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Fightweets: Another week in the weight-cutting crisis

Yoel Romero
Yoel Romero is the latest UFC fighter to miss weight.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

One of the deepest and most interesting cards of the year is on deck, as UFC 225 goes down tonight in Chicago.

But of course, to get to Saturday night’s event, we have to run the gauntlet that is Friday’s weigh-ins, and this time, a bite was taken out of the main event.

So without further ado, let’s get into another edition of Fightweets:

Weigh-in dramas continue

Didn’t we just address the topic of weight-cutting issues in the UFC last week? That’s right, we did.

But the subject remains on the front-burner this week. Since we last left off, UFC president Dana White said that he’s going to look at moving the weigh-ins back to the traditional late-afternoon time, instead of the early-morning weigh-ins which have been used over the past two years.

Then, Friday, we had our Weigh-In Mishap of the Week, as Yoel Romero came in at 185.2 pounds for his planned UFC middleweight title match against Robert Whittaker. That came on his second weigh-in attempt, after he clocked in at 186 the first time. As of late evening Pacific time Friday/early morning Eastern Saturday, UFC president Dana White says the bout is on.

Let’s start with White’s proclamation that he wants to move the weigh-ins back to late afternoon. On the surface, it seems like a reasonable first step. There has been an astronomical jump in weigh-in misses since the early weigh-ins were instituted two years ago. To act like there’s no correlation is to put one’s head in the sand.

Whether it’s a matter of fighters trying to game the new system and cut more weight, or whether the adjustment to the new schedule, in which fighters basically have to stay up all night and cut weight, rather than get a semi-normal night of sleep and then go through their weight cut in the day, or whether the truth is somewhere in the middle, this simply isn’t working.

That said, if the UFC can get the commissions back on board with moving the weigh-ins back to late afternoon Friday, that can’t be the end of the story. Changing things back to the way they used to be and then changing nothing else about the system would be just as negligent as pretending there’s nothing wrong with the early weigh-ins.

We should also note, here, that a fair number of veteran fighters, who have been through the both systems, have vocally come out in favor of retaining the current system. The fighters should have a seat at the table in these discussions. The fighters could also go a long way toward making that happen by coming together to form a fighter’s union.

Either way, early weigh-ins are still in place, and Romero is the latest example of a high-profile fighter missing. So what can be gleaned from this specific instance?

This is Romero’s second straight weight miss. He came in three pounds over for his UFC 221 title fight with Luke Rockhold. After Romero knocked Rockhold out, the UFC decided to go ahead and award him a title shot anyway. They used the fact that he fought in Australia on just a few weeks’ notice as their loophole to proceed with their plans.

Here’s an idea: Maybe don’t reward fighters who miss weight with title shots, regardless of the circumstances? As long as the UFC sends out the signal that there are no real repercussions for a weight miss, then fighters are going to push the envelope even further. This particular incident was the UFC’s own doing.

Last week, I suggested that when a fighter misses weight by a certain amount, they should have to go up in weight class for their next fight. That would have applied to Romero after UFC 221. I also suggested a fighter who misses weight twice in the same weight class not be allowed to fight again in that weight class. Romero is north of 40 years old. No matter how well-honed he had become over the years at cutting weight, time is not on his side. Anyone Romero’s age can tell you that losing weight doesn’t get easier as you get older, even for world-class athletes. From here on forward, the UFC should not be allowing Romero to fight at anything below light heavyweight.

Moving the weigh-ins back is all well and good. But until the UFC and the commissions also get serious about making the ramifications for missing weight real, then nothing significant is going to change.

At the same time, have a little empathy for the fighters. The very worst of MMA fandom are the people who’s only response to this is, “Who cares if they’re only the brink of death, they made this choice.” Okay, if you want to take that much of a selfish and nihilistic approach to things, aren’t you shortchanging yourself by buying into a system in which a fighter needs to bring themselves onto death’s door just a day before the biggest competition of their lives? Wouldn’t you rather spend your $65 on athletes competing at their best? That alone should be enough to get you on board with real and legitimate reforms.

