Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: May 15 Edition

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MMA Huh Julianna Pena
Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

The UFC could be featuring more weight classes sooner than we think, while USADA’s policies in the promotion continue to be a mess, and fighters begin to flock to the yet-to-exist women’s flyweight division. Huh?

Finding the proper response to much of the news finding its way into our social media feeds is becoming a tougher task every day. Nothing is surprising, and there’s always more to the story. Leaving us with one reply: “huh?”.

Last week, on top of numerous fight announcements and adjustments, there were a few moments that had us wanting more details and information before responding with anything more than “huh”. Whether it’s Jessica Penne’s odd USADA violation, the UFC approving of some California State Athletic Commission’s (CSAC) proposals, or Julianna Peña wanting to join the upcoming fun at flyweight, the MMA world kept us guessing.

The reason “huh?”, in its various forms, is such a quality reply is simple. The word is as versatile as a response gets, and while it may require some explanation, “huh?” is sometimes the only way to react to the news of today. Defined by Merriam-Webster as an interjection that’s “used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply”, “huh” or “huh?” can mean a lot of different things.

Despite some of the follies of human evolution (see: Country Rap), the development and growth of “huh” is something we should embrace. To be the change we want to see in the world, here are a few MMA stories last week that made us go “huh?”.

The UFC (and more) Could Feature Additional Weight Classes Soon

The biggest promotion in MMA was joined by Bellator and Invicta FC in submitting letters of support to CSAC last week, approving of a 10-point plan proposed by the commission earlier this year. The plan is hoping to reduce the dangers of weight-cutting in mixed martial arts, and has a variety of ways they hope to achieve that.

The proposal will be voted on Tuesday, May 16 in Anaheim. With wide support from the UFC and more, CSAC could once again be leading the way in creating major change in MMA. Last year, their early weigh-in measures debuted at UFC 199 and were then adopted completely by the promotion in short order. The effectiveness of the early weigh-ins is still being debated, and the changes in CSAC’s most recent proposal will provide even more for fans, fighters, and pundits to argue about.

The most notable change on the proposal to be supported by the UFC and Bellator is the introduction of more weight classes. Huh.

“UFC also supports the offering of additional weight classes as outlined in CSAC’s ’10-Point Plan,’” UFC Vice President of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky wrote. “…By adding these additional divisions, UFC believes it is providing more weight-specific options for UFC athletes to promote safer weight management goals.

Should the plan pass on Tuesday, UFC 214 in Anaheim would be the first event affected by the changes. Which changes are implemented that quickly remains to be seen. Bellator vice-president of business and legal affairs Tracey Lesetar-Smith requested a “slow roll out” of additional weight classes, citing legal and contractual issues as well as divisional depth for non-UFC promotions like Bellator.

The host of other changes, along with the addition of weight classes as 165, 175, 195, and 225 pounds, gives the UFC more to worry about (and mess up), just when it seemed like things were getting back on track. But, it’s premature to deem the changes a success or a failure just yet, despite the urge wager on which major card will be negatively impacted by the changes first.

Luckily, it’s CSAC, and not some other commissions the UFC has been utilizing lately *cough* New York *cough*. Here’s hoping it goes well, and things are implemented on a larger scale better than the “unified” rules, IV ban, and early weigh-ins.

Jessica Penne Gets Flagged for a Once-Clean, Now-Dirty, Test

Last week Jessica Penne was flagged by USADA for a test which was already declared clean. Huh?

The sample was collected on March 20, and she fought on April 22 in Nashville, where she lost to Danielle Taylor via unanimous decision. As the test was initially negative, there was no issue. However, after reviewing Penne’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), the sample was then flagged.

Thankfully, the MMA world has the likes of Bloody Elbow’s Iain Kidd to explain to the rest of us what the hell that means.

“USADA tracks a variety of biomarkers when they collect samples from athletes… This allows USADA to build a profile of an athlete’s “normal” levels of specific blood values and hormonal values… The ABP program allows USADA to notice values that are significantly different to an athlete’s normal values, and inform more specific testing of the relevant samples.” – via Iain Kidd of Bloody Elbow

Penne is the first athlete in the UFC that we’ve been made aware of to be flagged by USADA via her ABP, making how the promotion handles it all the more interesting. They’re working with the Tennessee Athletic Commission, and while we shouldn’t expect a resolution soon, it’ll give us some insight into how USADA and the UFC plan on utilizing the ABP program.

Julianna Peña Begins UFC Exodus into Flyweight Division

Hanging out on the set of TUF Talk after last week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC bantamweight and the winner of season 18 of the promotion’s reality television show Julianna Peña signaled her intent to join the upcoming women’s flyweight season of the show. Huh.

“I was asking [UFC President] Dana [White] if I could get back in the house and have a crack at that belt finally,” Peña said. “I fought at 125 a couple of times in my career, so it’s not hard for me to make the weight. I walk around at 135, a couple pounds heavier, so making 125 is not a problem for me.”

Announced, then un-announced, then re-announced, the creation of the women’s 125-pound division has already had a weird start. The actual start will come on season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, which is slated to start filming in July, and will crown an inaugural flyweight champion at the end of the season.

Any start is better than nothing, as hopes for a women’s flyweight division in the UFC are high. Much higher than that of its 145-pound counterpart, which was also (kinda?) created earlier this year. That’s in large part due to the talent currently available in the UFC and beyond in 115 and 135-pound weight classes.

Fighters like strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and bantamweight contender Valentina Shevchenko are major names likely to make the move. But, it’s fighters like Peña who will put the flyweight division over-the-top. More options for fighters is always a good thing, and the 20-pound gap between women’s weight classes in the sport’s biggest promotion isn’t helping anything.

Whether it’s larger fighters hurting themselves by cutting to 115, or smaller fighters competing in a too big of a weight class at 135, the 125-pound division will have plenty of happy newcomers. The interest from the likes of Peña, and more, is a good sign, and something the promotion will need in order to push four women’s weight classes for the foreseeable future.

Julianna Peña already has plans to take advantage of the creation of a new division in the UFC, and other fighters throughout the promotion could be joining her shortly thanks to CSAC. While Jessica Penne may not be able to take advantage of that change, or any of the others proposed by CSAC, for some time due to changes in her ABP. Last week was full of “huh?” moments in MMA, and with all of these changes on the way, we can safely expect more.

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