Tipping the Scales: Five Fighters Who Would Benefit From a Change in Weight Class Greg Byron February 21, 2014 Spotlight There is a particular focus on the weight of combat sports competitors the like of which is not seen in other sports. For instance, you don’t see a golfer’s profile listing his weight on screen (thankfully) nor do you see it listed when a soccer team’s lineup is given out. In some sports, such as football (the American variety), rugby or tennis, you might occasionally see the competitor’s weight listed, but this is more of a token gesture than any attempt at providing meaningful data to the casual fan. In stark contrast, combat sports rely upon weight classes as a means of separating competitors from each other with overall safety in mind, so that someone who weighs 300 pounds doesn’t fight someone who tips the scales at 155 pounds. However, it has become commonplace for the fighters to manipulate their weight drastically to ensure they hit their “target weight” for just a few hours, minutes or even seconds before reverting back to their normal, everyday weight as they search for the competitive advantage over their rivals. Time and time again, we have seen individuals lose in performance what they gained in size advantage. When one thinks of cutting excessive weight, they instantly think of Travis Lutter prior to his fight with Anderson Silva, or Anthony Johnson’s sometimes comical attempts at making weight, or the most celebrated man behind the weight cut, Mike Dolce. However, there are a few fighters who adopt a more cautious approach to cutting weight and choose to stick to a weight class that is a better natural fit for their frame. As a result, this provides them with the best chance to perform in the cage as they do in training every day. We have seen fighters such as Frankie Edgar embrace his role as the smaller guy in a weight division for a long time, accepting the pros with the cons. After all, why would you go through an eight-week training camp feeling great (relatively, anyhow), only then to dehydrate your body to lose in excess of 20 pounds just to fight? Common sense would dictate that your optimum performance would come under the same conditions you had trained in for the six to 10 weeks prior. All that being said, drastic weight-cutting is a strong feature in MMA these days and shows no signs of abating. Following a weekend of fights, one talking point that consistently comes up is which fighter(s) would be better served by competing in a different weight class. As such, here is a rundown of five fighters across all divisions who could stand to change divisions: Roy Nelson Quite simply, Roy Nelson cannot take a hint. On numerous occasions, UFC President Dana White has stated that he cannot take “Big Country” seriously with his current physique and recommended Nelson tidy up his diet so as to look the part of a professional fighter rather than a professional darts player. The heavyweight should need no other reason than wanting to keep the man who writes his checks happy, whilst also increasing his chances of getting an elusive title shot in the process. Even if Nelson were to go on a winning streak, he may well not get the coveted title shot that those same wins might guarantee for other fighters in the division, purely because of his image and Dana White’s perception of that image. That is just one of the benefits for Nelson to make an effort to look the part. His footwork and speed would no doubt be increased tenfold if he wasn’t carrying around the excess weight. Furthermore, this increased athletic output would provide him more opportunities to land that trademark overhand right which has served him so well in the past. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino For obvious reasons, female featherweight Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino needs to bite the bullet and get where the action is. Drug-use accusations aside, it is clear that the only current division of any monetary value is the UFC’s 135-pound weight class, where Ronda Rousey is the cash cow. It has been speculated that Cyborg cannot make the weight safely, but stranger things have happened, Kenny Florian managed to summon his ghost in order to make the 145-pound mark to fight Jose Aldo, so certainly Cyborg can concede 10 pounds if she felt so inclined. John Lineker John “Hands of Stone” Lineker has had well-documented weight issues in recent times, and whilst he has been close to a title shot in the 125-pound division, it is clear to see that as a long-term bet, his future shouldn’t lie in that weight class. Even if he were to make it to a title fight, he wouldn’t have the luxury of being able to weigh in at 126 pounds when fighting for the title. And even should he get past that obstacle on the first attempt, there is always the possibility of a relapse, and Lineker missing weight for one of his own title defenses would be embarrassing for the UFC and the sport. Lineker’s prospects would definitely be better served at 135 pounds, where he could feel more comfortable in himself during fight week. And who knows, his already impressive finishing power might be enhanced even further when it has not been weakened by such an energy-sapping experience. Jose Aldo It is becoming more and more apparent that, like Lineker, Jose Aldo is slowly losing grip on the division from a weight-management perspective. Following his recent win over Ricardo Lamas, the opportunity for Aldo to move up to lightweight to fight longtime rival Anthony Pettis has been touted. It would seem a wise move for Aldo and may just see a return in form to the Brazilian’s WEC days. The problem remains that Aldo is understandably reluctant to vacate the UFC title that he has worked so hard for and relinquish the commercial opportunities that come with having the gold on his shoulder. One hurdle has already been overcome on the way to making this happen—Dana White has given the fight with Pettis his blessing and is seemingly working hard to make it happen. Therefore, if the past is anything to go by, we can expect to see Aldo fighting at 155 pounds before the year is out. Jon Jones Despite being the champion at light heavyweight, Jon Jones’ frame is going to continue developing over the next few years and, at 26 years old, his “man strength” is only just being realized. His progression into the UFC heavyweight division has long been discussed, even by Jones himself, but with the state of the 205-pound division offering a few immediate challenges to Jones, it is likely he will stick around for a short while longer. If and when he has seen off contenders like Glover Teixeira, Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier, he might consider his mission accomplished and look for further challenges in the heavyweight division that has eternally been considered as the most lucrative weight class across all combat sports.