UFC 225’s age discrepancies

@atanak74: UFC 225 has a few matchups w/ large age gaps between fighters. The “elder fighters” being Romero at 41, Arlovski at 39, & Evans at 38. All 3 are facing fighters in their mid to late 20’s. How significant is the age gap & what do you think happens to the “elders” if they lose?

This one’s just the nature of the beast, man. MMA seems to resemble scenes from series like Planet Earth, in which the young ram challenges and knocks off the leader of the herd. UFC 225 coincidentally just happens to have more such potential scenes than usual.

Most of these fighters were on the other side of the coin on their way up. Rashad Evans had his legendary knockout of Chuck Liddell at UFC 88, which cemented his spot as a headliner once and for all en route to winning the UFC light heavyweight championship. Now he’s on a four-fight losing streak and facing someone nearly a decade his junior in Anthony Smith, who has won three of four with knockouts in all three wins, who can make his name once and for all at Evans’ expense.

Andrei Arlovski has thwarted the “up-and-comer knocks off the aging veteran” storyline on more than one occasion.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Romero’s an odd case because he got started late in the game. But Arlovski is proof that sometimes the old silverback can indeed fend off the challenge to his status in the pack. How many times have we written Arlovski off? I know I wanted to see him retire after Sergei Kharitonov knocked him out in Strikeforce seven years ago. And yet, from Brendan Schaub to Travis Browne, Arlovski has spoiled one attempt to build fighters off his name after another, and he carries a two-fight win streak into his bout with hotshot Tai Tuivasa. And that adds a layer on intrigue to the evening’s fights: Don’t count out the old lions just yet.

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington

@joshwalsh0: How much is RDA gonna humiliate Colby? Can’t wait to see that cocky wannabe get shut up

The rise of Colby Covington, in a weird way, reminds me of a couple shows on Comedy Central a few years back. Work with me here. Remember when Tosh.o was riding high in popularity? Daniel Tosh said all sorts of really outrageous things with a smile and a wink and the understanding this is all a joke.

Then Comedy Central, on the heels of Tosh, tried really hard to force The Jeselnik Offensive on viewers. That was a show which had all the offensiveness of Tosh, but was completely devoid of Tosh’s wit and charm. That show died a royal death.

In MMA terms, I can’t help but feel like Tosh was Chael Sonnen, and Jeselnik is Colby Covington — the attempted remake that lacked everything which made the original memorable.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to do the performative outrage about Covington’s corny schtick this week. But Covington has also gotten the job done in the cage, and he’s reached his put-up-or-shut-up moment. Rafael dos Anjos hasn’t seen the humor in Covington’s schtick. If RDA does what fans like you want to see and dishes out a beating, then the Covington’s 15 minutes will be up. If Covington beats a fighter of RDA’s caliber, then we better get used to him.

PFL debut

@Scythe11: You plan on watching PFL today? And if yes, any fight specifically I should keep and eye on our that you’re excited about?

Well, you sent this Thursday, the card was Thursday night, and I watched it on my DVR on Friday, but that aside: I remain a bit skeptical both that the PFL’s attempt at running a season will proceed smoothly and that they’ll actually deliver a string of million-dollar checks at the end.

But Thursday night was a solid start, featuring solid performances from top names like Andre Harrison and Lance Palmer and some exciting finishes further down on the card. The production and presentation was also a noticeable step up over predecessor World Series of Fighting.

So while the jury is still out, it was a solid debut effort, and that in and of itself is reason for optimism.

Conor’s “almosts”

@hunt5588: What’s the next card that Conor will “almost” be on?

Let’s just assume that every fight card from now until further notice will be retroactively branded one that Conor “almost” fought on, whether it’s McGregor trying to put it out there or managers trying to insinuate their fighters into position to fight Conor. And let’s also take every single one of these “almost” reports with an entire shaker of salt.

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