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California proposes increase in fine for fighters who miss weight

UFC 196 Weigh-ins Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) is continuing its efforts to combat extreme weight cutting.

Next week, the commission will vote on a measure that would increase fines for fighters who miss weight, per CSAC meeting documents.

The measure would open up a fighter’s win bonus for a 20-percent fine, in addition to the existing 20-percent fine on a fighter’s show money. Previously, only an athlete’s show purse could be fined under CSAC and most other commissions.

The allocation of that fine money would be distributed the same as it is now — half to the opponent and half to the commission. It would only come into effect, of course, if the fighter who misses weight wins the bout.

The CSAC commissioners will vote on this measure at the commission meeting Tuesday in Los Angeles.

The proposition is in response to a significant increase in fighters missing weight since the advent of early weigh-ins last year. CSAC was the biggest influencer behind increasing the time between weigh-ins and the fights, based off discussion at a weight-cutting summit in December 2015.

Making weigh-ins earlier — the morning of the day before the fight, rather than the afternoon — was meant to increase the time for fighters to rehydrate after their weight cuts before competing. It has also allowed fighters to spend less time dehydrated, since the early weigh-ins take place in the fighter hotel, rather than another venue.

An odd, unexpected side effect, though, has been an exponential increase in fighters missing weight. Before the UFC began doing early weigh-ins last June, only one fighter missed weight in 2016. From that date until the end of the year, more than a dozen fighters failed to hit their mark.

In some cases, fighters missed weight by a great deal. Charles Oliveira was nine pounds over weight for a fight against Ricardo Lamas in November. Alex Oliveira missed weight by 5 1/2 pounds for a fight against Will Brooks in October and ended up defeating Brooks by third-round knockout.

Under the proposed CSAC rule, Oliveira would have been fined 20 percent of his show money and 20 percent of his win bonus. Half of that money would go to Brooks.

UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting in a recent interview that some of the increase in fighters missing weight is owed to an increase in monitoring by the UFC.

“What you’re seeing there is more attention being paid by the UFC to those fighters and in most of those situations it is me, the medical team or a doctor aware the fighter has come into fight week heavier and have a very close eye on that fighter,” Novitzky said. “So we are often in rooms the morning of, we’ll see a fighter that maybe gets into a struggling area and then call it off right there.”

Still, severe dehydration to cut weight persists in MMA, despite criticism from doctors and regulators. The UFC has had five fighters miss weight in six events already in 2017, and three fights cancelled at the last minute, if you include Ian McCall’s illness before UFC 208 last month.

Khabib Nurmagomedov, one of the best fighters in the world, was supposed to compete for the interim UFC lightweight title against Tony Ferguson last week at UFC 209 in Las Vegas, but had to be rushed to the hospital during his weight cut. Nurmagomedov’s manager Ali Abdel-Aziz told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that his client and good friend had liver pain.

“I wanted to bring some care to him,” Abdel-Aziz said. “I thought about calling 911, but I thought, listen, we can pick him up. When we picked him up, the whole group, he couldn’t even walk. We put him in my car and drove straight to the hospital.”

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