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CSAC passes ground-breaking package of weight-cutting regulations

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UFC 144 Weigh-In Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The largest set of weight-cutting regulations in United States mixed martial arts history has been approved.

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) unanimously passed a 10-point plan written to help combat extreme weight cutting and severe dehydration in MMA at its meeting Tuesday. Included in the plan are stricter fines for weight-miss offenders, fight-day weight checks and the addition of new weight classes.

CSAC executive officer Andy Foster said he is planning a roll out of his plan June 15. The first major event in which these new regulations will be in place will be UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim. That card is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between champion Daniel Cormier and former champ Jon Jones.

Under the 10-point plan, fighters who miss weight will be fined 20 percent of their win bonuses (if they win). The full bonus fine will go to the opponent who made weight. The 20 percent fine of the show money (half to the opponent, half to the commission) will remain. Repeat weight-miss offenders will be recommended to go up to the next weight class.

A fight-day weight check will be implemented to see how much fighters gain back between the weigh-ins and the fight. If a fighter gains back more than 10 percent of his or her body weight, that fighter will be recommended to move up to the next weight class for his or her next bout.

The additional weight classes added will be at 165, 175, 195 and 225 pounds. Foster said at the meeting that stakeholders did not want to remove the current 170-pound division because of its “iconic” status in MMA.

Foster, who wrote the plan with input of stakeholders, said perhaps the most important part of the package is licensing by weight class. In other words, doctors will have a greater input on the lowest weight a fighter can get make safely. CSAC medical exams will include information for physicians about weight classes and medical committee recommendations about weight cutting.

The UFC, Bellator and Invicta all wrote letters to the commission supporting this plan and the battle against extreme weight cutting in advance of the meeting. The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) will recommend the 10-point plan to the entire ABC body at its annual conference in July.

“The stakeholders were involved in this process,” Foster said. “I can say unequivocally that the promoters see this as a problem also. This is not just one-sided. This is a problem for them, this is a problem for the entire industry.”

It’s worth noting that even if promoters support this plan, and the addition of weight classes, it doesn’t mean they have to adopt those weight classes. There are current weight classes that promotions like the UFC and Bellator have yet to adopt, like women’s atomweight. Bellator asked in its letter to the commission for a gradual implementation of new weight classes.

Also part of the 10-point plan are proposed changes to the ABC matchmaking database to include a category for weight classes; the continuance of the early weigh-ins and checks for dehydration and specific gravity; and training for promoters, matchmakers, fighters and trainers regarding the dangers of extreme weight cutting.

Another interesting provision: the ability to do 30- and 10-day weight checks, like the WBC does in boxing. That way regulators, promoters and doctors can see if it’s realistic and safe for fighters to make the contracted weight the day before the bout.

“If we have a fighter contracted for 155 and they’re 195 pounds 30 days out, maybe it’s time to get with the promoter, get with the medical committee and talk about this to see if it’s really appropriate for this fight,” Foster said. “It does happen.”

An issue with the weight checks a month and 10 days out, Foster said, is that he doesn’t want fighters to cut weight for those checks and then again for the regular weigh-in.

“That’s one of the consequences we’ll talk about and watch,” he said.

CSAC has been a leader in weight-cutting reform, beginning with a summit discussing the issue in December 2015. That meeting of stakeholders and regulators birthed the early weigh-in, which is now being used essentially across the board in MMA in North America.