The UFC 223 official weigh-ins were likely the most dramatic in the company’s history.
In a span of two hours on Friday morning, the UFC lost half of its main event with Max Holloway, and then main event match up changed several times to ultimately settle for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta.
Both lightweight fighters met on Saturday night at the Barclays Center, Nurmagomedov outpointed Iaquinta in a dominant decision to win the UFC lightweight title and put an end to one of the most bizarre fight weeks in recent UFC history.
The road to Nurmagomedov vs. Iaquinta is a difficult one and one hard to follow given the different versions of what transpired on Friday morning in the grand ballroom of the Marriott in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The chaos of the UFC 223 official weigh-ins started an hour and a half into function. NYSAC executive director Kim Sumbler recalls the moment the main event of the card fell apart.
“I was called into the room about half an hour before the weigh-ins were over, our last weigh-in time was 11:00, so it was about 10:30 in the morning,” Sumbler told MMA Fighting. “We were called into a room with my chief medical officer and Jeff Davidson of the UFC medical team and discussed Max’s condition. It was decided at that time jointly that we weren’t going to allow Max to weigh in.”
Sumbler said she wasn’t there for the examinations conducted on Holloway, as she was working the weigh-ins, but did confirm that medical team deemed the Hawaiian unfit to weigh-in. When asked how much Holloway weighed the moment he was pulled from the card, Sumbler didn’t want to reveal a specific amount, but did say he was within seven pounds of hitting the 155-pound mark.
Once Holloway was out of the picture, the UFC tried to save the main event fight with former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Pettis was originally scheduled to fight Michael Chiesa, who was forced to withdraw the day prior following the bus incident at the Barclays Center garage.
“Anthony Pettis was presented to me as a potential opponent for Khabib, so we looked at him, studied him,” Sumbler recalled. “Anthony hadn’t weighed in yet, so we went and talked to his team, Anthony was a little over. He was 0.2 (pounds) over and him and his team discussed if they were going to lose the additional 0.2 pounds so that they could fight for the title or not. I’m not sure if it was Anthony’s management or his coach I had a conversation with there and he said that he did not want Anthony to lose the additional 0.2 pounds.
“I asked Anthony directly, I had him look me in the face because he was writing some paper work and I said, ‘Anthony, I want you to turn and look at me,’ and he did. And it was in front of the UFC and his team, and I said, ‘Anthony, do you want to lose the extra 0.2 (pounds) and he said, ‘no, I don’t,’ and I said, ‘okay,’ and he took this great big jug of water and he drank it and I said, ‘guys, go pick up the scale’. And that was the end of it. I said I would approve a three-round fight, ‘I don’t think you’re ready for a five, I’ll approve you for a three-round fight against Khabib’. He went to go and do negotiations (with the UFC) and that was the last I heard until they presented me to Al.”
This is where stories differ. Originally, reports came in saying Paul Felder was being targeted to fight Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 223. Later, we came to find out that the NYSAC didn’t allow Felder to compete against Nurmagomedov because he wasn’t in the UFC 155-pound rankings.
Well, according to Sumbler that was never true.
“Paul Felder never came into play,” Sumbler clarified. “He was never presented to me as an opponent, ever. His name was talked around the commission room with other fighters, other managers and other people, but the UFC never presented me Paul Felder as a potential opponent for Khabib.”
According to Sumbler, Iaquinta and Pettis were the only two fighters was presented to the commission in hopes to replace Holloway.
UFC president Dana White was asked about this confusion in the press conference following UFC 223, his answer didn’t really help clarify the situation.
“Let me tell you this,” White said. “The commission was awesome, the commission was outstanding and I want to thank them for hanging with us this week too. Yeah, I mean, listen, they have their rules and regs and it it what it is.
“And just to clear something up too, I don’t want to give this guy any publicity because he loves it, but that greasy, slimy rat (Stephen) Espinoza, talking about, oh, we break the rules and all this other sh*t. What the, what is that guy, oh my God. Just keep trying to be HBO and don’t worry about what the f*ck we’re doing you slimy, little rat.”
This bizarre situation is just one more added to the list that composed this peculiar fight week of UFC 223.