LOS ANGELES -- Dominick Cruz was taken aback when he first heard that the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) was enacting new weight-cutting rules.
The main catalyst was that Cruz heard that CSAC didn't want fighters to dehydrate at all to make weight.
"I kind of had a little heart-attack moment," the UFC bantamweight champion said Wednesday at a media day in Downtown LA. "Like, wait a second, you need me to be hydrated in California to fight? You guys are playing around, because you know I'm not hydrated up on that scale. Ever. And you know Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold are not hydrated up on that scale in a million years. It's not gonna happen."
Cruz defends his title against Urijah Faber in the co-main event of UFC 199 on June 4 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Rockhold, the middleweight champion, will face Weidman in a title fight that headlines that card. It'll be the first UFC event in California since CSAC passed its new regulations in February.
While CSAC would prefer fighters did not dehydrate at all before hitting the scale, the process is inevitable. CSAC is taking measures to prevent severe dehydration with an eye toward fighter safety.
The commission will now be doing specific gravity tests to determine if fighters are properly hydrated on fight day. On the day of weigh-ins, fighters will be examined by doctors to see if they are severely dehydrated. If a fighter fails a specific gravity test, or a physician determines they are severely dehydrated, the fighter will be pulled from the bout.
One of the biggest changes will be the weigh-in procedure. Fighters will have the option of weighing in earlier, as early as 10 a.m. the day before the event. The idea is that it gives athletes more time to rehydrate. If they chose to, athletes will be able to go to a room in the host hotel in the morning, weigh-in before commission officials and then they're done. No more waiting around until the weigh-in show in the afternoon.
The UFC's weigh-in show will be more of a spectacle than the official procedure. Fighters will likely still come out and square off as always, but it won't be the real weigh-in from a regulatory perspective. If a fighter doesn't wish to hit the scale early, he or she can still weigh-in at the normal time of 4 or 5 p.m. as part of the UFC's weigh-in show.
While the four UFC 199 headline fighters are wary and uncertain about dehydration and specific gravity testing and what it will mean for them, the ability to weigh-in earlier was met with unanimous approval.
"You sit there dehydrated just waiting for that stage to be built," Rockhold said of the normal weigh-in procedure. "Being able to go in there and just weigh-in, make weight, get it done with -- with nobody around -- it's a great thing for the fighters. Health-wise, it's a lot better. We're not gonna sit there drained of the fluid and it's sucked away from your body and brain. You can put that back in. Dehydrating for the least amount of time as possible, I think, is key."
CSAC has also banned IVs for rehydration purposes, which was already instituted by the UFC when it partnered with USADA on an anti-doping program last year. UFC vice president of health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting in a recent interview that the promotion is in favor of CSAC's actions. He said that he has already seen fighters cutting less weight after the implementation of the IV ban.
"What [CSAC executive director Andy Foster] is doing is great," Novitzky said. "We fully support what he's doing and we love working with him. ... A big part of this is just getting the conversation going and getting the media to start writing about it. As fighters start hearing people talk about it, they then start evaluating what they're doing."
The top fighters from UFC 199 have not been fully informed of what the new rules will entail yet. None of the four knew about the ability to weigh-in earlier and were unclear about the details as a whole. Faber said his MMA Inc. management team is looking into it. He is concerned, because he cuts from 163 pounds to reach the 135-pound bantamweight limit.
"I don't think it's going to apply to this fight," Faber said. "If it does apply, moving forward, I probably won't be able to compete, because I cut a lot of weight."
A former college wrestler, Faber said knows how to game the specific gravity tests.
"I understand the science of the body," he said. "I understand how to manipulate that a little bit. Will I ever be hydrated at the weigh-in? Absolutely not. Could I have a bladder full of water? Yes."
None of the UFC 199 fighters interviewed Wednesday thought weight cutting was a real problem in MMA. Studies have shown, though, that extreme weight cutting can lead to athletes being more susceptible to knockouts, concussions and traumatic brain injury because there's not enough time to rehydrate the fluid on the brain. Plus, there are also other long-term hazards, especially with regards to kidney functions.
Many of the UFC's elite fighters have nutritionists and treat cutting weight like a science. Weidman said it was miserable cutting 32 pounds in 10 days to fight Demian Maia on short notice in 2012, but otherwise he doesn't feel like it's a big deal.
"I'm fighting twice a year and I really try to do it the right way," Weidman said. "It's not like I'm cutting weight every weekend like a wrestling tournament. I think your body can handle it.
"People should know a safe amount of weight to drop. You shouldn't try to kill yourself. If you use your brain, and do it right, it really shouldn't be a problem."