For those of us looking to assess the mixed martial arts flyweight division and figure out who belongs where in the rankings, Darrell Montague’s Feb. 18 bout against Ulysses Gomez at Tachi Palace Fights 8 in Lemoore, Calif., has more riding on it than Gomez’s promotional title.
Montague (8-1) and Gomez (7-1) both find themselves among the handful of “contenders” just outside of Sherdog.com’s list of top ten 125-pound fighters. And with a lot of talent and only two professional losses between the two of them, an impressive showing could really help put the winner on the MMA map.
However, Montague doesn’t worry about what others think. He wants to get into the cage and show what he can do.
“I don’t really look into it too much,” Montague said of the rankings. “The only way to figure out who the best in the world is is to get in there and fight them.”
Luckily for Montague, the TPF flyweight class not only includes he and Gomez, but also top-ranked 125er Jussier “Formiga” da Silva, former WEC fighters Ian McCall and Danny Martinez, and recent signees John Dodson and Mamoru Yamaguchi.
Also on the Feb. 18 card, da Silva will face McCall in another highly-anticipated matchup. Some might say that fight has overshadowed the Gomez vs. Montague title bout, but Montague isn’t fazed by that either.
“He’s been number one in the world for awhile,” Montague said. “I wanted to fight Formiga for the title shot, but they’d already offered it to me after I won my last fight. I just want to get in there and fight and do my job … do what I’m paid to do and put on a show for the fans.”
Montague’s next assignment, Gomez, brings a strong Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game to the table, with submissions accounting for all but two of his wins. With Montague’s striking credentials, he’s planning to keep things on the feet.
“Ulysses is really tough on the ground,” he said. “I come from more of a boxing and Muay Thai background, so I’m looking to keep it on the feet.”
But like any modern MMA fighter, Montague is getting ready for whatever Gomez throws at him. And at Millennia MMA in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Montague’s teammates include UFC bantamweight Charlie Valencia, former WEC 135-pound title challenger Manny Tapia, and Bellator fighter Georgi Karakhanyan. Not bad.
To prepare for Gomez, Montague is training a lot with teammate Brandon Bender (7-0), an undefeated MMA fighter with six straight wins coming by first round submission.
“At Millennia it’s like a big family,” Montague said. “It’s a very tough sport physically, but also mentally. Charlie and Manny, they’re like older brother figures too. They’ve been in the big show. If I have a bad day of training and I’m getting down on myself, they’ll say, ‘You were just tired today. Don’t worry about it.’”
The flyweight division hasn’t quite gotten its just dues yet. The WEC never put a 125 division in place. However, UFC President Dana White has hinted that the world’s biggest MMA promotion will soon embrace the sub-135 talent pool.
“That would be a lifetime dream just to fight in the UFC,” Montague said. “Winning that belt … that would be the ultimate dream.”
If you aren’t sure that the flyweight division belongs on that stage, Montague has a message for you.
“People that want to see what the guys in the 125 division can do, if they watch my fight on Feb. 18, they’ll know what we’re all about.”
Tachi Palace Fights 8 will stream live on MMAJunkie.com beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific.
Special thanks to Darrell’s manager, Steve Lara at World Sports Managment, for setting up the interview.