy that unfolds when two 125-pounders get down to business, and Zach Makovsky perfectly reflects all the attributes his division represents.
That said, it took a bit of searching and circumstance for the Philadelphia-based fighter to find the proper weight class where his talents would be maximized.
After finding a solid amount of success competing as a bantamweight, which included titles in several smaller promotions, Makovsky hit a rough patch in 2012. He suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in his career and it forced him to take a hard look at his approach to the fight game. Even when competing at 135 pounds he was rarely the bigger man inside the cage, and “Fun Size” decided to try his hand at a lighter weight class.
While fighters sometimes go through an adjustment period when switching divisions, the decision to drop down to 125 pounds yielded immediate results as picked up back-to-back victories in his first two showings as a flyweight. Those performances put the scrappy Atlanta native on the UFC’s radar, and when former title challenger John Dodson was forced to withdraw from his scheduled bout with Scott Jorgensen at UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Benavidez 2, Makovsky was asked to step in against “Young Guns.”
Facing a former WEC title challenger was certainly no walk in the park, but Makovsky made the task look easy as he cruised to victory in his official UFC debut. While the win in Sacramento established Makovsky as a force in the flyweight ranks, another impressive win in his second showing sparked talks of a title run as he steamrolled Josh Sampo at UFC 170 back in February.
Yet, as Makovsky has settled into the competitive mix in the flyweight fold, the unique environment that comes with fighting on the sport’s biggest stage is something that is still taking him some time to get used to. Furthermore, he’s not exactly sure settled is the state he ever wants to be in when competing inside the Octagon.
“I’m not sure if I will ever get to feel settled in while competing in MMA,” Makovsky said. “Especially at this level, the stakes are high and the intensity is always present. At the same time I do feel that I’m enjoying fighting on the UFC stage because after eight years competing in the sport, I am finally where I’ve always wanted to be.”
With two solid showings under the UFC banner in a division that is light on potential title contenders, Makovsky could very well be one big win away from a future title opportunity. That said, he’ll need another significant victory in his next outing, and that challenge will come against scrappy veteran Jussier Formiga at UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Saint Preux in Bangor, Maine on August 16.
The flyweight tilt was initially slated to go down at UFC 176 earlier in the month, but an injury suffered by featherweight champion Jose Aldo forced his highly-anticipated rematch with Chad Mendes to be shifted to October. With that key matchup off the card, the organization decided to postpone the event for a later date, moving the scheduled fights on the card to other events on the schedule.
Makovsky wasn’t affected by having the fight pushed back, and he welcomed the extra preparation time the shuffle presented. He’s expecting to see a game opponent when he steps in against the Brazilian and knows he’s going to have a fight on his hands on Saturday.
“I think Formiga is very good at doing what he does,” Makovsky said. “Good distance control, good takedowns, and excellent top control and pressure. I believe I am pretty good at the same things but I think I am also more adaptable and versatile, which should be the difference in the fight.
“I certainly understand where a great performance could place me. On fight night I want to be at my best. You can’t be better than your best and you have to be at your best every fight. Hopefully, if you continue to learn, your best should be a little higher each time you fight. But there is no such thing as an unimportant fight. They all count.”
Should Makovsky turn Formiga back and pick up his third consecutive win in the flyweight division, it will carve out his place in the upper-tier at 125 pounds. The weight class is still relatively new under the UFC banner and the cast of potential title contenders is still somewhat fleshing out. Granted, there have been a group of fighters who have proven to be a step above the rest, and Makovsky will be the newest addition to that collective with a win in Maine.
Makovsky acknowledges the current state of affairs in his division and believes everything will keep moving along at a solid pace with a victory this weekend.
“It is still a pretty new division so I think it will just take a little more time for the contenders to sort themselves out,” Makovsky said. “But (champion) Demetrious [Johnson] has looked like one of the best fighters in any weight class and Dodson, (Joseph) Benavidez and (Ian) McCall are still pretty much unbeaten outside of DJ. But, like I said, it will take a little more time for new fighters to break through into the top three.”
While his talents inside the Octagon have shown that Makovsky has the potential to be a title contender in the flyweight division, you won’t find him taking to the microphone in his post-fight interviews calling out the fighters sitting at the top of the 125-pound mountain. The trash talk route has undoubtedly become a popular path for fighters to travel, but the surging veteran prefers to allow his work under the bright lights to do his talking for him.
“I would like to try and say things, or do things to grab some headlines, but if it is outside of who I am, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I approach each fight and every training session to be the best. Not to be the loudest or the craziest, or even the most exciting. I want to be the best.”