The pressure to win under the Ultimate Fighting Championship's scorching bright lights has hit an unprecedented high.
With the WEC merger still fresh in our minds, and the recent acquisition of Strikeforce picked right off the vine, the entire Zuffa talent pool is officially on notice.
Two consecutive losses, or just one lackluster performance, and a fighter could be looking for work outside the eight-walled confines of the UFC's trademarked Octagon.
With careers and livelihoods on the line, fighters may look for every advantage to gain over their opponents now more than ever before no matter how insignificant ... or even illegal.
Fighters -- like all other high performance athletes -- have gone to extremes to secure the prestigious "W." From blood doping, to steroid use to scar tissue removal surgery -- the list is long, sordid and sometimes not distinguished.
And while these practices range in severity and fairness, there is a much larger, more widespread issue that needs a second look.
Popularized by collegiate wrestling programs, mixed martial arts has picked up on a trend to maximize the human body's output, mixing creatine and protein powders (and other dietary supplements) into every day beverages to promote muscle tissue growth and recovery.
The idea: Gain as much muscle mass as possible, cut water weight, only to rehydrate merely hours later to a comfortable "fight weight." It's common for fighters -- Anthony Johnson, Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch, just to name a handful of welterweights -- to show up on fight night 15 to 20 pounds heavier than the division weight limit.
Put simply, these oversized combatants are competing in an entirely different division. Not even wrestlers, who typically compete on the same day as weigh ins, are afforded this advantage.
Of course, the weight-cutting strategy doesn't always work (See Alves and Johnson mentioned above). And promotions have implemented rules and penalties that are designed to keep the scales balanced and the playing fields level.
Coming in heavy results in an automatic forfeit of a percentage of a fighter's purse to his or her opponent. Or, if your name is Travis Lutter or Paul Daley, then your purse gets docked and you miss out on a title shot.
However, it's just not enough of a deterrent.
Having weight classes is a very important aspect of mixed martial arts. It's the main reason state and provincial athletic commissions agree to sanction the sport.
This is not 1993. And Royce Gracie is gone -- the vast skill difference today, not the man.
So why, then, is the worldwide leader of the sport even entertaining the idea of letting two of its most respected and dominant champions -- both of who have competed at weight classes that differ by as much as 35 pounds -- go toe-to-toe in a so-called "super fight."
In fact, one has to wonder if welterweight Georges St. Pierre should even be allowed to step inside a cage with middleweight deity Anderson Silva. Sure, St. Pierre is ridiculously talented and would probably have a good chance of winning any fight, sanctioned or not.
But he's remarkably undersized when compared to his Brazilian counterpart. And even if he's able to bulk up, "Rush" still seems like he's not really sure of it's the right thing to do:
"I don't know (about fighting Anderson Silva). I need to sit down with my entourage and see first where this fight will take place and what weight, and a bunch of stuff. Right now I'm focusing just on Jake Shields, I don't see further than Jake Shields. It would take a long time (to add the size). Anderson Silva is a huge guy; he's weighing around 230 pounds. He's very big. Even when he fights as a light heavyweight, he looks bigger than the other guys. I don't know if I'm going to go up (to) 185. I have no idea; it's a complete reorientation of my career. I have a lot to lose and I haven't thought about it, I haven't sat down to talk about it."
St. Pierre is saying all the right things because his boss, UFC President Dana White, has gone on record saying he wants to see this fight. It's apparently a fight that the fans want to see.
Not this one.
But if it does ever see the light of day, then it should take place in Boston, Mass., or North Carolina, two states that enforce a double weigh in rule. In those places, fighters must make weight a day before the fight and can weigh no more than 1.0625 times their previously recorded weight on fight day (on average 10 pounds or less more).
That's a rule that the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts should adopt. It's only fair.