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Ross Pearson and Chad Laprise Conspire to Fight at Their Natural Weights

Could a Twitter conspiracy between warring lightweights help speed the end of weight-cutting?
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Back in August the Arkansas State Legislature scored a victory for science and humanity by instituting a policy of day-of-fight weigh-ins at MMA events, a policy designed to make it impossible for fighters to pull off absurd weight cuts on a Friday and then balloon back up to something like healthy weights by Saturday. It was arguably the first major blow struck against the superstitious tyranny that is the modern-day MMA approach to cutting weight, a tyranny seemingly hell-bent on ignoring medicine, biology, and simple human decency in the name of—what, exactly?: tradition, machismo, fantasy?


Six months later, following the death of one of their fighters, Singapore-based MMA promotion ONE Championship announced a ban on weight-cutting by dehydration and the establishment of new restrictions aimed at forcing fighters to compete at their natural "walking-around" weights. Suddenly, after decades of delusion, it started to feel like a revolution of rationalism was creeping its way into MMA, our own Age of Reason.

Well, late last week there was a quiet contribution made to that revolution, not in the form of some new statewide legislation or promotional regulation but as a quick back-and-forth on Twitter between two mid-level UFC fighters. Not with a bang but with a whimper came this next chink in weight-cutting's armor.

After it was announced that UFC lightweight Ross Pearson's opponent at this weekend's UFC Fight Night event in Brisbane, Australia, Abel Trujillo, had been replaced by Canadian Chad Laprise, Pearson contacted Laprise on Twitter to make a request: What say you and I forget about weight-cutting, with all its depleting miseries and perilous superstitions, and just fight? Forget about 155 pounds; let's do 170 instead? Wouldn't that be nice?

Laprise, who apparently doesn't like cutting weight any more than Pearson does, and sensing a rare opportunity to ply his trade without denying his body, responded immediately: "Absolutely let's do it." To which Pearson wrote:

And just like that a quiet act of rebellion, a conspiracy of combatants, had been set in motion, much like the one rumored to have been arranged last week by political adversaries Marco Rubio and John Kasich to deny Donald Trump victory in tomorrow's all-important Republican primaries by agreeing not to challenge the other in their respective home states. Like Rubio and Kasich, Pearson and Laprise have joined together to fight a disease, a scourge on the public more interested in curating morbid spectacles and playing on people emotions, fears, and delusions about masculinity and toughness than celebrating facts and humanity.

As far as I know Pearson and Laprise's collaboration is a first in MMA. Two fighters agreeing to fight at a weight above the one they signed on for seems unprecedented and significant—a bold move in the direction of fighters claiming more authority over their careers. As it stands right now their fight is still slated to take place at 155 pounds, and there's been no word from the UFC about whether that might change or what kind of precedent such a move might set, but the stone has been thrown into the pond, and who can say what might ripple out as a consequence?

All we know for sure is that under the current unified rules of MMA, fighters who fail to make weight must pay their opponents some percentage of their show money as compensation, or penance. So does that mean that if the UFC declines to change the Pearson/Laprise to welterweight and the two fighters go ahead with their plan to fight at 170 they would be forced to trade the same percentage of their respective purses to the other: just hand each other checks across the scale? And if so, why not? It's no more ridiculous then two professional athletes who weigh 170 pounds pretending they're gaining an advantage over the other by simultaneously sucking 15 pounds of water weight and vital nutrients out of their systems 36 hours before a fight. Nothing could be more ridiculous than that.