The topic of weight cutting has been a hot issue in recent years. With the death of Nova União’s Leandro Souza in 2013 and Yang Jian Bing in ONE Championship just a few months ago, the issue only seems to be intensifying. Athletic commissions are trying to change the way they conduct weigh-ins and are having countless seminars to improve the act of weight cutting within the sport. Promotions are also looking into the matter and changing their procedures related to weigh-ins and how much weight a fighter can or should cut before stepping inside a cage to fight another professional fighter.
The promotion that seems to be leading the reform of the weight-cutting culture in combat sports is Asia’s largest MMA organization, ONE Championship. Following the passing of Jian Bing under the ONE Championship banner, the promotion quickly introduced its new weight-in program. The new program’s main purpose is to have fighters fight at their “walking weight,” which is determined by a system that tracks the fighter’s weight on a regular basis and determines which weight class the fighter can compete in.
Compared to the rest of the field, this new revolutionary program, as ONE Championship refers to it, will be a major change for most fighters who competed almost their entire career cutting a substantial amount of weight during fight week. One fighter that will definitely be affected by this new program is ONE Championship’s welterweight champion, Ben Askren.
Askren is widely considered to be a top-10 welterweight and has been for a long time. Since his days rag-dolling fighter after fighter inside the Bellator cage, many around the sport acknowledge he is easily one of the best fighters in the world at 170 pounds. All of Askren’s professional fights have come at the welterweight limit, but that will change when he defends his belt this April against Nikolay Aleksakhin.
For a wrestler like Askren, who relies so much on taking people down and controlling them during the course of a fight, this new program can’t come as good news. Unlike many other fighters, the former NCAA wrestling champ has the ability to completely stifle his opponents using his wrestling pedigree. He is not afraid to let everyone know that this is his game plan coming into a fight. This style of fighting just got harder for the Wisconsin native. He is now going to have to it against guys who are at least 15 pounds heavier than most of his previous opponents.
No one is denying the fact it will be a little more difficult for Askren as he ventures into this new 185-pound weight class, but will that change be enough to cause Askren’s career to really suffer? Sorry to the rest of the fighters who are currently slated to compete for ONE Championship’s middleweight division, but that’s simply not the case. Just like Askren is subject to the new weigh-in program, so will be the men he will face. This means they will essentially be very similar in weight. If that is the case, Askren, given his incredible track record, will be the same old Askren. He will just look a little heavier doing it.
ONE Championship is trying to reform the protection of its fighters and their health. Unfortunately for the middleweights, this plan means Askren now calls middleweight home. Though it might take a little bit of a learning curve as he gets used to dealing with heavier guys, we all know the inevitable is coming. A whole lot of middleweights are in for a “Funky” beatdown.