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UFC 158 Weigh-In Controversy, some thoughts...

As anyone on this board surely knows, there has been an incredible outrage over what has been termed weight-gate. On the day he would be weighing in, Nick Diaz was informed by UFC representative Michael Mersch that the Quebec AC would allow the fighters in the championship fight would be allowed an extra hour to weigh in, which all non-championship fight-fighters do not receive. In addition, he informed Nick and his team that the Quebec AC does not count the decimal when weighing fighters (all fighters), so 170 is 170, and 170.2 is 170, and 170.9 is 170. Perhaps most controversially, was the Mr. Mersch's statement that these regulations are "kind of an off the record type thing..." Due to this, and a complaint regarding the drug testing of GSP (which I will not, and we all should not comment on because we have no information to go on) Nick Diaz, through his attorney, has filed a complaint stating that GSP must either participate in an immediate rematch or forfeit his title.

Having read many of the articles, comments, and forum debates that have gone on concerning this situation in the last couple days, I want to present a few thoughts that I have had on this issue.

As made clear by Mr. Mersch, the Quebec Athletic Commission does not provide fighters, with the exception of title fights, an hour after weighing in to lose additional pounds if necessary to make the weight limit. They also round down in all cases, to the whole pound. This has been described as new rules, as favouring the hometown hero Georges St. Pierre. The Quebec Commission has stated that these regulations have "been in place for several years." In Mike Chiappetta's recent article, he notes that this apparently is not the case. He highlights an event known as Ringside MMA 13 in which the fighters weights were recorded with decimals. I am somewhat willing to disregard this event's usefulness in evaluating this situation, due to it's small size and profile when compared with a major UFC event, or even a minor UFC event for that matter. More damning is a Jean Pascal - Bernard Hopkins championship boxing match held in Quebec in which Bernard Hopkins missed weight weighing in at 175.9, and was allowed to cut the additional weight, and try again.

Mr. Chiappetta states that "In that case, the rules seemed to play in Pascal's favor. Like St-Pierre, he happens to be a local star." Now at face value, that may be a fair statement, but there are several facts that seem to have been omitted. Most notably, Jean Pascal himself also missed weight, and was required to make a second attempt to come in under 175lbs. With that fact, the favouritism argument begins to seem weak. Also, being a championship fight, it is in fact consistent with the policy being applied to UFC 158, which would allow for an extra hour should one of the competitors in the title fight fail to make the limit. Finally it is worth noting, in my opinion, that the weight class which Pascal and Hopkins were to meet at is known as Light Heavyweight. Light Heavyweight, in boxing, is from 168 to 175lbs. That is a range of 7lbs, or less than half of that allowed for the UFC's Welterweight division, which has a range of 15lbs (170-155+). Given that, it might be reasonable for the Quebec commission to allow less flexibility in the weigh in results for boxing, with it's numerous, smaller weight classes, than it does for MMA. I also think it's likely that there would be some differences between the rules applied to boxing, and those applied to MMA.

Mr. Chiappetta also notes that at the previous UFC event held in Quebec, it appears that they did indeed round the weights to the whole pound. To expand on that, at UFC 113, which was headlined by Lyoto Machida vs Shogun Rua II, all fighters weighed in at whole pound figures. At UFC 97, which was headlined by Anderson Silva vs Thales Leites, again all fighters weighed in at whole pound figures. This, one could argue, further throws into question the "hometown advantage" accusation being thrown at the Quebec AC. Not only that, it clearly demonstrates that despite the examples that Mr. Chiappetta has been able to find that indicate the rounding of pounds is not standard practice, when we compare Apples to Apples, that is UFC events to UFC events, their application has indeed been consistent. Even with no hometown hero headlining the card, and even in title fights, the application was been consistent. Both Shogun and Lyoto's weights were recorded as 205lbs, and Thales Leites' weight was recorded as 185lbs (Anderson Silva weighed in at 182). Were all these fighters over weight, or at the least, should we be suspicious?

Considering what we know about the policy of rounding down the recorded weights to the pound, what can we infer about fighters Johny Hendricks, Nate Marquardt, and Dan Miller weighing in at 171lbs? There is as much reason to believe that these guys weighed over the 170lb limit as there is to believe GSP did. In fact, we can say with a certainty that these fighters weigh more than GSP. With other athletic commissions, where they do not round down, if these fighters weighed over the 171 mark for their non-title fights (allotting them the extra pound), they would be given an hour to make weight in a second attempt. Some even offer multiple attempts. But in Quebec, where as noted above, they do not give this hour allowance, had they not employed the practice of rounding down, would Johny, Nate and Dan been subject to losing 20% of their purse for failing to make weight? Perhaps this is the tradeoff that the Quebec Commission has made, there will be no second attempts (with the exception of title fights), and they will utilize the rounding down system which in effect gives these fighters (in non-title fights) an extra 1.9lbs of wiggle room. Any argument that these fighters would've been able to make weight by removing their trunks, or that they may very well have weighed in at exactly 171lbs could just as plausibly be applied in GSP's situation as well.

For all that has been made out of the Quebec Athletic Commissions policy, which appears in my opinion to have been in place for some time at least when regulating UFC events, you would think that every other commission applies these weight regulations consistently, with on Quebec being out of line. However, that may not be the case.

Here is an excerpt from an article I found on The Star Phoenix written by Dave Deibert (link below):

According to Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer on Tuesday, officials in the state "go by half-pounds so I round down to the nearest half-pound."

In Nevada, added Kizer, the scales used go up and down by .2 pounds, so 170 pounds, 170.2 pounds and 170.4 pounds would be rounded down to 170 pounds and be considered to have made weight in the welterweight division. A fighter at 170.6 pounds or 170.8 pounds would round down to 170.5 pounds and be given up to one hour to lose the necessary weight.

