Every time a high-profile athlete misses weight for an important fight in the UFC, fans and media start to question what should be done to prevent these issues. Looking at overweight fighters success inside the Octagon in 2018, a 7-1 run so far this year, most wonder if fining them a percentage of their purse is enough, or if losing money ends up being an insignificant downside compared to having an advantage in the actual fight.
One of the suggestions often made is deducting points from fighters. The UFC has never really embraced or openly discussed any alternative other than fining athletes, and the heated debate fades away shortly after. Darren Till missing weight for his recent UFC Liverpool main event versus Stephen Thompson, a fight that directly impacts the title picture in the welterweight division, brought the debate back to life once again.
What if Till had been deducted a point before his five-round bout? In a close bout like that, it would have changed everything.
The UFC is close to celebrating its 25th anniversary in November, but it’s unlikely that anything will change in the near future — especially considering it would need to be adopted by athletic commissions, which is rarely a smooth process. However, there are some examples outside the promotion that show that adopting other punishments for overweight fighters can level things a little bit.
Jungle Fight, one of the biggest MMA promotions in Brazil, decided in 2013 that fining overweight fighters wasn’t punishment enough. Starting at Jungle Fight 48, every athlete that came up over the limit would lose 20 percent of their purses and be deducted one point. If they missed weight by more than 1kg (2.2lbs), they lose another point. If they are more than 2kg (4.4lbs) over, they lose three points. In that scenario, a fighter basically wins via stoppage or with a dominant performance, when a 30-26 score in his favor would become 27-26.
MMA Fighting looked back at the 46 cards Jungle Fight has put on since then. The Brazilian promotion doesn’t keep track of the weigh-in results, so we don’t have the numbers of four of those events. 43 of the 1004 fighters who competed in those 46 cards missed weight, and their records are the opposite of the success overweight fighters found in the Octagon in 2018.
Eight of those bouts ended via decision, and only one fighter was able to win despite having points deducted. In several cases, fighters were deducted three points for missing weight by more than 4.4 pounds. Overweight fighters went 11-20 in the Jungle Fight cage since January 2013, going 4-7 in fights that ended via submission, 6-6 in bouts that ended by knockout, and 1-7 in decisions. Nine bouts were scrapped, and on one occasion two athletes fought each other after both missed weight.
Seven championship fights were affected by fighters missing weight at Jungle Fight over the past five years, and four were scrapped immediately. In two occasions, the bouts proceeded as non-title. Amanda Ribas, who is currently under contract with the UFC but suspended by USADA, missed weight and was deducted two points, but won via submission in 76 seconds. Herberth Souza, deducted a point, lost his non-title bout via unanimous decision.
”It changes everything. They are worried about it,” Jungle Fight promoter Wallid Ismail told MMA Fighting. “Imagine starting a fight with minus one or two points? I prefer to scrap a fight if someone is more than four pounds over because it’s disrespectful, but some fighters accept it. You can’t benefit the fighter that missed weight.”
Some people think that adopting this rule would increase the number of draws in MMA, but that has only happened once in five years at Jungle Fight. Back in June 2016, Marcos Antonio Santana was deducted three points for his fight with Marcus Vinicius. Two of the three judges gave him the nod in all three rounds, scoring the contest a 27-27. The third judge scored it 26-28 for Vinicius, making it for a majority draw.
Imagining that the UFC or U.S. athletic commissions had adopted the same system — and the fights had been exactly the same way. Three results would have changed this year. Michel Prazeres and Mads Burnell, who missed weight for their UFC fights with Desmond Green and Mike Santiago, respectively, and won via unanimous decision, would have been deducted three points and actually lost their fights. Green would have won via majority decision (28-26, 28-26, 27-27) and Burnell would have won via unanimous decision (triple 28-26).
Darren Till would have been deducted two points, but still defeat Stephen Thompson. It would have been via split decision — the original 48-47, 49-46, 49-46 result would become 46-47, 47-46, 47-46. Alex Perez, who missed weight by a half pound for his fight with Eric Shelton, would only lose one point. Since he won all three rounds, all judges would have scored the bout 29-27 in his favor.
”If you start deducting points, you’ll see that fighters will start to worry about it,” Ismail said. “It’s interesting. I think it’s the end of the world when someone makes weight but his opponent doesn’t.
”Deducting points is the minimum they can do. This should be the rules. This is real punishment. I see fighters that miss weight and win close decisions after a hard fight, and they would have lost it if they were deducted points. Tell me, would you have fought the same way if you had cut those final pounds?”