If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth? To the MMA world, lots. Footage surfaced Monday that showed MMA fighter, Daniel Lima, in a near unconscious state being dragged to a scale for a weigh-in at Pancrase 290 in Japan. Aside from being scary and hard to watch, the video is an embarrassment to the sport of mixed martial arts. Everyone involved in the decision to weigh that man and then let him fight should be ashamed of themselves and banned from the sport for life. It truly was a disgusting scene. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes seeing atrocities in living color is what needs to happen in order to orchestrate change. On Saturday, UFC’s main event between Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson appeared to be in jeopardy when Lee missed weight on the initial weigh-in, but later made it after an hour grace period. After his loss on Saturday night, Lee told the media that “the weight cut nearly killed me.” A statement like that should concern the UFC and its time for them to finally address the giant unhealthy elephant in the room that is weight cutting. The solution is adding new weight divisions and the UFC needs to be a vocal pioneer in that endeavor. It benefits the fighters, it gives the UFC new revenue opportunities, and it’s incredibly easy to accomplish.
The fighters are the life blood of the UFC. Without them, there isn’t PPV events, advertising revenue, or television deals. They make the business of the UFC tick and because of that the UFC needs to keep them safe and healthy. As a company, it’s irresponsible of them to put their fighters through vicious weight cuts when they know the dangers of it. The sport of MMA is already filled with incredible risk. What sense does it make for UFC to further risk the health of its stars by facilitating a system in which individuals are cutting dangerous amounts of weight in a short period of time? Regardless of what UFC says, logic says that type of weight loss is incredibly unsafe. Plus, the competitors are then fighting with a body that isn’t ready or suited to handle that type of strenuous punishment. I understand that fighters attempt these cuts to put themselves in a better competitive position to win their fight. Just because they want that, doesn’t mean they should get it. In this instance, UFC needs to save them from themselves and their ultra-competitive nature. Fighter safety needs to come first above all else, and UFC as a company should set the example by adding weight classes to avoid the dangerous cuts in weight for its fighters.
On the business side of things, with more weight classes, the UFC will be able to promote more premiere mega fights for world championships. Title fights draw well. If there are more championships to defend, there is more of an opportunity for the UFC to feature those titles in strategic fights, on strategic cards to make more money for the company. They will be able to stack PPV cards with multiple title fights while also featuring championships on their free programming like UFC on Fox. Further, by having more divisions, the UFC will be able to cultivate and create more stars. Sometimes all that is needed for guys to break out is an opportunity. With more divisions and championships, more opportunities will be available for fighters to step up and shine in the spotlight.
Since it’s all about the money, let’s stay on the business side of things. By adding weight classes, the UFC protects itself better from fighters pulling out of fights at the last minute due to being ill from an unsafe or unsuccessful weight cut. In 2017 alone, Amanda Nunes, Ray Borg, and Khabib Nurmagomedov were all pulled from their fights at the last minute due to illnesses that were directly related to weight cuts. Each of these stars were heavily promoted main event level attractions on their respective PPV cards and each event suffered severely because of their absence. By having additional weight classes, the UFC can rest easier about this issue. They can promote cards and fans can buy events without having to wonder who will make weight and who won’t. Additional weight classes allows the UFC to better protect the integrity of their product and in turn keep PPV buys and revenue that hang in the balance on a monthly basis due to weight.
So, how can this be done? It’s actually pretty easy. Certainly easier than a weight cut. All it takes is the addition of two weight classes and the bump of the welterweight limit to 175 pounds. Simple. A 165 pound and a 195 pound division would be added to the company which would make divisions at 125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, 185, 195, and 206+. By adding those two divisions, the drastic differences between lightweight and welterweight are limited as are the differences between welterweight and middleweight. A division line up like this gives fighters the opportunity to fight within their bodies’ limits in a healthy way and be a better asset for the UFC product.
As the biggest and most successful MMA company in the world, the UFC needs to lead the charge in this endeavor. It makes sense on all fronts and other companies will follow suit if the big dog in the room leads the pack. Whether it’s a stop sign not being put in a volatile intersection until after someone is killed, or flight security changing only after 9/11, too many times we see losses of life before changes are made to dangerous situations. The UFC is playing in that arena with a lit match in their hand. They openly know the risks involved with their weight cuts and they know the solution to fix it. They need to act on those solutions or be held fully responsible if the worst happens.
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