by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Following a 12-hour ordeal that began with Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos tipping the scales at 152 pounds – a full seven pounds over her contracted fight weight – a fight pitting the Brazilian against former Smackgirl champion Hitomi Akano will take place Saturday night when Strikeforce debuts on Showtime.
When Santos stepped off the scale at about 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, she was given until 8 p.m. the same evening to cut down to 149.5 pounds. She never made it, reportedly weighing 150.5 pounds at about 6:30 p.m. Still, the California State Athletic Commission cleared Santos to fight.
But at that point, Akano’s camp didn’t want to take the fight, citing the weight differential as being to great. Akano weighed in at 143.5 pounds Friday afternoon – without cutting any weight at all.
Sherdog.com initially broke the story that the fight was off, based on direct comments from Akano’s manager Shu Hirata, who was emphatic that the fight was off. Both Hirata and trainer Josh Barnett commented on the cancellation of the fight.
That’s when things got interesting.
Despite their declaration, neither Strikeforce officials, nor Santos’ Chute Boxe camp would give up hope that the fight could be saved.
Following several back-and-forth exchanges of the fight being on, then off, then on again, then off again – and reports of Santos weighing in just past midnight at 158 pounds – Hirata, Barnett, and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker all finally echoed the same statement, “It’s on!”
At this point, the clock read 2 a.m. local time.
What saved the day… err, night?
“I think it was face to face conversation,” said Coker. “I think when the fighter and the promoter can see each other and know it’s real, there’s a human side to… there’s not just a business component, but a human component.
“I think if I would have left around 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock, this fight wouldn’t have happened.”
Neither Coker nor Hirata would reveal what the final negotiations were that lead to a resolution – without Santos having to drop any further weight – but Coker hinted at a portion of it.
“I don’t really want to say what the deal is… but their gym will have a much better relationship with Strikeforce than just one fighter,” he commented. He was referring to Abe Ani Combat Club, which is also home to several other top Japanese fighters including Takafumi Otsuka, Yasuko Tamada, and Megumi Fuji, who is in San Jose with Akano.
Hirata would not address financial details, but did say that Coker agreed that the background behind the struggles in getting this fight to the cage on Saturday night would be addressed on the Showtime telecast.
“I asked Mr. Coker to do so and he promised it to be addressed in the broadcast. I think it’s important to tell the story behind it,” stated Hirata.
“We thought about making her cut (weight) again to tomorrow, but that may be a problem because of safety issues. We don’t want that for the sport. From this instance, I hope everybody will understand making weight is very, very important. That’s one of the professional rules you’re going to have to follow if you want to be a professional fighter.”