Is it time to do something about extreme weight cutting?
Backtracking to UFC 216 for a quick minute. The Oct. 7 pay-per-view event marked the second consecutive time that Tony Ferguson nearly saw his interim title hopes washed away due to a failed weight cut by his opponent. Khabib Nurmagomedov failed to make weight back in March, with Kevin Lee needing a second try to hit the 155-pound mark on Friday morning.
Lest we forget to mention the drama surrounding flyweight title challenger Ray Borg’s weight cut, which became as much of a story as the fight itself.
Cutting weight has been a part of mixed martial arts for much of its existence, making its unwanted presence once weight classes were introduced in the early goings of the sport. Fighters have, for the most part, attempted to gain as great a physical advantage on fight night by cutting as much weight as possible the day before, only to put most of it back on by the time they step into the cage.
Often accepted as the necessary fight before the fight, weight-cutting rarely makes headlines until we hit a bump in the road. Those bumps often prompt the public to request changes to the UFC’s policy for weight-cutting — and rightfully so. Clearly, though, the promotion won’t take any drastic measures until it starts affecting revenue.
So, what’s the deal with Cris Cyborg?
Just when you think things have finally turned a corner, past issues surface once more. After consistently butting heads with the UFC long before ever even signing on with the company, Cris Cyborg is once again at odds with the premier mixed martial arts organization.
Initially eager to defend her featherweight title against women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm this December, Cyborg has since claimed the UFC is looking to pay her less money than what she earned when winning the title earlier this year. That, for obvious reasons, hasn’t sat well the Cyborg. We obviously have no way of knowing the exact specifics surrounding the negotiations, unable to understand who’s in the wrong (if anybody at all).
Reported earlier this year by MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, Cyborg only has one fight left on her UFC contract following her win over Tonya Evinger. Helwani also stated in April that Justino’s deal would expire in October no matter how many fights were left on the deal. It’s unclear what the exact deadline is, or if the two parties have agreed to an extension of any sort, but if the date does, in fact, fall at some point this month, it would be of great importance for both parties to come to an agreement sooner rather than later.
Either that, or the UFC will have crowned two women’s featherweight champions in 2017 who never went on to defend the title.
If not Cyborg, who is going to headline UFC 219?
As noted, Cyborg was eager to land on the UFC’s year-ending card on Dec. 30, hoping to defend her championship at UFC 219 in Las Vegas. Her team still is, telling ESPN how hopeful they are to fight on the New Year’s event. The UFC has since brought some hope to the situation, with Dana White saying he’s also hoping to get a deal done to bring Justino and Holm to UFC 219.
He certainly has to be, anyway, considering his options are very, very slim.
There are a total of 11 undisputed champions on the UFC roster. Four of those champions are already scheduled to fight, with three title fights (Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre, Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw and Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas) taking place at UFC 217 in November, and one booked for UFC 218 (Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar) in early December. You can scratch Demetrious Johnson, considering he just fought in early October and doesn’t have a candidate in waiting. Tyron Woodley is probably not an option considering what injury he suffered in July. Amanda Nunes has already gone on record saying she wouldn’t be back until 2018.
That leaves us with four options: Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier, Conor McGregor and Cyborg.
Cormier would only be a handful of months removed from a devastating knockout in July, whereas McGregor would be better suited for a return in early 2018 than this December considering Tony Ferguson only just became the interim champion on Oct. 7 and should presumably be next in line for the Irishman’s title.
And while Miocic may be a prime candidate — assuming he and the promotion have alleviated contractual differences — there isn’t a single fighter in his division who would make sense as a title contender right now (apologies to Alexander Volkov).
By process of elimination, that leaves us with the Brazilian juggernaut herself.