Weight misses for three individual fighters prior to the Professional Fighters League’s event this Thursday led to the promotion taking action in an attempt to save the card. PFL made the decision to pit lightweights Natan Schulte and Jesse Ronson against one another on one day’s notice after both of their opponents missed weight, respectively, even despite pushback from Ronson.
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According to a report by ESPN, lightweight Carlao Silva weighed in three pounds over the non-title fight limit for his fight with PFL newcomer Ronson.
Ramsey Nijem weighed in twice, but was not cleared to compete because “he would not put his full feet on the scale either time,” New Jersey State Athletic Control Board counsel Nick Lembo explained to ESPN. Nijem was expected to face the 2018 lightweight champion, Brazil’s Schulte.
The third fighter to miss weight ahead of PFL 5, featherweight Gadzhi Rabadanov, did not weigh in, automatically disqualifying him from his bout with promotional debutant Daniel Pineda.
Pineda was given three points for making weight for the bout, making him potentially eligible for the playoffs. The UFC and Bellator veteran will have to wait and see how the card unfolds in order to find out what is next in store for him this season.
As for the lightweight fighters, the same opportunity was not offered. Ronson’s manager Daniel Rubenstein has claimed on Twitter that Ronson “wasn’t given the option to accept a walkover & 3 points. Nor was he given option to fight original opponent Silva to earn bonus points by finish.”
Rubenstein alleges Ronson had to choose between fighting Schulte or walking away without a fight at PFL 5, any points in the tournament (leaving him with zero), or any monetary compensation.
Ronson wasnt given the option to accept a walkover & 3 points. Nor was he given option to fight original opponent Silva to earn bonus points by finish. Asked if he could fight Schulte, but be given the 3 points – told no. His “options” were to accept Schulte or not fight/get paid https://t.co/x1nvMa2Fry
— Daniel Rubenstein (@dannyrube) July 24, 2019
Section 2.7(d) of PFL’s rulebook explains the protocol when two fighters of the same weight class are left without opponents.
“If two or more athletes in a weight division miss weight, or become unable to compete for any reason, the league reserves the right to alter matchups so that the minimum number of fights are lost. The fighters who did not make weight will receive 0 points and will not be paid for a fight. The fighters who made weight will not receive a walkover, but will earn points and contracted purse amounts based on their performance in the altered matchup.”
However, the rule is only meant to be trigged if Ronson’s original opponent (Silva) was ruled ineligible to compete by the athletic commission or the PFL itself.
According to Section 2.7(c), “If the commission and the league both decide that the fight may still occur, and the fighters also both agree to proceed with the bout, then the bout can take place as scheduled. In that situation, the fighter who missed weight will be ineligible to earn points or any benefit in the standings from the bout, and they will be forced to surrender 20% of their total fight purse to their opponent. The fighter who made weight will automatically earn their total contracted show and win purse, plus the extra 20% from their opponent’s fight purse. The fighter who made weight will also be guaranteed a minimum of 3 points, regardless of the outcome of the fight, but that fighter also has the potential to earn bonus points if they secure a stoppage.”
In a followup to his original statement on Twitter, Rubenstein said that he argued for Ronson to remain on the card and face the opponent he had originally expected to face prior to the weigh-ins despite the weight miss. He argued that if that were to occur, the event would only lose one fight (in addition to the aforementioned featherweight bout between Rabadanov and Pineda), the same amount that would be lost if Ronson was matched up with Schulte.
Per their rules, “the league reserves the right to alter matchups so that the minimum number of fights are lost.” My argument was Ronson/Silva goes on, you still only lose 1 fight. But you lose returning champ Schulte.. This decision keeps him on the card.
— Daniel Rubenstein (@dannyrube) July 24, 2019
Rubenstein appears to have implied that it is in the PFL’s best interest to keep its defending lightweight champion, Schulte, on the card, writing that his argument causes the PFL to “lose returning champ Schulte…”.
In response to the developments at the weigh-ins, PFL has released a statement to The Body Lock that the promotion itself dictated the ultimate decision to have Schulte stay on the card and fight Ronson, disqualifying both Silva and Nijem in the process.
“There were two fighters who made weight and the PFL decided, at their discretion and according to the published rules, to match those two fighters rather than have a fighter who did not make weight fight instead,” PFL Director of Communications Greg Savage told The Body Lock in an email.
Following a series of back-and-forth correspondence, PFL did not immediately respond for comment when asked if Rubenstein’s claim that Ronson would not have been compensated if he declined the short-notice bout and that Ronson’s options were to “to accept Schulte or not fight/get paid.”
The PFL’s second season has been plagued with issues on the scales. All five shows have had fighters miss weight, and the promotion has handled the misses on a case-by-case basis.
In the season’s first event, Zane Kamaka missed weight for his fight against his cousin Ray Cooper III. The fight went on as scheduled, and Kamaka had to forfeit 20% of his purse. Kamaka was then finished by rear-naked choke in the second round.
At PFL 2, featherweights Alexandre Bezerra missed weight for his fight with UFC veteran Jeremy Kennedy. Since Alexandre de Almeida also missed weight for his bout with Luis Rafael Laurentino, PFL exercised its power to match Kennedy and Laurentino up, exactly as the promotion did with Schulte and Ronson. Laurentino went on to win the fight by first-round TKO.
In the following event, light heavyweight Ronny Markes came in 5.8 pounds over the 206-pound limit. He was the only fighter to miss weight for PFL 3.
Markes stayed on the card, but he had to forfeit 20% of his purse. He went on to defeat his opponent, Sigi Pesaleli, by second-round TKO, but he earned zero points due to the weight miss. Pesaleli received three points for accepting the fight despite the outcome.
PFL 4 saw two fights get canceled due to weight misses. Roberta Samad missed the women’s lightweight limit for her fight against Sarah Kaufman, and Kamaka, scheduled to face Andre Fialho, missed the welterweight limit for the second time this season. Kamaka was subsequently disqualified from competing in PFL.
Kaufman and Fialho both received their show and win money as well as three points each for making weight.
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.