Home Science Health & Fitness MMA Weight Classes: Unified Rules Outdated?

MMA Weight Classes: Unified Rules Outdated?


Digital Scale

As the sport of mixed martial arts increases in popularity it’s inevitable that there will be times where things must change or adapt to serve a larger audience.  Where at one time it may have been a simple affair to arrange a fight, the logistics have since become an immense undertaking.

Managing legalities, liabilities, training camps, media, promotions, health and safety of the fighters and ultimately ensuring fairness through testing and validation of compliance with the rules and regulations of the sport.  The sentence alone might make one’s head spin.

That being said, the end result is one image.  One feeling.  The feeling that a fan of a sport gets when they see their favorite team, athlete or promotion at an event.  Without a doubt ensuring that an existing fan feels positively about a sport is as critical to success as attracting new fans to the sport.  In doing so it is paramount that the sport in question be seen as best in class and beyond reproach.

The Unified Rules of MMA are undergoing a long overdue review and redraft by the (ABC) Association of Boxing Commissions.  It is these rules that have allowed MMA to grow and prosper.  However these same rules have been the source of much chagrin from fans and pundits of the sport.  On the bright side of matters, the ABC has acknowledged that MMA is a different beast from boxing and as such the rules are being redrafted to account for the dynamic nature of the sport.

MMA Weigh-In

One area in particular that has been questioned by many and yet is the same practice not only in MMA but in other combat sports as well is the official weigh-in process.  Currently athletic commissions administer the official weigh-ins while the promotions companies publicize the event.  The standard practice at the moment is to conduct the weigh-ins the day before the event.  However, this was not the case in all combat sports many years ago.

Michael Spinks

Before the mid 1980’s professional boxers were weighed the day of the event, prior to the fight.  The change to 24 hours before the fight was not made to simply to accommodate athletes as many believe, but rather to help facilitate promoting the event.  In 1983 when Eddie Mustapha Muhammad came in overweight for a light-heavyweight unification match with Michael Spinks.  Contrary to the desire of the promoters (one of them being HBO) Spinks refused to go through with the fight, even after Eddie proposed making it a non-title match.  The promoters and the commissions then decided that in the future, all weigh-ins would be conducted the day before, so that a cancellation like this would never happen again.

Medical Research

This process became standard for combat sport events for obvious reasons, however since the 1980’s medical science has come quite a long way and as such the more efficient regimens for weight cuts and rehydration have resulted in some very unevenly matched bouts.  To combat this trend on July 1st of 2012 the World Boxing Council implemented a same day weigh-in at 9:30 am the day of the fight for all future bouts.  The new rules would allow for a maximum of 10% over weight and a penalty in the form of a fine for any fighter who is over 10% their weight class.

With a 10% weight allowance that would mean a Welterweight fighter could have a same day fighting weight of up to 187 lbs.  That is 16 lbs more than the current 171 lb limit for MMA non-title fights and 17 lbs more than an MMA title fight.

The MMA Unified Rules governing weight classes appear more strict at first.  But given that a fighter could now rehydrate much more than 10% using the assistance of an IV fluid, the actual margin for error is much higher.  Thus the safety and fairness of a fight can be jeapordized and in MMA the stakes for an athlete are already higher.  Why not adopt similar rules to those the WBC now adheres to?

Such a change for MMA could result in more fair competition and more safety for the fighters.  However we want to hear from the fans.  What do you think of a proposed change to the weigh-in process and regulations?

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Luca Rajabi
Luca has been passionate about martial arts and eastern philosophies since childhood. As an athlete, inventor and entrepreneur Luca founded SciFighting on the principal lessons learned from his life experience "fighting" to preserve his health and fitness. Although born with inherently poor and inconsistent health he pushed forward to learn as much as he could about the sciences of technology, medicine and mental health. Years of study, working with physicians and combined analysis finally began to bare fruit by his early twenties. Starting with Fencing, cross training and body building then moving to Boxing, Western Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Eskrima and an eclectic assortment of self defense techniques. Luca's core philosophy is that to win a battle every fighter must balance their mental and physical health. Luca has said that "With well developed technique, conditioning and mental focus a sound strategy will most often win over brute strength alone." It is in this spirit that he passionately advocates for the "Science of Fighting".