Over the last year or so, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has experienced a lightweight mutiny, as fighters like Kevin Lee, Dustin Poirier, and even Conor McGregor have called for a 165-pound weight class.
Lighter divisions, from flyweight to lightweight, are separated by 10 pounds. Heavier weight classes, from lightweight to light heavyweight, grow more distant with 15 pounds or more between them. Heavyweight has a whopping 60 pound differential (205-265).
Here’s what the current set up looks like:
Keep in mind, the promotion didn’t have anything below lightweight until it assimilated World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) more than a decade ago. Guys like Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, and Jose Aldo, among others, were proving to be marketable stars and well, as we saw with the purchases of PRIDE FC and Strikeforce, buying the competition is much easier than beating the competition.
The old system worked because UFC wasn’t hosting a fight card every weekend and didn’t have the roster to support additional weight classes. Sort of like what we’re going through with the women’s featherweight division, which is so shallow, the promotion won’t even include it in the weekly rankings.
But this is 2019 and UFC is using an assembly line model for live events. Take UFC Fight Night 152, for example, which takes place this Sat. night (May 18, 2019) on ESPN+ from inside Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York.
The headlining act is a welterweight showdown between an ex-lightweight champion who could no longer handle the weight cut, facing off against another former lightweight who was nearly boiled alive trying to hit the 155-pound limit.
And it should also be noted that both Rafael dos Anjos and Kevin Lee are coming off losses, which is a pretty good indication as to what passes for main events these days. Why? Because these divisions have failed to evolve with the sport.
I know UFC President Dana White has complained that creating more weight classes to accommodate the ever-growing roster will dilute the product, but maybe he should look at the UFC Rochester fight card, operating under the current system.
UFC Rochester Main Event:
170 lbs.: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Kevin Lee
UFC Rochester Main Card:
185 lbs.: Ian Heinisch vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
145 lbs.: Megan Anderson vs. Felicia Spencer
170 lbs.: Vicente Luque vs. Derrick Krantz
155 lbs.: Nik Lentz vs. Charles Oliveira
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard vs. Davi Ramos
UFC Rochester Preliminary Card:
135 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Aspen Ladd
155 lbs.: Desmond Green vs. Charles Jourdain
170 lbs.: Michel Pereira vs. Danny Roberts
145 lbs.: Grant Dawson vs. Mike Trizano
205 lbs.: Patrick Cummins vs. Ed Herman
185 lbs.: Zak Cummings vs. Trevin Giles
145 lbs.: Julio Arce vs. Julian Erosa
I don’t know if it’s denial or hyperbole, but folks, the product is already diluted.
In addition, guys (and gals) are killing themselves to make weight. I recognize that you’re not going to be able to please everyone, like Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who suffers a near-death experience at strawweight but refuses to hang around at flyweight.
For the rest of the roster, separating the weight classes by 10 pounds is both fair and balanced and at this point, I’d be willing to do it just to stop the complaining. If we don’t get rid of weight cutting, then we can at least make it less likely to kill someone.
Here’s what a revised system would look like:
Ten weight classes, ten titles, and less drama on the scale. But like unionizing MMA, you have to get enough fighters on board to make the change. Good luck selling that to athletes who are already sitting pretty at 170 pounds.