Heavy Duty

By Jake Rossen Jun 22, 2009
Deduct a few organs, some body fat and a knee pad or two, and there will probably be upwards of 400 pounds of solid muscle occupying the ring during the Fight Force International “Ultimate Chaos” pay-per-view event from Biloxi, Miss., on Saturday. Clearly, Bobby Lashley and Bob Sapp like to lift weights.

Those are numbers that fit in with the world of engorged performers in professional wrestling, strong man competitions or hot dog eating contests. Rarely outside of Japan do martial artists require a reinforced scale. Super heavyweights -- any athlete over 265 pounds -- are a legitimate party under the Unified Rules, but the UFC does not recognize them. And that means they barely exist.

In the days leading up to their bout, it’s predictable that both Sapp and Lashley will be the focus of derision. The fight really has no consequences beyond weekend bragging rights, and it’s doubtful Lashley’s pro wrestling fans will order the bout in any significant numbers. Brock Lesnar is a huge star in UFC, but his fighting debut in K-1 Dynamite! -- exclamation point theirs -- sank like a rock. One could make the case that any male combatant who can’t make the 265-pound weight limit is subject to more condescension than female fighters.

“No gas, no skills,” they say. In Sapp’s case, they’re usually proven right. Preoccupied with his massive celebrity in Japan, Sapp did not train consistently, and his mammoth 375-pound frame required so much oxygen that spectators would complain of feeling winded. If he can’t overwhelm opponents in the first 60 seconds, he’s likely to teeter. As the unofficial mascot of the division, he’s not exactly leading by example.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Sapp is likely to teeter.
The irony is that some of the sport’s most effective athletes fit in Sapp’s weight category, but sport logic dictates they skip a few meals and come in under the 265-pound limit in order to maximize their chances -- and profits. Lesnar is a silverback gorilla, often climbing into the cage at 280 pounds. Former UFC champion Tim Sylvia has seen the wrong side of 300 pounds. Mark Hunt is shaped like a bell but poses a threat to anyone standing. And Semmy Schilt is probably the biggest nightmare outside of Lesnar at that weight.

Is it time to consider paying attention to the class? With a little organization, why not?

The biggest problem to date with the division has been the diluted athleticism. Any big man who moves fast, has good reflexes and hits hard should be drawing a good salary in the NFL, but there are plenty of guys who wind up flirting with that option -- like Sapp or Lesnar -- but lack a required component. Now that mixed martial arts salary structure is improving, we’re already seeing football hopefuls adapt their physical skills for fighting. Next season’s “The Ultimate Fighter” is reputed to have four ex-league players on the roster. Wes Shivers was once 290 pounds; Marcus Jones has seen 260.

Clearly, a field is opening up. Paving road for super heavies would also alleviate a growing problem in the sport’s heavyweight division -- a serious weight disparity that becomes problematic when the big man has skills equal to the smaller man’s.

Lesnar is due credit for defeating Randy Couture, but he weighed nearly 280 pounds to Couture’s 220 on fight night. Couture is a strong, capable athlete, but depositing a 60-pound block on your opponent’s chest is not necessarily a triumph of the highest order.

The super heavyweight era already exists; it’s just being shoehorned into another division. With the advent of physical mismatches and a deepening talent pool, it may be time to consider lightening the load a little.

For comments, e-mail jrossen@sherdog.com
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