What if there were a way to give the UFC more of the two things fans covet above all else: titles and super fights? And what if I told you that on top of raising the entertainment factor, this alteration would also make the sport considerably safer for the athletes? What if you were able to stream UFC fights and watch your favorite fighters have longevity in the sport? What is it? Revamping the weight divisions, of course.
The current weight divisions are as follows: 125, 135, 145, 155, 170, 185, 205 and heavyweight. These weights put fighters in a position to choose between fighting bigger men or cutting extreme amounts of weight. The solution, while not simple, does seem obvious: Change the divisions.
Make the new divisions as follows: 125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, 185, 195, 205 and heavyweight. This wouldn't solve every problem, but it would be a hell of a start. By eliminating the 170-pound division altogether and adding in 165, 175 and 195, you make it easier and much less hazardous for fighters to cut down to their desired weight. It's no secret that fighters want to walk into the octagon at a much higher weight than what they weighed in at, but giving the fighters more classes to choose from may stop the need for them to seek such an advantage.
You’ll never stop fighters from cutting weight (you can read more on this here) and it’s naïve to think otherwise. The benefit to walking down the aisle a physically bigger man is too great. But the addition of the weight classes would give many fighters a chance to either extend or revitalize their careers fighting in a class that more suits their bodies.
Take Johny Hendricks, for example. Once upon a time, Hendricks was the 170-pound champion of the world. But since losing his title he has struggled, and some say it's because the cut to 170 is too harsh on his body. Hendricks even ended up in the hospital once due to a blockage in his intestine, and kidney stones developed from the rapid loss of weight. The cut nearly killed him.
Hendricks isn’t alone, though. There seems to be at least one fighter per card who misses weight, and nearly every fighter looks like a shell of him or herself at weigh-ins. None, however, seemingly look worse than the sport’s biggest star, Conor McGregor, than when he makes his title weight of 145.
If you didn’t know better, you would think 170-pound and 145-pound McGregor were different people or at least the before and after versions of a “this is your body on meth” commercial. Some have even questioned if the reason McGregor hasn’t defended his 145 title is because of the severe weight cut he has to endure.
The obvious argument against this change would be the possible dilution of the classes, especially if the 195-pound division was created. The current 205-pound division is already perceived as being thin, but with the current growth and popularity of the sport, there can be no reasonable argument that there will be a shortage of 195/205-pound competitors in the future.
It would take a lot of work on the UFC’s part to get this done; there is no denying that. But imagine, if you will, the upside of the changes. You would have two new champions to crown and the new possibility of super-fights throughout the company.
Let’s face it, the reason the Conor McGregor versus Eddie Alvarez fight drew so much buzz, besides McGregor’s obvious appeal, is because something that has never been done before (simultaneous champion at two weight classes) is a distinct possibility. These new weight classes bring the odds of this happening again up dramatically.
MMA is an inherently dangerous sport, which is a large part of the appeal to many. Two men facing off, going toe to toe to see who the best is on that particular night. It’s one of the true tests in all of sports, which is why we love it. But unfortunately the fight to make weight is starting to become as important as the contests themselves.
The UFC is like any other business in the world. If you don’t adapt, you die. No one is saying the UFC is dying — far from it — but becoming complacent and stuck in tradition is a good first step in that direction. With just small changes, the UFC can ensure that not only will its fighters thrive, but most importantly, the bottom line will as well.
A writer and politican of all things college football and college basketball from Boise State to UCA and beyond.