In the latest dramatic situation involving a UFC weigh-in, Saturday’s UFC 216 main-event fighter Kevin Lee needed all of an allotted hour of extra time Friday to make weight, stepping on the scale at 154.5 pounds.
Lee is to meet Tony Ferguson for the UFC’s interim lightweight belt on Saturday night.
Facing an initial 11 a.m. deadline, Lee stepped on the scale nude, covered by a white UFC towel, and peered desperately over it as Nevada Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett slid the metal balance toward 155.
Instead, Bennett announced, “One-fifty-six.”
An on-site doctor then examined Lee before clearing him to cut that last pound by 12:15 p.m. PDT, concluding a dramatic 19-pound drop from his Thursday afternoon weight of 174 pounds.
Lee described the weight cut a day earlier as “no big deal,” but he was clearly stressed as he stepped on the scale following the extra time.
The episode was especially troubling for Ferguson, the Orange County fighter and No. 2-rated lightweight seeking the UFC’s interim lightweight belt in Conor McGregor’s absence.
Ferguson met the 155-pound limit Friday.
But his prior weigh-in was a major disappointment as planned March opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0) of Russia fell ill during his weight cut, never made it to the scale and had to withdraw from the bout.
The UFC has been scarred by a slew of cancellations within the 24-hour period before fights. In July, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes fell ill, scrapping that main event, and then flyweight Ray Borg fell ill in his weight cut last month.
Earlier Friday, Borg made a point of showing his readiness for Saturday’s long shot attempt to stop UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s record run of title defenses by stepping on the scale first.
Borg (11-2) weighed in Friday morning at 124 pounds at a Mirage Resort and Casino meeting room.
Borg is to meet Johnson in what’s still assigned as the co-main event of the UFC 216 pay-per-view card at T-Mobile Arena.
Borg, the No. 3-rated lightweight, told reporters Thursday he has identified “a lot of flaws” in Johnson, a surprising claim given that the champion from near Seattle will seek to break Anderson Silva’s record of 10 consecutive successful title defenses Saturday.
“I went home, did what I needed to do to get healthy and took the last two weeks to become the best fighter I can be,” Borg said. “This stuff’s meant to be fun. Everything’s going smoothly.
“I’m here. I got the shot and I’m going to make the most of it and rewrite history. I have a baby on the way, a legacy to stamp.”
The UFC’s No. 1-rated pound-for-pound fighter, Johnson (26-2-1) weighed in at the flyweight limit, 125 pounds.
“My last sparring session was money. I’m looking to make a finish,” said Johnson
“I’ll step back, get to my new house, look at my new fireplace, have a delicious beer and say, ‘This is what it feels like.’ But the thing about this sport, it’s right on to the next one.”
Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told The Times on Friday that Nurmagomedov can be ready to fight the winner of Ferguson-Lee at UFC 219 in Las Vegas in late December.
One fighter, lightweight Nik Lentz, was pulled from the card due to “medical issues” during his cut, scrapping his FX-televised main preliminary fight against Will Brooks, who had made weight earlier.
12:25 p.m.: This article was updated with Lee making weight.
This article was originally published at 11:35 a.m.