Flyweights operate at high level, under radar

Little big men: Flyweights Ian McCall, left, and Darrell Montague are set to soar at TPF 10. Sherdog.com

Sorry, Philadelphia, you're not hosting the best mixed martial arts main event of the weekend.

That honor goes to tiny Lemoore, Calif., where flyweights Darrell Montague and Ian McCall are slated for what sets up to be a five-round war at the Tachi Palace.

"I think if you tune in [today] you'll see," said Montague, who captured the 125-pound title with a dominant decision over Ulysses Gomez in February. "We'll definitely have a more exciting fight than Rashad [Evans] and Tito [Ortiz]. There are some good fights on the undercard in the UFC -- of course the UFC is the best organization in the world and more people are going to be excited about that -- but if you look [at] main event versus main event we have a better matchup style."

Because Zuffa has yet to fold the flyweight division into its ranks, Tachi Palace Fights, a promotion tied to the Central California tribal casino that gave rise to World Extreme Cagefighting, has established itself as the preeminent promoter of 125-pound mixed martial artists.

"Two years ago it wasn't even talked about by UFC," said Richard Goodman, the promotion's matchmaker. "Now they've openly said they'll have that weight class eventually. I think we've done an awesome job showing what this weight class has to offer compared to some of the other weight classes."

Montague (9-1) and McCall (10-2) are currently Tachi's top two flyweights, each ranked among the top five in the world, each eyeing the future while focusing on what's directly in front of them.

"We're going to beat the s--- out of each other for five rounds, if it lasts that long. Obviously, I don't plan on it lasting that long," said McCall, who went the distance with Dominick Cruz at bantamweight in 2009. "Technically we're up there. I don't think people give us the respect we deserve."

TPF-contracted fighters, of course, cannot compete with their brethren in the Ultimate Fighting Championship for attention. With UFC 133 in Philadelphia on Saturday, headlined by a three-round light heavyweight tilt between former champions Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz, Montague-McCall was already going to struggle for coverage. Caught in the deluge of news about fighter cuts, including what appears to be the end of Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce, the TPF main event may not get noticed until it's over. And even then, only if it delivers.

"The online community, I'm pretty sure they'll be excited to watch," Montague said (fights will be streamed live on Sherdog.com at 8:30 p.m. ET). "Both of us feel that we have so much to prove we'll do what we have so much to prove that we'll do whatever it takes to put on a good fight. It's a good recipe for some exciting stuff."

Neither flyweight had the same to say about the matchup between Evans and Ortiz, especially the 27-year-old Colin Oyama-trained McCall, who personally dislikes both fighters.

"I definitely think we're one of the best matchups of the weekend," said the flyweight challenger. "Evans and Tito, in all honesty, who really cares? Neither of those guys are going to beat Jon Jones. ... They seem like idiots and a--holes. That's just me venting a little bit. I've met them both on a couple of occasions and kinda not liked them."

A month removed from the first bantamweight main event in the UFC, it's not so crazy to think flyweights could soon benefit from a similar opportunity. That would likely mean an end to Tachi Palace Fights as the home to the best 125-pound matchups in MMA, a fate Goodman has already accepted.

"We're just going to go back to building up fighters rather than having the top fighters with us," he said.

Montague, 23, is a sharp striker who expects to be tested by McCall's strength and wrestling.

"I think if I do the same thing that I did to Ulysses and shut Ian down, make it my fight, I assume all the media will jump on my bandwagon and tell me I'm the best," the titleholder said. And if that happens, Montague expects to soon be aligned with the UFC, grabbing headlines instead of fighting for them.