July 05, 2008
The Association of Boxing Commissions met in Montreal this week. Among other items, the group, which represents state and provincial athletic sanctioning bodies, decided to institute a new series of weight classes in mixed martial arts.
Mind you, there was virtually no clamor in the mixed martial arts world for a drastic overhaul in weight categories. And yet, the ABC is now recommending the institution of 14 weight classes, ranging from flyweight (105-lb. maximum), to super heavyweight, which would remain the domain over the over-265 set.
We have no quibble with fleshing out the weight divisions to give smaller competitors a chance to square off against guys their own size.
But we can tell you this: there is absolutely no good reason to divide the current light heavyweight division into a "middleweight" division of 185.1-195 pounds and a "super middleweight" division of 195.1-205. Likewise for new categories of "welterweight," at 165.1-175, and "super welterweight," 175.1-185.
Not when current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva can finish former PRIDE light heavyweight champ Dan Henderson and then credibly consider a permanent move up to the next level. Not when B.J. Penn can win a title at 170, and then slim down four years later dominate the 155 class. And certainly not when Randy Couture can hold the light heavyweight title in his 40s, retire, return, and whip a man 40 pounds heavier to take the heavyweight crown.
How many of those memorable scenarios would have come about if Penn was fighting in a "super lightweight" division and Matt Hughes at "super welterweight;" if Silva held a belt at 185 and Henderson one at 195; and Couture could have settled for a specially-made "light heavyweight" title of 205-225 pounds?
Fans have turned to mixed martial arts in large part because
of the simplicity of its structure. With five champions in the UFC, there's little dispute of the best in each weight class. Where would be the intrigue if say, Ken
Florian or Roger Huerta decided to fight at "super lightweight"
instead of lightweight and avoid both Penn at 155 and Georges St. Pierre at
These headache-inducing scenarios are no doubt similar to how boxing fans got tired of the absurd number of weight classes and pencil-pushing organizations in their sport.
But no, the commissions can't be content with their attempts to kill one sport; they have to try to step in and ruin the best thing to happen to combat sports in a generation while they're at it.
There were two notable omissions from the ABC meeting: representatives from the Nevada and California commissions, which just happen to be the two most powerful such bodies in the country. My esteemed colleague Steve Sievert already caught up with NSAC executive director Keith Kizer, who expressed reservation over the proposed changes.
The present weight-class system isn't perfect, and could stand a tweak here and there, but no one was asking for a fix for something that wasn't broken. UFC should keep its five current classes. The WEC should continue to focus on the present bantamweight and featherweight divisions. If Elite XC wants to set a lightweight crown at 160, well, God bless 'em.
The leading MMA promotions in North America would be best advised to treat the ABC's new weight classes the same way one should treat any attention-seeking grandstanders who act like they know: Pretend to thank them for their input and then continue carrying on with their business.
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