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CSAC to propose fight-day weight check in 10-point plan to combat extreme weight cutting

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Gallery Photo: UFC 148 Weigh-In Photos
The California commission is attempting to take a major stand against extreme weight cutting.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

California’s quest for weight-cutting reform is marching on with a proposal for sweeping changes to the sport of mixed martial arts.

A 10-point plan to combat extreme weight cutting, which includes a fight-day weight check for athletes, will be submitted by California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) executive officer Andy Foster to the commission’s Medical Advisory Committee at a meeting Saturday in Los Angeles, per a document posted to the CSAC website. The results of that discussion will be brought to the full commission to be voted on May 16.

The ambitious plan includes licensing fighters by weight class; the addition of new weight classes; making fighters move up a division if they miss weight more than once; dehydration checks; and 30-day and 10-day weight checks for high-level title fights.

Perhaps the biggest change would be a weight check on fight day to see if the athlete gained back more than 8 percent of his or her body weight after weigh-ins. Per the proposal, if the fighter puts on more weight than the 8 percent, the fight might not be cancelled, but that fighter could be made to go up in weight for his or her next bout.

On average, the majority of MMA fighters at every level gain back more than 8 percent of their body weight between the weigh-ins and the fight. For example, a featherweight fighter weighs in at 145 pounds, but will likely step into the cage at more than 156.6 pounds, which is an eight-percent increase from 145.

An increase in penalty for fighters who miss weight at the official weigh-ins has already been put in motion and is part of the 10-point plan. Last week at a CSAC meeting, Foster said he would begin drafting contracts that would change the way fighters are fined for missing weight. Now, in addition to the current fine, 20 percent will be taken from the win bonus of the fighter who misses weight and that money will be given to the opponent who made weight. Previously, only the show money was fined 20 percent, with half going to the commission and half going to the opponent. This new rule would only come into play if the fighter who misses weight wins the bout.

Here’s a glance at some of the other proposed provisions in the 10-point plan:

  • Licensing by weight class: Fighters must put on their license application their lowest intended weight class. Additions to the application will include questions about dehydration and whether or not the fighter has ever missed weight. Based on that information and a physical examination, the doctor and commission will determine if that weight class is safe for the athlete to make. The licensing process is usually done months before the fight.
  • New weight classes: This was already proposed by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) rules committee and and medical committee last year, but did not garner much support from promoters and was not brought to a vote by the full ABC body. The ABC, which governs the Unified Rules of MMA, would need to pass this in order for it to take effect. The proposal states that weight classes should be 10 pounds apart until the heavier divisions — 125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, 185, 195, 205, 225, 265. That’s an addition of four new weight classes and the elimination of one - 170.
  • Database change: Foster has already requested the ABC database, which commission directors use to communicate with other commissions regarding license status of fighters, and official ABC record keeper to include weight classes in their information provided to commissions. CSAC also wants the matchmaker to list the weight of the fighters at the time the fight was signed.
  • Weight offenders: If a fighter misses weight more than once, CSAC is proposing to require that fighter to move up a division until a doctor determines the lower weight is healthy for the athlete to make.
  • Dehydration checks: Specific gravity testing on athletes by doctors to determine if they are dehydrated at the official weigh-in and the fight-day weight check. This is already something CSAC is doing on fight days in certain cases.
  • WBC-style weight checks: The boxing sanctioning body does weight checks 30 days and 10 days out of high-level title fights. CSAC wants to bring something like that to MMA. The issue would be how to accurately communicate the fighters weights to commission officials if no inspector is on site.

Extreme weight cutting via severe dehydration by fighters can effect short- and long-term health and in-fight performance, according to doctors and experts. It has also affected promoters. The UFC had to pull its co-main event at UFC 209 earlier this month when Khabib Nurmagomedov had to be taken to the hospital during his weight cut.