ONE Championship recently became the first MMA promotion to ban weight cutting by dehydration. CEO Victor Cui appeared on Fox Sports Asia to talk about the changes and how the fighters on the roster would be affected.
The reception to the ONE Championship announcement that fighters would be forced to fight at their normal weight was overwhelmingly positive. It did raise a number of questions, though; with many people speculating that the existing champions would be stripped of their titles.
In an interview that aired on Fox Sports Asia this week, Cui outlined exactly what the new rules and regulations would mean for his fighters.
“It’s really quite simple, all our athletes will move up a weight class together and in unison.”
The ONE Championship head honcho also made it clear that the existing titleholders would not be stripped of their belts.
“All champions will retain their titles.”
Cui confirmed that this means reigning bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes will become the 145-pound champion. Therefore, Dedamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke will be titleholder at 125 pounds, Kairat Akhmetov at 135 pounds, Marat Gafurov at 155 pounds, Shinya Aoki at 170 pounds, Ben Askren at 185 pounds, and Vitaly Bigdash at 205 pounds.
One issue not addressed during the broadcast is what will happen to the 205-pound division, which currently doesn’t have a champion. Fighters like Jake Butler, Roger Gracie and Cristiano Kaminishi, who normally fight at 205 pounds, could find themselves competing as heavyweights unless ONE Championship takes the unprecedented step of adding a new weight class between 205 and 265 pounds.
Cui believes the fighters will be the main beneficiaries of a system, which encourages them to remain at a consistent weight instead of temporarily dehydrating themselves immediately prior to a match, which is believed to make them more susceptible to concussion.
“First and foremost, it allows athletes to compete at the weight that they walk around every single day and that makes it a level and safe playing field for all athletes. What we’re implementing has been in place for several years already in collegiate wrestling in the United States and been a topic of discussion with multiple industry experts all around the world.”
He confirmed that the changes had come about after extensive discussions between ONE Championship’s executives and industry experts.
“We are very fortunate on the ONE Championship team that we’ve got some of the most respected and experienced people in the industry. Matt Hume, who has been in the industry for over 25 years, is our VP of competition, our VP Rich Franklin is a former world champion himself, and we have consulted with doctors in the West and in the East to put forward what we think is really a game changing plan to make this a safer sport for all athletes.”
The changes were made in response to the tragic death of Jang Yian Bing, who suffered a heart attack while trying to cut weight for a recent ONE Championship event. Cui is hoping that other organizations will eventually adopt a similar system.
“Well, I would love to see the other top two world leading MMA organizations (UFC and Bellator) join us in this. I think we are on the right track in growing the sport and the key is in everything that we do to continually look to strive and improve and to put the health and safety of the athletes front and center, where it should be.”
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