As most of you know, I am in Ottawa, Ontario- Canada for my 6th UFC fight. As usual, it is a do-or-die scenario because of the fact that I’m coming off of a frustrating loss in Boston back in January. Rather than re-hash what you already know, I thought I’d fill fight fans in on some new developments that I consider to be a major step forward in the way the UFC handles its fighters.
Weight-cutting has long been the least pleasant and most controversial practice in the sport of MMA. In the old days, weight classes mattered very little, but for the UFC to be pushed closer to the mainstream, rules concessions had to be made to make the sport more palatable to the general viewer. That meant adopting weight classes that would force competitors into matchups with like-sized individuals. It all makes perfect sense in the world of combat sports. The trouble comes with the envelope being pushed as individual fighters do their best to skirt the VERY top edges of their given weight class before crash dehydration gets them down to official weight. For example, most guys in my weight class walk around in the 230-240 lb range before cutting down to 205. I myself do the same, from about 228 down to 205, where I only stay for about an hour. This has led to some nasty cuts for people, especially in the lower classes, where a guy will dehydrate 12-15% of total bodyweight to make the cut. The UFC has instituted a new policy that asks fighters to be no more than 8% over their target weight at the start of fight week. This means less dehydration, less trauma on the body, and a safer cut. While there are no real penalties yet for coming in over that 8% target, any fighter in the organization knows that it’s better to simply stay off the radar when it comes to making weight, and nobody wants to be hassled with constant re-checks while in the process of losing those pounds.
The early target is a step in the right direction, but nothing compared to the real coup de gras. Early weigh-ins. Starting at UFC 199, a new protocol was tested that allows fighters to make official weight early in the morning on the day of weigh-ins, rather than waiting until the 4-5 pm official public weigh-in to step on the scale. This means that when a guy or gal weighs in for the fans, they will likely already have been certified as on weight and started their rehydration process. This gives fighters as much as 8 additional hours to rehydrate and recharge compared to the old policy. It also means less sickly-looking weigh-in photos. The only downside is that my 6 pack will likely never see the light of day again, because I needed to suck out every last drop of water from my fat belly in order to even have a chance at seing those bottom two bumps, but it’s worth the tradeoff . The UFC still has a long way to go in many ways before it’s on par with the mainstream sports leagues, but safer, more practical weight cutting procedures feels like an important step, at least from a fighter’s perspective.
My fight airs Saturday on Fox Sports 1.