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Fighters react to earlier UFC 199 weigh-in, new CSAC rules

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The way Ricardo Lamas describes it, the backstage area at many MMA weigh-ins resembles a triage unit.

"When we go outside [the curtains], the crowd kind of pumps us up," Lamas told MMA Fighting on Thursday at UFC 199 media day at The Forum. "If you go behind there and you see guys doubled over, leaning on tables. It looks horrible."

Fans and onlookers only see the end of the weigh-cutting process. They see fighters walk on stage, step on the scale and square off. That's it. The few hours prior to that are absolutely loathsome to most fighters.

It's hard enough to actually make weight. The worst part for many is having to stay there -- for hours. Most MMA athletes hit their number about four hours before they weigh-in. Two hours out, the UFC shuttles them to the arena. Once there, they have to wait for the weigh-in show to start and their turn to come up.

"The hardest part about making weight is getting to 155 or 156 -- whatever you make -- and you gotta wait four hours," Beneil Dariush said.

That's four hours without eating or drinking anything. Four hours when just moving is no fun. Four hours at a weight that is sometimes 20 or more pounds less than a fighter should be.

"Draining yourself and holding that for an extended period of time just so we can relate to the media is only harming our own bodies," Luke Rockhold said Wednesday at open workouts. "Why can't we just go square off and still give you your show, still give you that square-off full, refreshed and not parched so I can talk on the mic, too?"

This week, that's exactly what will happen.

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has instituted new weight rules with the most significant change being an earlier weigh-in. On Friday, UFC 199 fighters will hit the scales between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the fighter hotel, rather than the usual procedure of a 4 p.m. weigh-in show at the arena. The idea is to give fighters more time before the fight to rehydrate their body and brains.

An added benefit to that is the elimination of those four hours of waiting around. Ideally, this time fighters will only have to be on weight for minutes, step on the scale and then begin rehydrating. Every single fighter interviewed during open workouts and media day this week in Los Angeles is very much in favor of this new process.

"If you find anyone that doesn't, you should slap them," Lamas said with a laugh.

(For a full explanation of CSAC's new weight rules, click here.)

Some fighters interviewed Thursday don't want to go back to the old way. They're hoping these changes got adopted across the board. Already commissions in Kansas and Mohegan Sun have implemented them. More could follow, and the UFC is considering making weigh-ins earlier themselves.

"This is like the ideal to way to do the weigh-in," women's strawweight Jessica Andrade said. "Let the fighters check in as soon as possible and let them get back to rehydrating. It'll be great if this doesn't just stay in California, if it spreads throughout all other states and all other countries. Overall, you're gonna get better performances out of everybody. Everybody is gonna be feeling better. The weigh-ins are gonna be more interesting, because they're not gonna see a bunch of people looking like they're gonna fall over. It's a good thing."

UFC president Dana White, long a critic of extreme weight cuts, said during the UFC 199 pre-fight press conference that the promotion is supportive of CSAC's new rules.

"Obviously, we're 100 percent supportive of it," White said. "We're behind this thing and this is gonna be like a trial run to see how this works. I think it's exciting for the fighters. They get to weigh-in at 10 o'clock in the morning instead of sitting around all day until 4. We're gonna try and see how it works out."

White is concerned about one thing: Will fighters now try to cut even more weight because they have more time to rehydrate?

"I'm just a little worried that going that early, they're like, 'Oh I'll do the hardest cut ever because I only have to go until 10 and not 4,'" White said. "No system is perfect. There's gonna be flaws in everything. But we're gonna give this a shot."

Lamas doesn't think fighters will try to game the system even more if they have a greater amount of time between the weigh-in and fight. He believes that most fighters are already cutting to their lowest weight possible already.

"It's only an extra about four or six hours," said Lamas, who meets Max Holloway on the card in a key featherweight matchup. "It's not like it's gonna make a huge difference, but just mentally getting it over with, eating a couple more meals, it's not gonna let you put on 20 more pounds or anything like that. I don't think it's going to make much of a difference in that department."

Cole Miller and James Vick are both in favor of the new rules and they want commissions and the UFC to take things one step further: more weight classes. Vick said he would fit perfectly in a 165-pound division, saying he cuts down to 155 all the way from 190. Miller said he'd love something in the 147- to 150-pound range.

"I still think they need to add more weight classes," Vick said. "It's like they're doing everything they can to avoid more weight classes.

"They claim they're doing all these things to stop massive weight cuts, then add more weight classes."

The Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) will likely discuss the addition of new weight classes this summer, especially as new weight rules become the norm. CSAC will also check more diligently for severe dehydration this week, especially on fight day. Ultimately, the UFC will have to decide of further weight classes are right for them, though.

Just about everyone agrees, though, that CSAC's new rules are a good first step toward curtailing extreme weight cutting.

"I feel like the sport is growing and evolving and moving away from those crazy weight cuts," said Dustin Poirier, who meets Bobby Green on Saturday here. "It's not about the biggest guy anymore. It's about the guy who can perform and be consistent. I think that's slowly going in the right direction."

Poirier has won three straight and looked phenomenal since moving back up to 155 pounds from 145. He says he feels much healthier at lightweight. Alex Caceres, who fights Miller on Saturday, lost three in a row at 135 before moving back up to his natural 145-pound weight class. Caceres said he barely cuts any weight and believes the practice is silly.

"I think it's bullsh*t," Caceres said. "Think about it this way. If nobody cut weight, we'll still be fighting the same people. It just becomes this ritual, cult thing. It's a rite of passage. Everybody has to cut weight before you fight. Bullsh*t."