Attacking MMA’s Weight-Cutting Problem

The current theme of fighters missing weight is a worrying one, how can it be resolved?

MMA is continuing to expand and is fast gaining recognition and appreciation worldwide. These are indeed exiting times, yet the sport is not even three decades old, and it still has some very real teething issues.

Without doubt the biggest problem is the current trend of fighters missing weight. Almost every major MMA event card is being disrupted by this problem, and in order to compete with the world’s major sports events the issue needs resolved.

The UFC still leads the way in terms of MMA promotions, and changes have been made over the past few years to aid the fighters manage their weight. In 2016 the California State Athletic Committee introduced a new procedure which is now in effect everywhere. The official weigh in time was changed to 10am enabling fighters to re hydrate and recover before the ceremonial weigh ins usually around 4pm. This has offered fighters a safer and healthier preparation, but not offered any kind of solution to the problem of missing weight.

So far a total of 51 fighters have missed weight in the 18 months since the new weigh in times were implemented. This compares to the previous 18 months which saw just 17 fighters miss weight. On top of that, so far in 2018, 7 out of the 8 fighters who missed have won their bouts. This implies that a there is an unfair disadvantage for a fighter who agrees to go ahead and fight someone who has missed weight. Big names in the MMA world such as Dominick Cruz and Chael Sonnen have gone as far as the say fighters missing weight are ‘cheating’.

The UFC also has fines in place for failing to make weight, with a fighter losing 20-30% of their total purse. This deduction goes to the opponent who also decides whether the fight will continue. This decision is made after extensive preparation and a gruelling fight camp, plus there is the pressure of keeping the card intact. Add in the extra financial gain, and almost every fight goes ahead, and it’s hard to blame anyone for this. But is this a decision one that a fighter should have to or even be allowed to make? Their opponent has failed to comply to a contractual agreement, and the potential weight disadvantage could prove crucial.

Leading the way for MMA in Asia is One Championship, and they are already attempting to tackle the weigh in issue. Last year, they announced that they are ‘abolishing weight cuts, forcing fighters to compete at their natural weight. In an interview with MMAMania.comVice President Rich Franklin explained:

“WE DON’T USE THE TERM WEIGHT CUTTING BECAUSE THERE IS NO CUTTING,”

Franklin goes on to explain that they use a system which involves fighters undergoing hydration and weight testing during fight week. “We will not allow our athletes to compete dehydrated,” Franklin continued. “But if they happen to be overweight, if they’re hydrated but maybe a half a pound over or something like that, we can negotiate a catchweight.”

Other weight class sports have alternative systems. In collegiate and high school wrestling same day weigh ins are implemented. This is not realistic for MMA as head and brain trauma whilst dehydrated is extremely dangerous. However, if a competitor in wrestling, at any level of competition, misses weight they are disqualified immediately.

Chael Sonnen who has competed in both MMA and wrestling at the top level, agrees with this no tolerance approach for MMA. Sonnen talked about this issue in a recent edition of his Beyond The Fight podcast. He argues that if a fighter agrees in a contract that they will be a certain weight, they should be disqualified immediately if they fail to do so.

Boxing, which also uses weight classes, also appears to have less problems at weigh ins than MMA. The fact that there are more weight classes in boxing may offer more options for a boxer, especially in the lighter divisions. MMA is adding more, with the most recent being last year’s UFC inclusion of a female Flyweight division at 125lbs. However if a fighter wants to change divisions there is still at least a 10lb jump, which can be quite significant.

The solution to the problem of MMA fighters missing weight is not an easy one to tackle, but for the future of the sport the issue needs to be looked at.

Sound off in the comments with your thoughts!

This article first appeared onBJPenn.comon 6/1/2018.

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