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Ohio moving to same-day weigh-ins for pro-am MMA events

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

California has installed rules making weigh-ins earlier. Ohio seems to be going in the opposite direction.

The Ohio Athletic Commission (OAC) passed a regulation to make weigh-ins on the same day as events for pro-am MMA events, executive director Bernie Profato confirmed with MMA Fighting on Wednesday. The new rules, where fighters weigh-in the morning before their fight, will not apply to major MMA promotions like the UFC or Bellator -- only events that feature both pro and amateur bouts on the same card. Amateur fighters in Ohio already weigh-in on the same day.

Profato said the change was made in order to encourage newly christened pro MMA fighters to compete at a more natural weight class with the hopes that they continue on in that weight class when they move up to bigger events. The rule will be reviewed by the OAC in a year after data is collected.

"We want to put these fighters in the safest atmosphere we can put them in," Profato said. "We're gonna try this. If it doesn't work, we can rescind it. It's not like this is in stone. If we don't think it's gonna work, we can rescind. But if we think it's a good idea, we can pass this information on to everybody else and everybody may want to adopt it then."

Profato, like many, agree that extreme weight cutting is a major issue in mixed martial arts. He believes that if a fighter has to weigh-in on the same day as the competition, that fight might be persuaded to change to a more manageable weight class, one where he or she doesn't have to dehydrate to reach the proper number on the scale. Fighters will be able to weigh-in as early as 10 a.m. on the day of the bout.

"If you can't be rehydrated by 9 or 10 o'clock that evening for your fight, then you probably had some serious issues coming in," Profato said.

The regulation is going in the other direction in California and other places. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) moved to an early weigh-in beginning with UFC 199 on June 4 in Los Angeles. Fighters had the ability to hit the scale between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. the day before the fight. The idea is to give athletes more time to rehydrate before the fight, because the feeling is that fighters are going to cut weight no matter what. More time to rehydrate means healthier fighters -- especially when it comes to the brain -- in the actual bout.

A byproduct of the early weigh-in is that fighters won't have to wait hours while depleted and dehydrated to be transported to the venue and for the weigh-in show to begin. The competitors at UFC 199 were unanimously in favor of the earlier weigh-in.

There is a sentiment, though, that if fighters are given more time to rehydrate, then they will try to cut even more weight. Profato shares in that concern.

"That's the one issue that we're looking at," Profato said. "If they want to do it this way, how much are you letting them lose then? That's the scary part here. If that's the answer, listen we're hoping for what's best for the fighters. You don't know what we're trying isn't the answer."

The UFC will be bringing that early weigh-in this week to Ottawa for UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs. Thompson. Execs in the UFC are having discussions internally about adopting it permanently. Commissions in Kansas and at Mohegan Sun have also done the early weigh-in for Bellator events. Bellator 156 in Fresno, under CSAC jurisdiction, will also have it.

UFC 203 on Sept. 10 will be held in Cleveland. If the UFC is interested in doing an earlier weigh-in for that card, Profato said he'd be willing to open up that discussion.

The OAC, he said, doesn't want to shut anything down that might improve the health and safety of fighters. The decision ultimately will come down to a vote by the commissioners.

"We can try it and see," Profato said. "That's not up to me to decide. I don't think we'll have a problem. We'll discuss it."