By TONY SHUCK
There are only two things that need to happen to make a UFC fight: (1) find an opponent, and (2) determine the weight at which to fight.
The latter seems like it has become more optional as time has gone by. Since July 1st, there have been 14 UFC events. Eleven fighters have had issues with weight. Of the eleven, 2 cancelled their fights due to cutting issues and 9 missed weight but still fought. Some are even former champions. The lack of professionalism is astounding.
So, what happens to a fighter who misses weight? Surely, there must be repercussions. Assuming the other fighter still wants to fight, the overweight fighter gives up 20% of his/her purse to the opponent. That’s it. The offender doesn’t fall in the rankings and isn’t suspended. Worst of all, it doesn’t matter if you miss by half a pound or nine. The penalty is the same.
The real victim here is the opponent who faces an incredibly tough decision: Do I fight, take 20% of the purse, and hope I win? Do I cancel the fight? If I cancel, I could potentially lose fans, and the promotional team might look down at me for not stepping up. If I take the fight and fail, then I could lose my position in the rankings. My opponent will be heavier than me and could be so much heavier that he could fight at the next highest weight class. By agreeing to fight, I’m giving up a huge advantage.
Charles Oliveira put Ricardo Lamas in this very position on Saturday at TUF: Latin America 3. Oliveira missed weight by nine pounds (NINE!) and ultimately weighed in at 155 instead of the contractual 145. (Fighters are allotted a one-pound allowance in non-title fights). That technically put his weight into the next weight class.
Nonetheless, Lamas still took the fight.
However, there were stipulations. First, he wanted 30 percent of Oliveira’s purse. Second, Oliveira still had to weigh in under 165 pounds on the day of the fight. Oliveira agreed to the conditions, and the fight was on. Lamas won via a guillotine choke in the 2nd, but was almost finished in the first.
What would have happened if Lamas had lost in the first? In all likelihood, he would have fallen in the rankings. And let’s not forget, he wouldn’t have earned his $53,000-win bonus. Lamas is currently ranked No. 4 in the featherweight division. He is on the cusp of another title shot. All would have been gone if he would have fallen to an opponent who barely weighed in at the next weight class limit.
T.J. Dillashaw may very well face a similar decision when he squares off against John Lineker at UFC 207. This is already a fight where Dillashaw has little to gain by winning and everything to lose if he is defeated. He currently sits No. 1 in the Bantamweight Division and could conceivably sit and wait for a title shot. Lineker joined the UFC in 2012 and has missed weight five times. He missed by 1.5 pounds in his last fight. He won that fight and was rewarded with a fight against the No. 1 bantamweight in the world. So why would a fighter even care about a contractual weight agreement when he could move up in the rankings if he wins?
Something has to be done! Fighters either need to stop taking the fight if their opponent misses weight, or there must be repercussions besides a financial penalty. It’s clear that money isn’t scaring anyone. I’m in favor of a tiered penalty for missing weight. Not only according to how much you are overweight, but also if you are a multiple offender. Miss by one to five pounds and 20 percent of your purse should be gone. Miss by five to 10 and 50 percent should be taken. If you miss by more than that, you should be cut from the fight. Simple as that. If you miss weight more than once, you should be forced to go up a weight class. Miss it in that weight class, and you should be cut. This is a profession, and you must be professional.
When you miss weight, you are telling the world that you are not a professional.
(Tony Shuck, an avid MMA fanatic since 2002, has become an expert on the sport. The 34-year-old Indiana native is a veteran of the United States Army, serving between 2002-2006. He was deployed twice to Iraq (2003-2004, 2005-2006). He is married and presently lives in Denver. Tony has trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing. He is a student at the Colorado Media School, is a regular contributor to woodypaige.com and hosts his own MMA radio show on gomilehigh.com. You can reach him at Tonyshuckmma@gmail.com)