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The curious case of a weigh-in controversy leading to a dropped main event

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Just when you thought MMA couldn't get any stranger.

An odd weigh-in procedure — one considered "shady" by the challenger — led to a Legacy FC main event and title fight being called off recently at the 11th hour.

Mark Delarosa refused to fight Legacy bantamweight champion Steven Peterson at Legacy 61 on Oct. 14 the day before the would-be title matchup, because of what he deemed a suspect "third weigh-in" of Peterson administered by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Not only would the bout have been for Legacy gold, many felt like the winner would have soon been signed by the UFC.

"Everybody was talking about the winner of that fight going to the UFC," Peterson told MMA Fighting. "That seemed to be the stakes that were on the line."

Peterson missed weight on his first attempt by three pounds, coming in at 138 pounds, as announced by TDLR inspector Arturo Martinez, who was the regulatory official from Texas on site for the weigh-ins at a hotel in Dallas. Per state rule, a fighter who misses weight has two hours to make the contracted weight. Peterson had to hit 135 and not a decimal more since it was a title fight.

So, Peterson went upstairs to a room and continued his cut. Delarosa stayed around in the ballroom for Peterson to step on the scale again. And he did. Peterson came down less than an hour later — he says about 45 minutes — to weigh-in.

On Peterson's second attempt, the scale read 137.5, according to Delarosa's manager Oren Hodak. At that point, Delarosa and his team believed Peterson had officially missed weight and Delarosa would receive a percentage of his purse. Had Peterson missed weight, the fight would have gone on and only Delarosa would have been able to earn the title had he won. If Peterson won after missing weight, he would have been stripped of the belt.

That's not how it happened, though. According to Peterson and Legacy matchmaker Collin Cantrell, Martinez didn't like the way the scale was sitting on a carpeted section of the stage. It had been moved from its previous location, Cantrell said, because broadcast partner AXS TV was conducting interviews on the stage. Peterson said the scale reading was bouncing between 134 and 138 while on the carpet.

Martinez, with the help of Legacy operations head Terry Hale, decided to move the scale to a the nearest flat surface near the door to the room. Peterson estimated it to be about 15 feet away from the stage.

"When Steven came back down to weigh in, the scale was in the middle of the stage where it was all carpeted," Cantrell told MMA Fighting. "The scale would not show a balance so the inspector wanted it on a solid surface. He had the scale moved to the closest tiled floor. That is where Steven weighed in. Nothing more, nothing less."

When Peterson stepped on the scale in its new locale, he made weight at 134.8 pounds. It was recorded by Martinez and AXS TV broadcasters and Hale witnessed it, per Cantrell, who was not in attendance.

But Delarosa and his team were still near the stage. He says he had no idea Peterson was getting another weigh-in attempt somewhere else. Hodak said he and Delarosa were stunned when Martinez told them that Peterson missed weight.

"This THIRD attempt was not on stage like the other 19 fighters and the scale was moved outside of the room," Delarosa wrote in a statement on Facebook. "I was not alerted that this was happening and nobody from my team was alerted of this."

Delarosa said in the statement that one of Peterson's coaches caused a scene and "tries to attack" Hodak after Peterson's second weigh-in attempt and had to be "physically restrained" and removed from the room.

Peterson said the third weigh-in attempt on flat ground was very close by and Delarosa and his team should have known it was happening. It was not a secret and Martinez made it clear it would be happening, Peterson said.

"That was right in front of everybody," Peterson said.

Delarosa was upset by what he felt was suspect behavior and he also called into question whether or not Peterson could lose three pounds in that short amount of time.

"When a fighter is already dry and sucked out it is incredibly hard to cut 3 more in 20-30min," Delarosa wrote. "I am not saying it is impossible but either way, we were prepared for him to miss weight and still fight, but the circumstances of how it all went down just didn't seem right.  Everything felt incredibly shady. "

Peterson said he went back to a hotel room and took a hot Epsom salt bath to get the weight off. He said he didn't have access to Epsom salt before his second attempt at cutting — just a hot bath and sauna — and it worked very well.

"We had like 15 pounds of Epsom salt and some rubbing alcohol," Peterson said. "We just sat in there for about 45 minutes and sweated it out."

When Delarosa considered all the factors, he said he decided not to take the fight. Legacy officials said they got mixed signals from Delarosa's team on whether he would compete or not, but Delarosa said he was clear. He was upset that AXS TV play-by-play man Michael Schiavello said he "pulled a heart muscle" during the Legacy 61 broadcast.

"I am shocked that Michael Schiavello would dig the knife in deeper into my "pulled heart muscle" when he was not in the official weigh in room for the first and second attempt," Delarosa wrote. "He only saw the 3rd attempt in the lobby when he walked over to find out what all the screaming was. Again the full story needs to be told."

Delarosa and his team were disappointed that the commission allowed the integrity of the weigh-in area be compromised.

Texas Combative Sports director Greg Alvarez, who was not in attendance at the weigh-ins, did not make Martinez available for an interview for this article. He did vouch for Martinez's acumen as an inspector.

"Arturo has been doing this since 2006," Alvarez said. "He knows how to conduct the weigh-in."

In an interview with MMAjunkie Radio, Schiavello said Delarosa would be committing career suicide by not fighting and after not competing there was "no way" he would be signed by the UFC or brought back to Legacy as it merges with RFA to form Legacy Fighting Alliance. A Legacy official told MMA Fighting on condition of anonymity that the promotion did not stand by those statements.

Peterson said he was paid his show money, but is not happy he missed out on a fight, a chance to defend his title, and the potential opportunity to catch the UFC's eye. He has been rebooked to headline the inaugural LFA show against Leandro Higo back in Dallas.

"I'm just upset with Mark," Peterson said. "He threw away the biggest opportunity of his career."

Delarosa said in the statement that he feels like the situation is being misconstrued and his side of the story was not told on AXS TV.

"This was already a very tough decision for me and Legacy staff was alerted of the decision," Delarosa said. "Yes, many people did try to change my mind but I stuck with my decision. All I can do now is learn from this experience and move forward."