Apparently, in the fight capital of the world it, under the regulation of arguably the most influential athletic commission in the United States (NSAC), it is regular practice to ignore up to 0.4lbs of weight. Without question, that is not the same as ignoring up to 0.9lbs, but on the other hand, it is certainly not 170lbs exactly either. Should we be reviewing every case in which NSAC reported a champion or challenger at exactly the right weight? Is there call for immediate rematches, 20% of their purse, and the forfeiture of their titles?

In that same article, they also received a comment from Nick Lembo, a representative of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board who stated that:

"We will allow one pound over on contract weight, unless the promoter denies such allowance. However, the caveat is that most promoters want major title fights to be dean-on weight. Thus, 170 becomes exactly 170 or less."

So Quebec rounds down to the whole pound, Nevada rounds down to half pounds, and New Jersey doesn't round anything. I find the outrage, and criticism over the Quebec AC's regulatory practices somewhat hollow when as we can see, the two most influential, and also the two most common sites for UFC championship fights, have differing policies when it comes to how they account for fractions of pounds. While the UFC may require fighters in title fights to make exactly their required weight with no allowance, clearly they are subject to the whims of each commission, who as has been demonstrated, have differing opinions on what exactly weighing 125, 135, 145, 155, 170, 185, 205, and 265lbs actually means.

The most popular theory seems to be that the Quebec AC acted dishonestly, with motivation of protecting or benefiting their hometown hero GSP. I think it is equally likely that what has been caught on tape is a UFC official relaying information from the athletic commission to a fighter who may benefit from it (a fighter who's somewhat notorious for either not being aware, or deliberately ignoring his commitments). In watching the video, it seems to me that the information that Mr. Mersch felt was most significant was that Nick and Georges would be allowed an extra hour should they fail to make weight, an allowance not offered to non-title fight competitors, though that is absolutely open to interpretation. Perhaps "off the record" indicates some sinister motivation or meaning, perhaps it was a poor choice of words.

It is obvious that the UFC would benefit, that MMA would benefit from having more consistency between athletic commissions. For an organization with the resources of the UFC, the best case scenario would likely be total self regulation, alike to the other major professional sporting leagues, and something that the UFC already does for a majority of their international events with the exception of Canada, and now Brazil, who recently established their own regulatory body. For organizations with less resources, government regulation is a necessity, and critical to enforcing safety regulations.

I would not begin to suggest this is a non-story. Nick Diaz, through his representative, is stating that GSP is ethically and legally obligated to agree to a rematch, or vacate his belt. That's a story, a great story. I only would argue that there is good reason to believe that it is not as bad as some are making it out to be. That the actions of the Quebec AC while sketchy, are not as objectionable as they seem. As demonstrated in Mr. Deibert's article, there is no unanimous consent within the many athletic commissions as to what is acceptable weighing practice. NSAC allows fighters weighing 170.4lbs to be reported as 170lbs. There is also little reason to suspect that this is not standard practice, as demonstrated by the weigh in results for the last five UFC events, none of which have reported fractions of pounds. This is not to say that the Quebec Boxing Commission (the Quebec AC's official name) is not guilty of incompetence, nor that it does not have horrible public relations. This not the first time that there have been problems with the application of the Unified Rules of MMA in Quebec, as the CagePotato story (link below), and recent comments made by GSP's former manager Stephane Patry (link below), who states that "The rules in Quebec are the farthest thing from the Unified Rules." There is precedent for using unwritten conventions in regulation, even the Unified Rules of MMA, according to the Association of Boxing Commissions, it is recommended that the unwritten custom of a 1 pound allowance for non-title fights continue unless otherwise specified by the promotion. Hardly a binding resolution, and also the only language in the entire document which deal with weigh in processes, meaning that all regulatory discretion would fall to the commissions.

Many people see a conspiracy around every corner. Many people want there to be a conspiracy. And many people have conditioned themselves, perhaps with valid reasons given the entirety of human history, to be more receptive of conspiracy theories than any other possible explanations. I think general incompetence, specifically a failure to properly inform the fighters about their standard operating procedures (although the question could be asked whether it is the fighter's responsibility to inform themselves, or the commission to take efforts to inform them) is a much more likely scenario than these sinister, hometown favorite, conspiracy theories. Given what we've seen from other athletic commissions, is incompetence that surprising? Would more consistency be beneficial? Absolutely. Is any party guilty of deliberate wrong doing or a conspiracy? I'm skeptical.

SOURCES:

NSAC and New Jersey quotes and information:

http://www.thestarphoenix.com/sports/Quebec+commission+insists+rules+followed+weigh/8154060/story.html

Jean Pascal vs. Bernard Hopkins weight-in information:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/707373-pascal-vs-hopkins-latest-news-analysis-weigh-in-results-and-more

Previous issues with the Quebec AC:

http://www.mmajunkie.com/news/2013/03/gsps-ex-manager-blasts-quebec-commission-says-illness-maybe-caused-weight-miss

http://www.cagepotato.com/quebec-athletic-commission-may-block-ufc-97-happening-montreal/

UFC Weigh-In Results:

http://www.ufc.com/news/Official-UFC-158-Weigh-In-Results

http://www.ufc.com/news/UFC-113-WeighIn-Results

http://www.ufc.ca/news/Official-UFC-97-WeighIn-Results

Unified Rules of MMA:

http://www.abcboxing.com/unified_mma_rules.html

If you read all this thanks. I hope to see your comments, positive and negative, and I'll gladly engage anyone who disagrees with my opinions here. They are, after all, simply my opinions.

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