Daniel Cormier. Kevin Lee. Khabib Nurmagomedov. Those are just three elite UFC fighters who have struggled with the scale this year, to varying degrees of calamity.
In the case of Cormier and Lee, they both initially missed weight for title fights before hitting the mark after being granted extra time to shed the excess poundage (in Cormier’s case, there may also have been some towel-related gamesmanship involved), which saved their headlining bouts from becoming non-title affairs or possibly being canceled outright.
Nurmagomedov wasn’t so lucky.
The undefeated lightweight was supposed to fight Tony Ferguson for an interim championship at UFC 209 this past March, but problems with his weight cut necessitated a trip to the hospital and their fight was removed from the event.
Lee’s near miss this past weekend prior to his interim title clash with Ferguson once again stirred up conversation about weight cutting reform, with some suggesting that more divisions could deter fighters from draining themselves get a size advantage on fight night.
Former UFC lightweight champion and current featherweight contender Frankie Edgar isn’t convinced that adding weight classes will fix anything, but he does believe extreme cutting could have potentially fatal results if nothing is done about it.
“I do. Wrestling has seen it happen back in ‘96, ‘97, or something like that, where a few wrestlers died at the college level and they upped the weight classes,” Edgar said on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour when asked for his thoughts on the subject. “If you add more weight classes, it could encourage people to cut less weight, but it also might encourage someone to cut more weight. They’ll say, ‘Oh, I couldn’t make ‘55, but I can make ‘65,’ and they were going ‘70.
“So I don’t know, I think people are always going to look for a way to get an advantage and cutting weight is going to be really tough to get people to stop doing that. Maybe hydration tests. In college, the best way we did it, we did hour weigh-ins, you weigh in an hour before you compete. But that’s just not feasible, I think, in MMA.”
Another alternative that has been proposed is same day weigh-ins. As it stands, most commissions have adopted the procedure of having fighters step onto the scale the morning before fight day, giving competitors around 36 hours to rest and rehydrate. The question is whether going the opposite way and giving them less time to recover would curb dangerous weight cutting habits.
“I guess you could, it’s just you see people miss weight now, the day before it’s a bad scramble,” Edgar said. “Imagine day of, how bad that scramble is.
“It’s just tough. I don’t think there’s any easy answer. Some suggestions have to happen or something bad will happen. You’re seeing guys end up in hospitals for weight cuts pretty frequently, luckily they’re getting the help they need and nothing too serious happens.”
Edgar, who according to himself walks around at 160 pounds, has never had any documented struggles with making weight, whether he was competing in the 155-pound division where he held a UFC championship, or in the 145-pound division where he has twice challenged for gold.
While he understands something like year-round checks to ensure fighters stay within around 10 percent of their competition weight might help some to manage their diets, Edgar has accepted that (at least in his case) you might just have to be ready to fight a larger opponent if you want to guarantee that weight cutting is never an issue.
“Maybe a little more than that. 10 percent is tough, 10 percent is like 10-15 pounds for me, at least, even less,” Edgar said. “I think 10 percent is a little too low, maybe a little bit more. It would be tough for guys to hold their diet all the way around. Some guys do get fat, you know what I mean? Some guys need to diet to make weight, some guys do belong at lower weight classes. But there are some guys that cut way too much. It’s almost, to me, that’s not the tough guy’s mentality, cut a bunch of weight to be the bigger guy. I’d rather be the little guy fighting the bigger guy.”
“I do this sport to be the toughest. Not to have the most advantages and win. I did it to prove that I’m the best at fighting itself, not at everything else.”
Up next for Edgar, he challenges Max Holloway for the featherweight championship at UFC 218 on Dec. 2 at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich.