Daniel Cormier’s most difficult defense of his UFC light heavyweight title may have just come on the scales ahead of Saturday’s UFC 210 main event.
With just a handful of minutes remaining before the 11 a.m. ET deadline on Friday, and both Cormier and Anthony Johnson (22-5) still not weighed in, an unexpected series of dramatic moments played out in Buffalo, New York.
Cormier (18-1) took to the scales first and stripped naked before weighing in at 206.2 pounds, more than a pound above the light heavyweight limit. For a title fight to be official, both fighters must be at or less than exactly 205 pounds. But faced with the possibility of losing his title at the weigh-in, Cormier retreated backstage before re-emerging two minutes later.
This time wearing just a towel, Cormier, 38, looked weary from the weight cut as he just barely snuck in below the limit at 205 pounds to preserve the main event. With the final seconds counting down, Johnson quickly followed, weighing in without issue at 203.8 pounds.
The scenario could’ve been a disastrous one for the UFC considering the pay-per-view card openly lacks depth to begin with. So what changed, allowing Cormier to shed 1.2 pounds in just two hectic minutes?
During the second weigh-in attempt, Cormier held the towel, covering himself with two hands. By pulling up on the towel, he likely shifted his body weight just enough to affect the scale, in a move often used in the past by amateur wrestlers and combat sports athletes.
Whether the second weigh-in attempt should have even been legal became an immediate topic of debate. New York State Athletic Commission officials met with the media, however, explaining a policy that states fighters are allowed two extra hours to make weight for championship fights only.
New York State Athletic Commission executive director Tony Giardina said that despite UFC’s rule of only two hours to make weight, the commission would have extended Cormier the extra two hours because it was a championship fight. He also said that the NYSAC’s policy determined that Cormier was allowed to weigh in again, overriding the UFC.
Giardina’s interview with the media became a bit comical when he attempted to defend questions about Cormier holding the towel during the second weigh-in attempt.
“He wasn’t holding the towel the second time,” Giardina said.
Immediately told by media members that Cormier had, indeed, held the towel and that there was video to prove it, Giardina stammered.
“He was holding the towel the second time?” he said. “I didn’t ... I didn’t see it. Either way, he weighed in.”
After the ceremonial weigh-in on Friday afternoon, Cormier spoke with media members and responded to accusations regarding the towel by saying, “That’s your belief, not mine.” He then attempted to downplay the notion that holding the towel with two hands could have impacted his weight in any way.
“What does doing that do? I don’t understand,” Cormier said. “It’s not something I’ve done before so I don’t know. No, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t show my junk.”
Saturday’s championship bout is a rematch of their May 2015 vacant title bout which Cormier, surviving an early knockdown from a Johnson right hand, went on to win by third-round submission.