As you may have heard, the Association of Boxing Commissions got together in Montreal recently to discuss unified rules for mixed martial arts. Initially, this sounded like a good idea. They finally nailed down exactly what it means to strike to the back of the head, for example, which is long overdue. But inexplicably, they also came up with a bunch of new weight classes. And by new, we don’t just mean that they added some lighter weights, though they did that too. They also added new divisions between the divisions, such as 175 and 225 pounds, to name just two. This was immediately blasted as a bad idea by almost everyone who matters.
“No, we’re not following that,” Dana White told Yahoo! Sports.
“The weight classes in New Jersey are going to stay according to the original unified rules,” said Nick Lembo, counsel for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.
“Where did it need to be fixed?” said Bernie Profato, of the Ohio State Athletic Commission. “I’ve had over 300 MMA fight (cards) in the state of Ohio. … Not one time have we ever heard, ‘Hey, we’ve got to change these weight classes.”
In other words, most everyone agrees that it’s a bad idea. Not only is it unnecessary, but the people who the ABC would depend on to adopt and legitimize it — state athletic commissions, the UFC — are totally against it. This begs the question, who’s for it? The answer: Big John McCarthy.
The former UFC referee told MMA Junkie that because more people were getting into the sport, more weight classes would eventually become necessary:
“Look at where the UFC came from; there were no weight class,” McCarthy said. “Then there were two. Back at UFC 12, which Dana wouldn’t know about anyway, but back at UFC 12, there was a change where we had lightweight and heavyweight. There was a lightweight that was up to 199.9 pounds, (and) heavyweight was 200-plus.
“Then [UFC officials] decided, ‘No, that’s going to be our middleweight.’ At UFC 16, they brought in the lightweights and said that was up to 170 pounds because, ‘Look, weight does make a difference in the sport.’ When you start talking about people with good technical abilities, the big guys are going to beat the small guys. If you have two guys of different sizes, and they have the same technical ability, the big guy usually has the advantage.
“It’s the evolution of the sport, and there are more guys getting involved in it.”
This is a strange logic. It argues that because more fighters are entering the sport of MMA (an initial premise we can probably agree on), we need more weight classes — fourteen in all — to accommodate them. But why? Would it be so bad to have more competitors in each weight class? Wouldn’t it then mean more to be the champion?
Adding more weight classes to the bottom of the spectrum makes some degree of sense. Odds are there are some tough 110-pounders out there wondering when’s going to be their time to shine. But breaking up all the existing weight classes to add more divisions only dilutes the talent pool, plus it asks fans to keep track of more divisions and more champions, which they don’t really want to do.
What’s really insane is that the ABC apparently did this without getting the backing of the various state athletic commissions or the UFC. While I realize that a governing body shouldn’t be asking the permission of an organization it is responsible for governing, they should have realized that without the UFC’s help this wasn’t going to go anywhere.
The UFC is the biggest game in town. Shouldn’t you be working with them, instead of trying to force them to change from a model that’s been working?
The answer is yes. That’s what they should have done, just like they should have gotten the support of all the various state athletic commissions first. Or better yet, they shouldn’t have tried to fix something that wasn’t broken. That would have been the smart thing to do, but that wouldn’t allow them to put their stamp on broad, sweeping changes to the sport that no one really wanted to begin with. And that’s just not the ABC’s style.