The Quebec commission that oversaw UFC 158 is guilty of something. Either it is bad judgment, making the rules up as they went along, favoring a hometown fighter or simply bungling their responsibilities. Exactly which one is up for debate. But as more and more information leaks out about the weigh-in process used by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux on March 15, it is clear something in the process was compromised.
The issue was brought to the forefront by a video surreptitiously recorded by someone in the camp of Nick Diaz, and posted on YouTube. It has since been taken down, but the video showed UFC executive Michael Mersch approaching Diaz just before the start of weigh-ins and informing him that (a) the commission would allow the championship fighters an extra hour to make weight if necessary, and (b) that the decimal on the scale would not count, meaning that if either weighed as much as 170.9, they would still be considered to be 170 pounds.
This is, of course, valuable information to have. It could shorten the weight-cutting process and ensure a fresher athlete on fight night. So, naturally, someone from Diaz's camp immediately asked why they hadn't been previously informed of it.
"It's just something to keep in mind. That's kind of an off-the-record type of thing," Mersch responds.
Though it is admittedly presented from Diaz's side, the whole thing reeks of favoritism towards hometown hero Georges St-Pierre, and is not a good look for a commission that has regulated many past shows.
On Tuesday, a commission representative confirmed to MMA Fighting that "our regulation does not take decimals into account" and that those regulations "have been in place for several years."
A quick check shows that does not appear to be true.
You only have to go back a single year, to March 2012, to see that they certainly have announced decimals in some instances. At Ringside MMA 13, sanctioned by the same commission, main event fighters Paul Cheng and Eric Barrak were announced at 252.8 and 237.6, respectively, despite the fact that the decimals had no bearing on their making weight (the heavyweight limit is 265 pounds). The rest of the fighters on the card were announced the same way.
The year before that, a championship boxing match between Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal that was overseen by the same commission with the same rules that govern combat sports featured weigh-ins that also announced decimals. Interestingly in that fight, Hopkins weighed in at 175.9. The division's limit was 175, and instead of ditching the decimal, as they claim to do, the commission allowed Hopkins to cut more weight, which is against their own rules. He eventually checked in at 175 even. In that case, the rules seemed to play in Pascal's favor. Like St-Pierre, he happens to be a local star.
At UFC 158, every fighter's weight was announced as a round number. There were no decimals, no half-pounds, no fractions. What's interesting about that is that the commission's own regulations (Section XI, rule 74) mandate a calibrated scale graduated to 100 grams, making it extremely accurate to fractions. To be fair, the commission also announced only round numbers at the UFC's last event there, held in November 2012.
But the man who opposed St-Pierre in that fight, Carlos Condit, told MMA Fighting on Tuesday that he was never told of the weight allowances that according to the commission, have been standard practice for years, while Diaz only heard of them moments before stepping on the scale.
The commission's stance on offering championship fighters extra time to make weight also flies in the face of their regulations, as Section XI, rule 77 specifically reads that "no time should be granted to allow a competitor to increase or decrease [his] weight."
While there is no evidence that St-Pierre actually missed weight (his official number was recorded as 170), the appearance of impropriety remains.
In a statement, Diaz's attorney Jonathan Tweedale said that as a result of this, along with the commission's alleged failure to properly supervise fighters' drug testing, he would file an official complaint on the fighter's behalf.
Diaz's chances of winning an appeal are probably low. After all, the commission polices itself and makes its own rules, so there is no incentive to admit wrongdoing, even in the case that the mistakes they made were innocent. But at least Diaz's amateur moviemaking pal managed to shine a light on a situation that needs clarity. To ensure a level playing field, the printed rules should be the rules, no exceptions. That's why they're written, after all. Meanwhile, the rest of the sport's sanctioning bodies should take notice of "Weight-gate" and pledge transparency and uniformity in regulation.