There is no shortage of strangeness in MMA most of the time. So in a way, you could say the UFC 210 early weigh-ins encapsulated the still-young sport that combines face-punching and ground-fighting.
On a day when a fighter was jettisoned for having breast implants then reinstated because having breast implants is apparently less concerning than initially thought, and with embattled all-time great Jon Jones holding his first public court in nearly a year, the strangest happening involved a naked guy on a scale holding a towel.
It was so very MMA.
Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, placeholder at the top of Jones’ division until Jones returns from suspension and inevitably gets his title back, is slated to face off with Anthony Johnson on Saturday night at UFC 210. Cormier, a former heavyweight, missed the 205-pound limit to defend his title during the early weigh-in on Friday morning, stunning the sport and leaving more questions than answers.
The headlines about cursed cards and non-title fights were already gestating in the minds of writers when, even more stunningly than when he initially missed, Cormier returned to the scale a second time and hit the mark from behind a towel.
Fight on. Event saved. Sighs of relief.
The whole thing took a little over two minutes.
Yet there’s a bigger question here: Did Cormier cheat to make the weight?
When he made his second attempt—an attempt borne out of a regulatory gray area and entirely without precedent since athletic commissions began enforcing an early weigh-in last summer—Cormier lightly gripped the towel being held up in the name of modesty and, magically, he was 1.2 pounds lighter than he was two minutes prior.
For his part, Cormier suggested he was gripping the towel to ensure no one saw his “junk,” but some have seen the trick before in amateur wrestling circles. Given Cormier was one of the best wrestlers in the world in his day and captained the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, it’s not crazy to think he may have seen the trick once or twice in his own right.
Whether or not there was some trickery afoot in Cormier’s sudden weight loss is perhaps not that concerning. It's a victimless crime that benefits all parties. Johnson doesn’t care because he needs Cormier to make weight so their bout is for the title, Cormier needs to make 205 so he can defend, and the fans and UFC are all happier about a title fight than a non-title fight.
What it does illuminate, though, is a degree of concern surrounding the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) and its capacity to regulate MMA to an adequate standard.
The struggle to establish the sport in the state has been well-documented, and this is only the third major event to take place in New York since MMA was legalized.
Between the relative circus seen at UFC 205 in trying to get fighters cleared for licensure, the aforementioned conundrum surrounding an athlete’s breast implants and this mess surrounding Cormier’s multiple weigh-in attempts and questionable towel usage, it’s apparent the NYSAC is as much a kangaroo court as it is a governing body at this point.
It’s unfortunate, given the work that’s been done to get into the state, the number of fans who have been waiting to be serviced by the sport for years and the sheer amount of revenue on the table given the population base and general reverie surrounding the region.
Yet the evidence shows major issues with regulating the sport at this point, and having a major name pull a dubious move at a marquee event is as much proof of that as anything else.
So did Daniel Cormier cheat to make weight for UFC 210? Maybe.
Can you blame him? As the saying goes, If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'.
Nobody is truly harmed by it, and he’s only taking the quarter being given to him. The real culprit here is the NYSAC and its regulatory regime, and that’s something that must improve drastically if the state is going to live up to the wait endured to bring MMA there.