Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion Robert Whittaker believes fighters will keep missing weight in the UFC because the punishment is not severe enough.
The 27 year-old Australian had first-hand experience with an opponent missing weight when he took on Yoel Romero at UFC 225 back in June. Romero narrowly missed weight but still fought Whittaker, losing by split decision.
It was the second consecutive fight where Romero failed to make weight, as earlier in the year he took on Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 in what was intended to be an interim title fight. Because he missed weight, Romero was ineligible for the title. Romero then knocked Rockhold out, putting UFC matchmakers in a difficult situation regarding whom to pair Whittaker against. Despite missing weight and not officially winning the interim belt, Romero he still secured a title fight with the champion months later.
The situation could be repeated again next month at UFC 228 when Tyron Woodley defends his welterweight belt against Darren Till. Till missed weight by three pounds for his last fight, against Stephen Thompson in May. If Till misses weight again for the title fight, the UFC will have the option of sending Till out to face Woodley anyway, or giving designated replacement fighter Kamaru Usman the call.
During a recent media lunch to promote the new season of The Ultimate Fighter where he is one of the coaches, Whittaker spoke of the weight cutting issues in the UFC said it isn’t fair on the fighters who are actually cutting weight in a professional way (via MMAFighting.com):
“It’s like me going down to bantamweight, not making weight, winning because I’m much bigger and then getting a title shot,” said Whittaker, who coaches opposite Kelvin Gastelum on TUF 28. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair. Because on the flip side, the guys that are making weight don’t make it easy. It wasn’t easy to cut weight and make weight and do the job. We still had to struggle, we still had to diet weeks out. We’re just more professional at it. We just did it right.”
Whittaker told the media the thought of not fighting Romero did cross his mind back in June but he was caught between a rock and hard place due to the fact he flew halfway across the world from Australia and didn’t want to let down his fans that came to see him. There is also the small issue that if he doesn’t fight then he doesn’t get paid.
“The people who do make weight are also in a hard position,” Whittaker said. “Because they’re in a position where they still need to make money to pay the bills, to earn a wage, to do their job. But they also have the support of hundreds of thousands of people who have come to see them fight or that are watching them on TV to watch a fight. The fans. That’s kind of why you fight — they drive the sport.
“When you ask a guy, ‘Are you gonna take a fight if your opponent doesn’t make weight?’ Is it really asking? Does he really have a choice? When you back them into a corner like that, is there really a choice to be made? You have to look at the whole process behind it.”
Whittaker believes says that fighters like Romero should never be getting title shots inside the UFC by missing weight and that the UFC should be cracking down on this trend.
“It’s a very funny topic, missing weight and getting title shots,” Whittaker said. “I think the punishments should be more severe, but I don’t know.”