New California MMA rule will cancel fights if entrant is over 15% above contracted weight

Torrey HartYahoo Sports Contributor
MMA fights in California will be more closely regulated for unhealthy weight-cutting practices. (AP Photo)
MMA fights in California will be more closely regulated for unhealthy weight-cutting practices. (AP Photo)

The California State Athletic Commission, the governing body for mixed martial arts in the state, voted Tuesday to pass a new rule that will cancel fights if either competitor weighs in at over 15% above their contract weight on fight day, according to ESPN.

The new rule passed unanimously in a vote at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. It includes that “promoters, managers, trainers and matchmakers are responsible for ensuring the combatants comply with the new rule,” ESPN reported.

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The rule seeks to deter fighters from going to extreme measures to cut water weight ahead of weigh-in, only to gain it back for the actual competition. MMA competitors have been known to gain between 8% and 18% of their weight back from weigh-ins to fights, often getting dangerously dehydrated in the process.

Additionally, if only one entrant engages in this form of “sanctioned cheating,” as CSAC executive officer Andy Foster called it, it creates a significant disparity between the opponents.

“To me, that's a health and safety issue," Foster said.

According to CSAC's data, ESPN reported, out of 285 MMA fights from January 2019 to October 2019, 28 saw fighters weigh more than 15% above the contracted weight class. In boxing, that rate is only nine out of 585 matchups.

While some critics of the new rule pointed out that it might cause fighters to either remain dehydrated for longer periods of time or cut weight twice, Foster said those are necessary risks to create change. The commission ideally wants promoters and matchmakers to pair fighters together closer to their natural weight, and believes the threat of canceling fights will push them to do so.

"The only way we can get there is out of fear of a cancellation," Foster said. "I suspect the matchmakers will probably just move the fights up a little bit if they see weights increase just to prevent risks to their promotions."

Foster also suggests that officials should be more open to scheduling catchweight matchups.

"This is a fixable issue," Foster said. "Pretending like we're bound to these weight classes like they're set in stone and fighters can't move up, frankly it's not healthy."

CSAC has promoted healthier weight-cutting practices for years now.

In 2016, the commission passed the now widely-adopted rule moving day-before weigh-ins from the afternoon to the morning. Another regulation passed that year recommended moving a fighter up a weight class if, on fight day, he or she weighed in at more than 10% over the contracted weight; that recommendation, however, has obviously not been widely enforced.

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