It happened again. Almost every UFC card this year has had something go wrong with it and UFC 228 wasn’t immune to the bug. Another fight has been cancelled at the last minute, this time the co-main event, which was scheduled to see UFC women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano defend her belt against Valentina Shevchenko. Instead of two title fights at UFC 228, now there will only be one, because Montano was rushed to the hospital this morning allegedly as a result of a bad weight cut and the fight was cancelled. The UFC could not find a replacement opponent for Shevchenko on short notice and now the UFC is down a co-main event for tomorrow’s night pay-per-view. No one’s happy about this.
It’s not the UFC’s fault that Montano had a bad weight cut and couldn’t make it to the fight. It’s also not the first time this has happened this year, as numerous fights have been cancelled due to bad weight cuts. At this point, it’s expected that someone is going to get sick from a bad weight cut. We all thought it would be Darren Till who would be that fighter, but Till weighted in at 169lbs for his main event fight against UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Instead, it was Montano who missed weight. Actually, she didn’t even make it to the scales. After the messes the UFC has already dealt with this year bad weight cuts affecting UFC 221 (Yoel Romero missed weight for a title fight), UFC 223 (Holloway wasn’t allowed to step on the scale), UFC 225 (Romero missed weight again for a title fight) and UFC 226 (Holloway was removed due to a weight-cut related injury), the promotion certainly didn’t need this to happen at UFC 228. But of course that’s exactly what happened when Montano was removed from the fight this morning.
It’s not the UFC’s fault, but at the same time the company totally dropped the ball on having a backup fighter in place just in case something like this happened. The UFC had Kamaru Usman weigh in just in case of an injury to Till or Woodley, but the UFC didn’t have anyone for Montano and Shevchenko. Earlier in the summer, the UFC brought in Alexander Volkov to back up Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier at UFC 226, and Thiago Santos to back up Israel Adesanya and Brad Tavares at the TUF 27 Finale. I really thought this was the start of a trend for having a backup fighter in place for big fights, but for whatever reason the UFC totally dropped the ball and didn’t have anyone for the women’s flyweight title bout that was supposed to go down tomorrow. I don’t know if it’s a case of the UFC now wanting to pay out extra show money or if the UFC just didn’t think this situation could happen, but either way a few hours after Montano went to the hospital Shevchenko was on Twitter asking other fighters for the fight. She wanted to fight, and now she won’t get the chance to.
The UFC could have easily asked top-five ranked Katlyn Chookagian to stay on weight and be prepared as a backup, but instead Chookagian is in Dallas this weekend as a fan. She had actually offered her services to Shevchenko on Twitter but at that point the weigh-ins were over and the UFC scrapped the fight. Instead of having Chookagian, or someone like Liz Carmouche or Jessica Eye staying ready, the UFC had no one backing up Montano and Shevchenko. That’s the UFC’s mistake. The company should have paid Chookagian to show up and make weight just in case something happened. It didn’t, and now the flyweight title fight is cancelled. Montano won the belt last December, and now it’s nine months later and the title hasn’t been defended one time despite Shevchenko being completely healthy for the last seven months, having last competed in February.
At this point I’m not sure what the UFC is going to do. The flyweight division was supposed to be exciting but it’s the most boring division in the sport right now because there have been no title fights in it in almost a year. That’s why I wouldn’t be shocked if the UFC stripped Montano of the belt and had Shevchenko fight someone like Chookagian for the vacant belt. The division can’t wait around any longer and it needs to move on. Unfortunately the UFC dropped the ball and didn’t have a backup fight in place, and now Shevchenko has to wait even longer to fight for the belt. It’s very unfortunate what happened to Montano before UFC 228. But ultimately it speaks to the bigger problem of weight cutting in the sport of MMA. The solution to that is much tougher to speak of, but the UFC could at least be preventative and make it company policy to have backups in place for all title fights and main events from now on.