In the aftermath of Uriah Hall’s hospitalisation on Saturday, there were renewed and vociferous calls from the MMA public for the UFC to do more to address the problem of extreme weight-cutting.
Hall reportedly fainted and had a seizure on his way to the weigh-in for Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 124 event in St. Louis, at which he was scheduled to face Vitor Belfort in a middleweight contest. UFC flyweight Paige VanZant was one of the first people to break the news, calling it “the scariest thing I have ever seen” and urging fans to pray for Hall. Thankfully, it later emerged that Hall was in a stable condition and there have been no subsequent reports to suggest that he has suffered any serious, long-term negative effects.
Still, if the furore dissipates as a result of Hall’s recovery, that means things are unlikely to change until someone does suffer serious, long-term effects or even dies like has happened in other promotions.
Speaking from the centre of a media scrum after UFC Fight Night 124, however, UFC president Dana White didn’t address the calls for a change in policy on weight-cutting. Instead, he laid all the blame for the incident with Hall, saying that the fighter needs to be more focused and take the advice available to him.
“I have a very long relationship with Uriah, I like him very much personally, but the guys at the UFC [Performance Institute] say that he is the most… what’s the word… he doesn’t take it seriously,” White said. “He doesn’t take his training seriously, he doesn’t do what anybody tells him, he does his own thing. A week before the fight he went to LA and was hanging out in LA, in clubs and stuff. So, not good. So, I’m going to talk to him. He text me tonight. He is back in his room. You know, obviously, he’s not good. And if you don’t cut weight the right way and do what you are supposed to do, this is what happens(via MMAJunkie).
Asked if the UFC should rethink the early weigh-in policy they adopted 18 months ago, White was once again adamant that there isn’t a problem with the promotion’s policies.
“No, what I think they need to think about is, fight at 205[pounds],” said White, obviously still directly addressing Hall. “Fight at 205, or show up and do what you are supposed to do. There are ways to cut weight properly and safely, you need to start doing that. That’s why we are encouraging everybody to come to the UFC Performance Institute. All the people that go there and do what they’re told to do and do it the right way, cut weight safely. The guys who don’t listen, this is what happens. And, much like the Kelvin Gastelum’s and the Johnny Hendricks’ and a lot of other people out there, if you can’t make that weight, then fight in a higher weight division.”
The statistics do suggest, however, that the switch to the early weigh-ins has had a dramatic negative impact and that more fighters are missing weight as a result.
MMAJunkie journalist Mike Bohn tweeted the following damning stat shortly after the news of Hall’s problems emerged.
“In the 18 months leading up to the implementation of the early weigh-ins for MMA, a total of 17 fighter missed weight for UFC bouts. In the 18 months since: 51 fighters have missed weight or failed to weigh in for UFC bouts.”
In the 18 months leading up to the implementation of the early weigh-ins for MMA, a total of 17 fighter missed weight for UFC bouts.
In the 18 months since: 51 fighters have missed weight or failed to weigh in for UFC bouts.
— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) January 13, 2018
Chances are that Hall will be looking to stay at middleweight if it’s at all possible. He has only fought outside of the 185-pound division once in his entire career, as he made his pro debut as a light-heavyweight all the way back in 2005.
Vitor Belfort, who intended to retire after UFC Fight Night 124, did not compete at the event despite claims from White that the promotion had found him a short-notice replacement opponent. White also claimed that Belfort turned down a fight at UFC 220 in Boston next week.