Riggs’s Failed Weigh-In Makes UFC History

By Josh Gross Nov 19, 2005
LAS VEGAS, Nov. 19 — After the fanfare had died down inside the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino’s Studio 54, a room that less than two hours earlier spilled over with fight fans for Friday’s UFC 56 weigh-ins, Joe Riggs (Pictures) finally had enough.

At 5:36 p.m., with roughly a dozen or so people left to witness Riggs’s third attempt to make the welterweight limit of 170 pounds for Saturday’s UFC championship contest versus titleholder Matt Hughes (Pictures), the challenger said it simply: “I can’t keep cutting weight.”

And with that, tonight’s scheduled UFC welterweight championship contest was made historic, not for what could have happened in the cage but for Riggs’ failure to make weight — the first time for the UFC that a title fight had to be called off for such a reason.

Throughout his many years competing in wrestling and mixed martial arts, Hughes had never faced an opponent who failed to make weight. “I don’t know if it’s Joe or if it’s the guys Joe had with him, and I hate to sit here and talk bad about anyone, but like I said before it’s just unprofessional,” he said. “You gotta make weight and everyone knows it.”

In all, Riggs tried four times.

With Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Marc Ratner at the scale, the first attempt inside the packed Studio 54 had Riggs register at 171 pounds, one pound over the limit. According to NSAC procedure Riggs would have two hours to make weight and because this was a title fight, there would be no one-pound allowance, NSAC Chief Inspector Tony Lato told Sherdog.com.

An hour later Riggs made his second attempt. This time, with Lato running the scale, the challenger had managed to gain a pound. Lato, an inspector with the NSAC since 1988, said he’d “never seen anything like this.”

Riggs, now understandably annoyed, still had another hour to shed the two pounds. Under normal circumstances, like at UFC 38 in London, England when Hughes was told he had to drop further weight after stepping on the scale for his title defense against Carlos Newton (Pictures), two pounds in an hour wouldn’t be a problem.

“I went and jumped rope for half and hour and weighed-in,” recalled the welterweight champion, who by Riggs’ second attempt had joined his camp inside Studio 54. “No big deal.”

By 5:30 p.m., half an hour after his second attempt, Riggs, who by several accounts arrived in Las Vegas close to 190 pounds and left as much as 14 pounds to be cut on Thursday, hopped on the scale again. When Lato informed him that his weight remained the same at 172, Riggs and his corner protested.

The challenger, weakened from hours of cutting, unleashed a profanity-laced tired as he exited the stage. Moments later he’d all but conceded that making 170 was not going to happen. By this time, UFC officials made their way into the room.

Following Riggs’ third attempt, Lato, as a courtesy to Riggs and his camp, re-calibrated the scale. Though there have been some reports indicating a poorly calibrated scale was reason for Riggs being off weight, Lato responded that any such claims are false. Fifteen fighters on Saturday’s card were able to come in under their contracted weight on the same scale, he said.

Regardless, after the re-calibration, Riggs, who took the moment to cheat a drink of water, stepped on the scale at 172.5 pounds, at which point the bout was relegated to a non-title contest.

Negotiations ensued between the camps and the UFC on whether the contest would remain a five-round fight. While Hughes’s handlers asked that the bout remain a five-rounder, concerns over Riggs’s health prompted the NSAC to recommend it be lessened to a 15-minute fight.

“I’m not disappointed,” Hughes said. “It makes me a lot more relaxed to go in there. I don’t have pressure of possibly losing my title. I think it’s great news for me. I mean the only thing I don’t like about it is it’s a three-round fight and I’ve trained for five rounds.”

Hughes will also receive 5 percent of Riggs’s purse, while another 5 percent will be paid as a penalty to the NSAC. Though Lato couldn’t confirm for certain, he believes that in total Riggs’s penalty will be $2000.
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