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The Votes Are In: New Weight Classes A Dumb Idea

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.

(-Ben Fowlkes)

Cagepotato Comments

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Osama- July 10, 2008 at 11:32 am
Anonymous Says:

July 10th, 2008 at 10:09 pm
They need to make a 450+ weight class, then the winner gets free cheeseburgers for a year. I bet we’d see some all our wars

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------You could just call it ' the American Division' seeing as you all weigh that much anyway!
Anonymous- July 10, 2008 at 4:09 am
They need to make a 450+ weight class, then the winner gets free cheeseburgers for a year. I bet we'd see some all our wars
sol- July 9, 2008 at 8:50 pm
the only weight class i thought needed fixing was 205-265, i always thought it should have been like 206-230, 231-265.

On the other hand we got some good fights with people weighing in around 230 against some 250+ pounders.

175-225 is retarded, imagine someone like Matt Hughes fighting a LHW or even a HW who cuts a few extra pounds.
bryanjox- July 9, 2008 at 7:09 pm
Hey, begs the question is a logical fallacy that means circular reasoning. It doesn't have anything to do with another question arising from something else. Even professional writers make this mistake, and it annoys the hell out of me.
BJM is a cunt- July 9, 2008 at 4:53 pm
I think the biggest thing coming out of this is that Big John McCarthy is sacrificing his credibility big time. He may be the most universally respected voice in all of MMA (at least since Randy Couture decided to drink the kool-aid dripping out of Kim's evil cunt and began alienating fans). People like BJM, and really respect what he has to say. He is viewed as an objective and knowledgeable supporter of the sport who has been around since the beginning.

The problem with this ABC thing is Big John is getting a little too big for his britches. He has taken his position as a respected authority and decided to use it to try and change the sport to whatever he wants. Even the strikes to the back of the head thing. BJM maintained it was the "mohawk" definition, and Armando Garcia had instructed several other refs that it was anything behind the ears, as attested to by Herb Dean. So when the ABC changed those rules, did they consult anyone who disagreed? No, and obviously BJM's definition is the one they went with.

Now I actually prefer the "mohawk" definition, but the way they made all of these rules is incredibly suspect. It sounds as though it was just Big John making the decision with the Canadian commissioner Dale Kliparchuk, without any other real input.

If Big John thinks he can leverage the respect he has earned into being the most prominent voice in MMA, where he doesn't need to listen to anyone else before he makes drastic changes to the sport, he will learn very quickly that he won't enjoy that level of respect much longer.
martymarta- July 9, 2008 at 4:24 pm
If you watched Forrest Griffin's comments after winning the belt and how he described guys like BJ Penn and Anderson Silva as being scary dudes and him just being pretty much just a regular hard working dude, we see how not all the divisions are equally competitive. If Lyoto takes the title, I think we will be 1 step closer. A major problem I see with more weight classes is a problem which is already apparent. Guys like BJ Penn and Anderson Silva are jumping around the weight classes and could possibly be wearing multipul belts. With more weight classes we could theoretically see them wearing 3 belts, or even 4!! I don't have to explain how silly that is. There is definitely a balance here.
sarah- July 9, 2008 at 4:23 pm
iflhahaha -

Wait... so you're complaining that this isn't breaking news and your name is IFL hahaha?

As far as timeliness goes, I would have though we would have stopped with the IFL bashing, I don't know, a month after the company canceled their last event? Jesus Christ.

I would also say something about how this is more of an opinion piece than a news item, but you're probably busy still reeling from that whole Pearl Harbor thing.
Noah- July 9, 2008 at 4:04 pm
Hey Vrax,

Jeff Monson has fought at light heavy before, the only one I can think of right now is his fight with Chuck Liddell. I know what you're saying though, Monson probably has one hell of a time making 205, if he can even make it anymore, but he's not a scary big heavyweight either.

As you also mentioned, there is just not enough talent at heavyweight to justify a split in the wieght class right now. That's the only weight class that needs fixing in my opinion.
Vrax- July 9, 2008 at 3:50 pm
@aptninja, isn't him being a douche somewhat apropos if he's implying the column is "not so fresh"?
Vrax- July 9, 2008 at 3:48 pm
The only one that makes any kind of sense to me is 225, or 230. Guys like Tim Sylvia are just so fucking huge compared to a dude Brandon Vera, that I could see a necessity for such a break in classes.

Now you may say "well sure but Vera can just make 205" and that's true, ut what aout a guy like Jeff Monson. He's too muscular to ever get down to 205, but too small-of-frame to ever be a top-tier guy in a class up to 265. I bet he could drop down to 230 though.

IF there were, you know, that many talented heavyweights to begin with. So maybe in 5 years. We can hope, right?
Aptninja- July 9, 2008 at 3:38 pm
Here's some breaking news: you're a douche.

Oh, wait, I've just been handed this: you work in IT and have a weight problem.
iflhahaha- July 9, 2008 at 3:34 pm
Hey wow, a weight class blog only a week after everyone else checked in on this. Next, Ben chimes in with breaking news about Randy Couture quitting UFC.
Myles Kilometers- July 9, 2008 at 3:02 pm
Legalize it.

And by it I mean fish-hooking.
rh- July 9, 2008 at 2:58 pm
If they wanted to do something useful, they should have published a working scoring system. The 10-point-must system is horribly shortsighted.