The UFC is on board with a proposed plan written to battle extreme weight cutting.
In a letter written to the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky “formally” gave the promotion’s support to the commission’s proposed 10-point plan, per the CSAC meeting materials posted online Friday.
The 10-point plan, written by CSAC executive officer Andy Foster with input from stakeholders, includes additional weight classes, fight-day weight checks and stricter fines for missing weight.
“UFC is encouraged that further steps to assure safe weight management practices, as outlined in CSAC's "10-Point Plan", will result in additional health and safety benefits and positive feedback from promotors and combat athletes and their camps,” Novitzky wrote.
Bellator and Invicta also submitted letters in support of the plan, which will be voted on by the commission at its meeting Tuesday in Anaheim. If it is approved, the first major event it will effect will be UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim.
The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) medical committee also plans on recommending the 10-point plan to the entire ABC body at the annual conference in July.
Perhaps the most divisive point is the adoption of additional weight classes at 165, 175, 195 and 225 pounds. The UFC, though, seems on board with the change, per Novitzky’s letter.
“UFC also supports the offering of additional weight classes as outlined in CSAC’s ’10-Point Plan,’” Novitzky wrote. “UFC recently unveiled the implementation of two new female weight classes at 125 and 145 pounds, respectively, as the global brand now offers competition at four 10-pound increment weight classes. By adding these additional divisions, UFC believes it is providing more weight-specific options for UFC athletes to promote safer weight management goals.
“UFC also anticipates that regional talent, who are regularly scouted and imported to UFC's roster, will soon be robust enough to support these additional weight classes with world-class talent that will eventually be promoted by the global brand. Further positive steps will include financial deterrents and physician sign-offs on weight class decisions for missing weight on more than one occasion.”
In her letter, Bellator vice president of business and legal affairs Tracy Lesetar-Smith wrote that the promotion doesn’t mind more weight classes, but asks that they be implemented gradually.
“We respectfully stress the importance of a slow roll out of any additional weight classes. Even with these additional weight classes remaining optional for promoters' adoption, their existence may potentially lead to both (a) internal disputes with fighters/their camps and promoters as to what weight class a fighter should be competing in at direct odds with their contracts, as well as (b) the inevitable dilution of depth in each promoter's weight classes - depth that promotions like Bellator have fought tooth and nail to build,” Lesetar-Smith wrote.
Under the plan, a fight-day weight check would be administered to see how much weight a fighter has gained back between stepping on the scale and the fight. If the fighter has gained more than 10 percent of his or her weight back, he or she will be recommended to move to a higher weight class for future bouts.
If fighters miss weight under the plan, they will be fined 20 percent of their show money and 20 percent of any bonus they earn as well. All of the bonus fine will go to the opponent, with the opponent and commission splitting the show money fine. Right now, commissions only fine a percentage of a fighter’s show money in the event of a weight miss.
Repeat weight-miss offenders, under this plan, will be recommended to move up to the next weight class.
Some of the language in the current version of the 10-point plan has been softened, notably saying “recommend” in some sections, rather than require. The latest plan also does not mention the removal of the current 170-pound weight class.
Also included in the plan is a revision of the medical questionnaire, helping the doctor assess whether a fighter can make a weight class safely; checks for dehydration and specific gravity; the addition of a weight class category on the ABC database; and dehydration and weight-cutting training for matchmakers, promoters, trainers and athletes.
Last year, CSAC was the originator of making weigh-ins in the morning the day before MMA events, rather than in the afternoon, to give fighters more time to recover and allow them to be dehydrated for a shorter amount of time. Early weigh-ins have been wholly adopted by the UFC since UFC 199 in June 2016.
The feedback on the early weigh-ins has been positive, though it has caused an inexplicably increase in fighters missing weight and magnified problems that were already prevalent: extreme weight cutting and severe dehydration. The UFC has lost multiple fights on weigh-in day over the last few months, including an interim lightweight title co-main event at UFC 209 in March when Khabib Nurmagomedov had to be taken to the hospital during his weight cut.
“Similar to the implementation of the morning weigh-ins, UFC hopes that California's further leadership to insure safe weight management practices as outlined in the "10 Point Plan" will be adopted and implemented by Athletic Commissions throughout the world,” Novitzky said. “UFC looks forward to continuing to work closely with CSA in strengthening health and safety initiatives for combat sport athletes and commends the Commission for its leadership.”