Yoel Romero failed to make weight for UFC 225. He weighed in heavy. He was then given up to two hours to cut weight but regulators cut this window short. He weighed in a second time and was a fraction of a pound over his contracted weight for his UFC middleweight title bout.
Today Romero’s management team gave an interview stating their intention to take legal action against Illinois, the State overseeing and regulating the contest. They argue that in not giving Romero the benefit of the full two hours he could not make weight and this caused financial damage to him such as making him ineligible to receive a promoter bonus for the bout.
Does this potential lawsuit have any merit?
It is true that Illinois rules do give fighters up to 2 hours for a second weigh in attempt with section 1370.140(g) reading as follows:
“Contestants who fail to make the weight for their designated weight class shall be given up to 2 hours to make required weight.”
After his initial attempt Romero only had to cut one additional pound. Illinois Rules contemplate up to 3 pounds being cut during the two hour grace period with section 1370.140(h) stating “At the weigh-in, no contestant may lose more than 3 pounds in less than a 2 hour period. ”
However, the rules also contemplate no title bout contestant cutting more than 10 pounds in total with subsection (i) mandating as follows:
“For title bouts, contestants may weigh no more than 10 pounds heavier on the day of the bout or contest than their weight at the weigh-in.”
On the face of it a rule exists and Romero was not given the benefit of it. So a lawsuit should succeed right? Probably not. While the Rules are important they are eclipsed by the legislation giving the State’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation oversight over MMA. Specifically the below provision gives the Department the ability to halt to a contest when there are health or safety concerns.
Using this authority Illinois can over-ride the 2 hour second weigh-in window and stop an on-going weight cut if they are genuinely concerned with health and safety.
Two reporters present at UFC 225 weigh-ins made the following observations about Romero at this time –
“Romero just walked by us, being held up by two people, wincing in pain as they walked into the elevator. Very hard to see. He seemed to be in a lot of pain“.
“Yoel Romero just walked by us, assisted by two members of his team on each side. He was visibly and audibly in pain. Scary stuff.“
In these circumstances a court would be hard pressed to overturn the judgement of an athletic commission putting an end to an ongoing weight cut. If a court decides the commission used their discretion based on health and safety concerns (as opposed to other irrelevant factors) a legal challenge is bound to fail.