Saying that weight cutting is an issue in MMA and combat sports at this point is really like beating a dead horse.
Amateur wrestlers have struggled for generations, and boxers and MMA fighters have seemingly followed suit. Athletes have long cut dangerous amounts of weight, all for the slightest competitive edge.
This year alone, it has paid off for fighters who have missed weight, as UFC competitors have gone 6-0 after missing weight, following Mackenzie Dern’s win at UFC 224 over Amanda Cooper. Dern weighed in at 123lbs, seven pounds over the strawweight limit.
It leaves many left wondering, why hasn’t something been done? Have we not seen enough?
Have we not seen too many fighters have major health complications and in the most extreme of cases, lose their lives?
There has long been discussion of adding weight classes or modifying the current ones.
That would be beneficial, as altering current weight limits could make the cut itself easier on the body. Not only that, but implementing new weight classes brings fresh talent, or in some cases, veteran talent to a new division, allowing stars to be made, something the UFC is in desperate need of as of late.
There have been adjustments to weigh-in procedure, depending on state. “Official” weigh ins are held earlier in the day, with the idea being that it gives fighters more time to re-hydrate. The “ceremonial” weigh ins, for fans, occur later in the day.
While these new procedures were praised by fans, media and fighters alike during their inception, the results have been mixed to say the least.
Since USADA (the governing anti-doping agency of the UFC), banned the use of IV bags in the weight cutting process, many fighters have struggled on the scales.
The new policy was first introduced prior to UFC 199 in June of 2016. In the January-May stretch of that year, just one fighter missed weight over 14 events. After UFC 199, 15 fighters missed weight over the next 22 events.
How could it be that procedure designed to help fighters make weight more easily could actually cause more failed cuts?
According to an article published by Marc Raimondi of MMAFighting.com:
Dr. Edmund Ayoub, vice president of the Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) and one of the first major proponents of an early weigh-in, believes leniency is affecting fighters making weight since June. In most cases, when fighters miss weight, they forfeit a percentage of their purse, but the commission still lets the fight go on.
Ayoub’s theory is that because the weigh-in rules are more to their benefit, fighters might mistake that for the penalties being looser, too, which is not the case.
“I think the fighters maybe misjudged what we were doing here,” Ayoub said. “They misjudged it and they thought they could get away with something and it turns out they can’t. Eventually, these leniencies that some of the commissions are doing will go away, too.”
There’s no doubt that part of the issue is simply a lack of understanding. It certainly doesn’t help that weigh in regulations (i.e. fighters being given an extra 1-2 hours after a failed attempt) varies from commission to commission.
However, based on what we’ve seen from the UFC, it seems to pay to miss weight.
Darren Till missed weight, and is one fight away from a title shot. Dern missed weight, and the UFC, recognizing her marketability, has told her to deal with her weight issues at the UFC Performance Institute.
And of course, who could forget, Yoel Romero?
Romero missed weight for his interim-middleweight title scrap with Luke Rockhold. Because of the mishap, he was ineligible to win the belt, and fined 20% of his purse.
After he knocked out Rockhold in the third round, the UFC announced that he would get another shot at middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. The two are set for their rematch at UFC 225.
In the grand-scheme of things, no real punishment.
Through the weight issues in the sport of MMA, fans can clearly see one thing:
As of right now, it pays to cheat the system, deliberately or otherwise.