Weight cutting has long been considered one of the biggest issues in mixed martial arts. Fighters go to extreme measures, putting their health at risk, all for the slightest competitive edge. There have been numerous high profile cases of the weight cut gone wrong, including top lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was removed from an interim title fight and taken to the hospital due to weight cutting complications two days before the event. One of the worst examples as of late is that of Mizuto Hirota, who needed to be assisted off the scale, missing weight by five pounds. His bout was later cancelled after medical staff deemed him medically unfit to compete.
The weight jumps between divisions are staggering. Between lightweight and welterweight, there is a 15-pound difference, between welterweight and middleweight, 15 pounds. Between middleweight and light heavyweight, 20 pounds. If fighters such as Nurmagomedov and Hirota are putting themselves at such risk, one easily implemented solution is the introduction of more weight classes. The old way of thinking surrounding the 24-hour weigh in is that in 24 hours, athletes should be able to rehydrate effectively and compete at their natural weight. The issue, according to experts, is that it is not possible for fighters to be properly rehydrated, especially in the brain, in that short window. To combat this, several states have implemented new weigh in procedure, to mixed reaction from fighters.
In a time when the UFC focuses more on star power than pure sport logic, the introduction of more weight classes could only be beneficial. It gives the company an opportunity to market new stars, especially considering the fact that mega stars are not as plentiful as they once were.
Ronda Rousey? Gone.
Conor McGregor? Spending his $100 million from the Mayweather fight.
Georges St-Pierre? At 36 years old, he’ll compete for another 1-2 years.
Simply put, there are fewer superstars today. WME-IMG, which owns the UFC, must approach the weight cutting issue in the sport the same way it would approach many of its Hollywood dealings – Put the hype train behind new stars that come through these new divisions. Not to mention the fact that there is a plethora of fighters currently on the UFC roster who have never truly competed at a more natural weight. If these fighters were given the opportunity to compete in new weight classes, they would have an easier time becoming household names because they have already competed at the highest level.
Many criticize the notion of adding weight classes, arguing that it will become too much like the boxing model, which at times can be somewhat confusing and overwhelming. Even the introduction of just two new divisions would make a difference. The divisions would be as follows:
Flyweight: 125 pounds
Bantamweight: 135 pounds
Featherweight: 145 pounds
Lightweight: 155 pounds
New Division: 165 pounds
Welterweight: 175 pounds
Middleweight: 185 pounds
New Division: 195 pounds
Light Heavyweight: 205 pounds
Heavyweight: 206+ pounds
The only changes to any current division would be welterweight, which would see the weight limit increase by just five pounds. When you take into consideration the fact that fighters, when rehydrated, are often well above that weight anyway, it really isn’t too drastic a change.
The fact remains that there is no perfect solution. Weight cutting will always be part of MMA. Problems will always arise. However, there is no denying that something must be done. Fans are losing out on great matchups, and fighters are risking too much for the chance to compete. It’s just not worth it.