To Steven Peterson, being a professional fighter requires more than stepping into the cage and going to battle. Fighters must be disciplined, which means being available to fight when the call comes and making the required weight on the day before the bout.
So when the UFC decided to release John Lineker, Peterson wasn’t surprised or remorseful.
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“I think if you can’t make weight, then you’re not a professional,” Peterson said in his conversation with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock.
Lineker competed for the UFC on 16 occasions at both flyweight and bantamweight. In five of those bouts, Lineker failed to make weight.
Four of Lineker’s weight misses came in his time as a 125 pounder, and the first of which occurred in his UFC debut.
“[Making weight] is part of the game,” Peterson said. “If you’re too big for that weight class then move up a weight class.”
Following his final flyweight miss in 2015, Lineker followed that advice moved up to bantamweight where he continued to have success inside the cage. The scales remained an issue though.
Lineker successfully made weight and won three fights in a row in his 135-pound return. In his fourth appearance, Lineker missed the 136-pound non-title fight limit by half a pound.
On top of his weight troubles, Lineker had issues concerning his availability. He has pulled out of scheduled bouts on four separate occasions since signing with the UFC.
“Hands of Stone” has also publically expressed his anger toward the UFC in the past. In May, Lineker took to Twitter to vent about a lack of fight offers from the promotion’s matchmakers, even going as far as saying, “If you don’t like me or my style just let me go.”
My last opponent fought 4 times in a year. He already has another fight! Sean likes him! I have fought only 4 times since 2016! I need to fight! If you dont like me or my style just let me go!!! @MMAjunkie @seanshelby @danawhite @Alexdavismma @ufc @MMAFighting @sherdogdotcom
— John Lineker (@johnlineker) May 29, 2019
Peterson felt Lineker stepped out of line with these remarks.
“The fact that he was complaining about not getting a fight or being active and he’s dropped out of five fights, it’s contradictory,” Peterson said. “You can’t be badmouthing the UFC, especially if you’re one of the athletes. You don’t talk bad about your boss.”
Steven Peterson on Luis Pena
A likely reason why Peterson has strong feelings on Lineker’s release is his own experience against a heavy opponent. In his most recent UFC appearance, Peterson was expected to welcome Luis Pena to the featherweight division. Pena, however, wasn’t able to make his way down to the 146-pound limit.
“We were both in the same sauna cutting weight at the same time,” Peterson explained. “When I was on weight I was like, I made it, good to go. I left, and he left at the same exact time, which was like seven the morning and weigh-ins weren’t till 10.”
Peterson says that in the remaining three hours, Pena did not continue his weight cut. He then weighed in 2.5 pounds heavy.
Rules allow fighters to use a second attempt at the scales inside the weigh-in window, but Peterson says Pena opted to forego the remaining attempt. Instead, Pena “started drinking water immediately.”
“It was disrespectful, and it showed me that he didn’t really want to deplete himself to make weight,” Peterson said. “That’s part of the give and take. If you want to have the size advantage and be tall and long for the weight class, then you need to deplete yourself a little bit more and level the playing field just a little bit.”
Peterson ultimately agreed to fight Pena despite UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby reminding him that he did not have to.
After going all three rounds with Pena, Peterson wound up on the losing end of a unanimous decision. The outcome didn’t hurt him too much though. Peterson was awarded a new four-fight deal following the bout.
“I took the fight and I went out there and showed what I’m capable of. It didn’t go my way, but I took it to him and I showed that I belonged there, and Sean Shelby was just happy with me stepping up,” Peterson said.
Since then, the 6-foot-3 Pena has returned to lightweight. He defeated returning veteran Matt Wiman by third-round TKO at UFC Greenville in June.
“He’s looking good at lightweight,” Peterson said of his former opponent. “I think he needs to stay there.”
“Ocho” also hinted at possibly running their fight back somewhere down the line.
“Maybe eventually as I get older, in my mid-thirties, I’ll come up to lightweight,” Peterson said. “That’d be an amazing rematch to make.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.