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Click Debate: Will new weight rules in California affect UFC 214?

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Summer Kickoff Press Conference
Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones will meet at UFC 214 in Anaheim.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The main thing the majority of people were wondering when the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) passed a package of weight-cutting reform rules last Tuesday was pretty obvious.

How would these new regulations affect the next big UFC event in the state?

That card happens to be a significant one: UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim. The headliner is a UFC light heavyweight title fight between champion Daniel Cormier and former champ Jon Jones.

The stakes will be high for the commission leading into this summer. And all eyes will be on how it applies these new rules to the most high-profile UFC card of the year to date.

So, will there be any noticeable changes in how things get done after this 10-point plan was approved last week? CSAC chairman John Carvelli wants there to be.

That’s not to say he hopes a competitor gets pulled the week of the fight or the day of weigh-ins. Just the opposite. CSAC wants to head off these issues before it gets that far along the process.

“We hope so,” Carvelli told MMA Fighting. “Because isn’t everyone tired of these poor athletes being unable to make weight and these fights at the last minute getting cancelled? We hope it has an impact. That’s the answer. So does the UFC as far as I can tell. We’ve had lengthy conversations with them. They don’t want that. Nobody wants it. Certainly not the ticket-buying public, the athletes — no one.”

CSAC executive officer Andy Foster said a provision called “licensing by weight class” the most significant of these new rules. Currently, when a fighter gets his medicals done in order to get a commission license, all a doctor does is determine whether or not that fighter is fit to compete. Now, the doctor will be asked on the CSAC medical form if a fighter would be able to get down to the listed weight class in a healthy way.

There’s even a guide on the form showing the physician the different weight classes in MMA and what weight is 10-percent above those weight classes. That 10 percent number was decided by the CSAC medical advisory committee. Anything above that could mean a fighter is cutting weight in a dangerous way via severe dehydration.

“The license application is gonna look different — a lot different,” Foster said. “The physical is gonna look different.”

There is a possibility that when a fighter booked for UFC 214 goes to the doctor for his or her physical, that doctor could tell the commission the fighter is not fit for the potential weight class. In which case, CSAC might not allow the matchup. The language of the rule says that a doctor must “certify that the requested weight class is safe for the athlete.”

Other significant points in this plan include second-day weight checks, stricter fines for missing weight and additional weight classes. That latter one is the most divisive, but it’s worth noting that any adoption of a weight class is at the discretion of the promotion. CSAC will add 165, 175, 195 and 225, but that doesn’t mean the UFC has to bring those in.

The UFC, Bellator and Invicta did write letters in support of this 10-point plan, though.

“They’re on board and I’ve talked to them in depth,” Foster said of promotions. “They want us to fix this. We have to fix this. It’s not them, it’s us. They need us to do it.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of the other main points:

Stricter fines for missing weight: An additional 20 percent from the win bonus will be fined from fighters who miss weight (if that fighter wins the bout, of course). Currently, only a fighter’s show money can be fined for missing weight. The 20-percent win bonus fine will go fully to the opponent who made weight.

Repeat weight-miss offenders: Any fighter who misses weight more than once will be recommended to go up to the new weight class unless a physician certifies the fighter can compete in the lower division.

Second weight check: Fighters will step on the scale again the day of the event to see how much weight they gained back in between the weigh-ins and the fight. If a fighter gains back more than 10 percent of their body weight, it will be recommended that they move up in weight class.

30-day and 10-day weight checks: For high-profile title fights only and at the discretion of the promotion. The actual logistics would have to be hammered out, but it would be interesting to see Jones and Cormier weigh-in a month and/or 10 days out to see if they are on track toward making weight. The WBC does this already for boxing.

Foster said the early weigh-in and dehydration and specific gravity testing, which CSAC has done since last year, was the measured approach to combat extreme weight cutting. Since those haven't proven effective enough, more was needed, he believes.

“But this was not the extreme approach,” Foster said.

That would be testing athletes for their lowest possible weight like the NCAA does for wrestlers, Foster said. Right now, CSAC is hoping these 10 points work and they won’t have to go any further. The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) medical committee will be recommending the plan to the full body in July.

“No one says it, but [fighters are] not doing this because they want to do it,” Carvelli said of weight cutting. “[Cris Cyborg] is not doing this stuff because she wants to do it. This is how she gets paid. So if we keep that up, we’re all complicit in this. There’s nothing wrong with starting with these top 10 things that everyone can get on board with and see how we do.”