UFC to adopt new ABC weight divisions ‘when time is right’

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The gaps in the weight divisions in boxing are too small. There are three divisions in the first 8.8 pounds. The gaps in mixed martial arts are too large. There is one division in the 20 pounds between 185 and 205.

Some progressive commissioners like ABC president and director of the Mohegan Tribal Department of Athletic Regulation Mike Mazzulli recognized champions outside the Unified Rules. And California executive director Andy Foster put together a 10-point program to combat the culture of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts that included the addition of new divisions at 165, 175, 195, 225. Those new divisions were voted on at the 2017 convention, and passed unanimously.

However, MMA has a four billion dollar gorilla – the UFC. As most fighters hope or dream to get into the big show, support from the UFC is crucial to making the new 165 (super lightweight), 175 (super welterweight), 195 (super middleweight), and 225 pounds (cruiserweight) divisions a part of the sport. Now Jeff Novitzky, the UFC vice president of athlete health and performance, has issued a statement of support.

“UFC supports the offering of additional weight classes as initially outlined in CSAC’s ’10-point plan’ and now adopted by the ABC,” said Novitzky in a statement to Steven Marrocco for MMAjunkie. “UFC recently unveiled the implementation of two new female weight classes at 125 and 145 pounds, respectively, as the global brand now offers competition at four 10-pound increment weight classes. By adding these additional divisions, UFC believes it is providing more weight-specific options for UFC athletes to promote safer weight management goals.

“UFC also anticipates that regional talent, who are regularly scouted and imported to UFC’s roster, will soon be robust enough to support these additional weight classes with world-class talent that will eventually be promoted by the global brand.”

The deepest talent pools in the UFC are at lightweight (155) and welterweight (170) and welterweight will remain for the UFC.

“If you’ve got a bunch of fighters at 170 and this body eliminates [the welterweight class], that’s a terrible business idea,” said Foster at the 2017 ABC convention. “But they understand the problem with dehydration. I know the UFC is not going to open 175 this afternoon. But it sets it up for the future.”

UFC chief legal counsel Hunter Campbell indicated that the changes are not happening immediately, and noted the league does not want to create “consumer confusion by diluting the talent pool with additional weight divisions.”

“Andy has led the charge on increasing the weight class requirements and divisions, and while I think it’s important to provide that opportunity, one of the things I want to discuss is doing so meaningfully, so that we don’t run the risk of continuing to create confusion,” said Hunter. “The second is weight-cutting.

“One of the things I’m concerned with is the distinction between what the commissions will require of athletes and weight-cutting, and what are recommendations. We’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand how athletes cut weight for the health and safety of the sport. There really is no one size fits all approach.”

So the new divisions are coming at the top of the sport, but gradually, over time. And in the meantime, expect regional promotions to quickly adopt the new divisions, because title fights are exciting.