It looks like, at least as far as the UFC is concerned, the experiment of early weigh-ins has been a failure. A recent report from MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn examined the fallout from the UFC’s push to move their pre-event weigh-ins from mid-day (often accompanied by an extra hour or more to re-weigh if a fighter missed initially) to a two hour window from 9-11 am. Fighters had to be on the scale somewhere in that time frame, and that was it - no extras for a missed attempt.
Opinion from fighters on the move was split. Some seem to have loved the early start, especially the extra time it gave them to re-hydrate pre-fight. Others, like UFC champion Daniel Cormier and welterweight great Georges St-Pierre, spoke out against the move, and the difficulty of re-calibrating their weight cut schedule. As far as business goes, however, the message couldn’t have been clearer. In the two years since implementation, the number of fighters missing weight has nearly doubled.
According to the Junkie report linked above, between June, 2014 and May, 2016, 32 fighters failed to make weight for their planned bouts in the Octagon. Of those 32, five weight misses resulted in fight cancellations. In the two years since (June, 2016 to May, 2018) 62 fighters have missed weight, resulting in 15 fight cancellations. So, while weight cut misses have doubled, cancelled fights have actually tripled.
Those are likely the kind of numbers that Dana White had been looking at, when he recently appeared on the UFC Unfiltered podcast and announced that the UFC was getting rid of their early weigh-in system (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“Yes, I do think it’s that,” White said, when asked if the early weigh-ins were behind the increase in fighters missing weight, “and guess what? We’re getting rid of it. We’re looking at taking the weigh-ins back to the way they used to be. So when the guys weigh in there, at the (ceremonial weigh-ins), that will be it. That’ll be the real weigh-in.”
Unfortunately, it sounds like the UFC won’t just be able to make the switch right away, as they’ll have to work with each athletic commission separately. That could mean another rat’s nest of regulatory differentiation, as has been seen with the handling of new rules on knees to a grounded opponent.
But, how did it all go wrong? White seems to put most of the blame on fighters looking to take advantage of an increase in recovery time, which he believes led to them increasing their pre-cut fight weight. That, and the fact that fighters apparently just aren’t morning people.
“Here’s what I believe,” White said. “Any time you change something, everybody looks to take as much advantage as they can of the situation. I think that when we started doing morning weigh-ins, it was very good. Everybody was making weight, everything was great.
“But then people started cutting it closer and closer and closer, thinking they can put on more weight because they have more time to recover, and the reality is, it f**ked everything up. So we’re looking at going back to — at 4 p.m. PT — when we do the weigh-ins, those will be the real weigh-ins.
“The other thing is, I don’t know any fighters that are morning people. Most of them stay up half the night and sleep half the day, so that might have something to do with the morning weigh-ins too.”
It’s unclear just how quickly the shift back to the old system will occur, or whether some third option will end up taking the place of both. In the meantime, fighters will likely be well served by paying that much more attention to planning their weight cut for any UFC event in the foreseeable future.