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UFC could change weigh-in procedure as part of new weight management program

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC could be making even more changes as part of its new weight-management program.

In an e-mail sent to fighters this week, UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky wrote that the promotion is exploring the possibility of an earlier weigh-in, much like some state athletic commissions are implementing. MMA Fighting obtained a copy of the e-mail Friday.

"UFC is also working with the Athletic Commissions to test the feasibility of extending the weigh-in period, including a multi-hour weigh-in conducted at the host hotel," Novitzky wrote.

Commissions in Kansas and at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut have already tried an earlier weigh-in the day before Bellator events with almost unanimous positive feedback from fighters. The California State Athletic Commission is in the process of making an earlier weigh-in part of its official rules.

UFC 199 in Los Angeles on June 4 will be the first UFC event to be subject to the new system. Fighters will have a window to weigh in beginning at 10 a.m. the day before the event, rather than hitting the scale at the traditional time of 4 p.m. The idea stems from the advice of doctors, who say that giving fighters more time to rehydrate between the weigh-in and the fight will be beneficial to their health.

Luke Rockhold will defend his middleweight title against Michael Bisping in the main event of UFC 199, which takes place at The Forum in Inglewood. In the co-main event, bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz takes on challenger Urijah Faber.

"I like that a million times better," Cruz said of an earlier weigh-in. "I think that's intelligent. It's extremely intelligent. What you don't understand is if we're going to weigh-in at 4 or 5 o'clock , that means you don't want to cut the weight until midnight the night before, because you don't want to be that low for that long, because it just depletes you and kills you."

Fighters will still be expected to be a part of the public "weigh-in" at the usual time of 4 p.m., because it is a promotional event and the last chance for competitors to square off before the fight.

CSAC doctors will also be more vigilant in checking fighters for severe dehydration during UFC 199 proceedings. Specific gravity tests will be used to determine hydration levels.

Experts have said that cutting weight through severe dehydration is the biggest problem facing the sport of MMA right now. There have been countless injuries and even recent deaths due to this practice. In December, ONE Championship fighter Yang Jian Bing died after a bad weight cut, causing ONE to implement strict new weight rules.

The UFC's new program will be centered more on education than hard and fast rules.

Starting in July, fighters will be asked to come into fight week at no more than 8 percent of their target weight. If they do not, they'll be subject to daily monitoring of their weight and vital signs throughout the week.

"This will allow the athlete and their team to closely monitor factors important to health and safety," Novitzky wrote in the e-mail.

Fighters who come in greater than 8 percent of their target weight will also be asked to attend weight management education counseling before their next fight. Novitzky has been building data on fight week check-in weights since starting in his position last year.

The UFC has already begun one-on-one information sessions with athletes regarding weight management. Soon, the promotion will be collecting data on fighters' vital signs so abnormalities are more easily scouted out. Once the UFC's new performance center in Las Vegas is completed next year, a nutritionist will be on staff to aid fighters with their nutrition plans.

At UFC 196, fighters were given access to food and beverages after weigh-ins and a room was setup on fight night at the venue with healthy food and drinks available just for athletes. That's a process that has continued in the weeks since that event and is a simple, effective tool to help rehydration, especially since fighters are no longer allowed to rehydrate using IVs under the UFC's anti-doping policy led by USADA.

Extreme weight cuts are a health risk that could lead to long-term organ damage and make fighters more susceptible to concussions, brain trauma and knockouts due to the fluid on the brain not being rehydrated enough in time for the fight.