One of the most prized qualities in a fighter is gameness - the will to win greater than the will to live. That's why professional fighting is regulated, but the Nevada Athletic Commission failed to do their job at UFC 216 on Saturday. They weren't looking at main event UFC lightweight Kevin Lee's weight 30 days out or 10 days out, or checking to see if he was losing more than 10% of his body weight, any of the other reasonable steps in Andy Foster's 10 Point Plan to fight the culture of extreme weight cutting in MMA. Instead, when Lee failed to make weight, he was given an extra hour. Lee looked like his health was in jeopardy. He says it almost killed him.
And he was suffering from a staph infection, which he kept from the UFC and regulators.
“I tried my best to hide it," said Lee post-fight, as transcribed by Adam Guillen Jr. for MMA Mania. "It was a big event. A lot had been happening with UFC at the last couple of events and I wasn’t going to let nobody down. I worked my whole life for this. It was like a culmination of things. But, I’m not going to let this stop me. I am still going to be a world champion. It might not happen when I’m 25.”
“I feel like that was a huge factor. The staph infection didn’t really help. I have been fighting it for over a week now, and it didn’t make it easier. I’m sitting here now at about 185 pounds, a little too big for the weight class now. I have been fighting at this weight class since I started MMA at 17. It’s about time for me to go up and get bigger, stronger.”
“Maybe [staph] played a factor, but regardless Tony was the better fighter tonight. I have said it before, I thought he was the toughest fight in this division. I tried to step up, but, what can I do?”
“The weight cut was what it was. I wasn’t going to let down the whole show, let down everybody. I was going to make the weight, even if I had to cut my foot off or something. It damn near killed me. I just had to do what I had to do. I got a job to do. I’m a professional. I’m going to come out here no matter how bad it hurts. … By the third round it just was too much for me.”
The NAC shouldn't investigate and punish Lee for failing to disclose the staph infection. They should investigate themselves, and then adopt the 10 Point Plan. Or they can wait until another fighter actually dies to do it. That's the choice.