What Is the Towel Trick in UFC? (Simply Explained)

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Are you wondering what the towel trick in the UFC is?

In this article, we’ll examine what the UFC towel trick is, why and how it’s done, some of the most notorious examples of fighters using the towel trick, and whether fighters can still use it today.

What Is the Towel Trick in UFC?

The towel trick in the UFC is when a fighter uses a towel as leverage to reduce and manipulate their weight on the scales in order to make weight for an upcoming fight. 

Towels are often used at UFC weigh-ins to cover a fighter’s nude body and are held by two UFC staff members or two people from the State Athletic Commission sanctioning the event.

Fighters can lightly grip or put their hands on the towel to lose one or two pounds, or push down to lose a lot more. Others have tried pinching and holding the towel further down. The tighter the towel is held by the person on either side of the scale, the more weight is taken away from the scale.

The towel trick in the UFC is used by fighters who are overweight by one or two pounds and who’ve usually missed weight the first time, and are going back for the second time. It’s also used by fighters anticipating that they’ll miss weight the first time around.

The UFC towel trick has worked in the past because it can go unnoticed. First, fighters don’t have to push down hard in order to transfer some of their weight away from the scales – just lightly resting their hands on the towel or gently gripping it is all it takes.

Secondly, it’s common to see fighters covered by towels as fighters strip naked in order to drop as much weight as possible. Some fighters have given the excuse that they’ve gripped the towel to prevent it from falling and exposing themselves.

Also, as towel covering is so common and the overwhelming majority of fighters don’t try and cheat the scales, commissioners aren’t actively looking for a fighter’s hand placement and are focused on reading their weight.

Lastly, the scales and the sign on top of the scales can obstruct the commissioner’s view from the top of the towel and a fighter’s hand placement.

The towel trick is often referred to as an old boxing and wrestling trick, but it’s now more commonly known as the DC towel trick after Daniel Cormier successfully used it to make weight in 2017.

Daniel Cormier (DC) Towel Trick (DC Towel Gate)

The most infamous case was the DC towel trick, where he used it to make weight before his UFC 210 fight against Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson.

In Cormier’s first weigh-in at 10.57 am, he approached the scales looking depleted from his weight cut. He then stripped his trousers and is covered by a UFC towel being held by two UFC staff, and weighs in at 206.2 lbs.

As the bout was a light heavyweight championship fight, both fighters had to weigh in at the maximum limit of 205 lbs. In nontitle fights, UFC fighters are allowed to weigh in 1 lb over the limit, so for light heavyweights, it’s usually 206 lbs.

If a fighter misses weight in the UFC, they’re given a maximum of 2 hours to cut more weight by sweating. This means Daniel Cormier could’ve gone to the sauna or have been towel wrapped to lose the extra 1.2 lbs, but two minutes later at 10.59 am, he approached the official weigh-in scales for the second time.

The same two UFC staff held the towel again, and this time they were holding the towel a lot wider and tighter. Cormier stepped on the scale and can be seen pressing down on the towel in a way that would take some weight from his arms.

Daniel Cormier also pushed down too much on the towel at first and can be seen releasing some of the weight. He did this because he didn’t want to lose much more than 1.2 lbs as this would be incredibly suspicious. This time he made the championship weight of 205 lbs.

By only losing 1.2 lbs, Daniel Cormier perfected the towel trick and raised no suspicions at the time.

What we do know is that Daniel Cormier cheated, and after denying it for many years (since 2017), 5 years later in his 2022 UFC Hall of Fame speech, DC made a full confession to using the towel trick before his UFC fight against Anthony Johnson.

DC also explained he got away with it because both commissioners from the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) were looking down at the scales.

This is an amateur mistake but can be explained by the state of New York recently legalizing MMA a year prior, and this being the first MMA event in Buffalo since its ban in 1995. Daniel Cormier knew this and took advantage of inexperienced commissioners.

Others have criticized the UFC and the NYSAC as being corrupt and allowing it to go ahead because they didn’t want a massive light heavyweight title fight to be canceled. Looking at the weigh-in, it certainly looks rehearsed with how quickly it takes place and how the two UFC staff are tightly holding the towel.

However, with DC coming out about the towel trick, it’s likely he’s telling the truth about the naivety of the commissioners, rather than there being corruption involved.

Also in the speech, DC apologized to Anthony Johnson, but he still owes him 30% of his win and show fight purse, which likely totaled over $100,000.

The extra 1.2 lbs that Cormier should’ve dropped in the sauna would’ve considerably affected his energy and ability in their fight – so the win should also be changed to a no-contest, just as Jon Jones’ win against DC was overturned due to another form of cheating – a positive steroid test.

The last one or two lbs are notoriously very difficult to lose after already having dropped 15 to 20 lbs, so it’s possible Daniel Cormier wouldn’t have made weight and he would’ve lost his title.

It’s not all bad news though. UFC fighters are now no longer allowed to have any contact with anything other than the scale – some commissions such as the NYSAC didn’t have this explicitly written in their weigh-in procedures.

After the DC incident, the NYSAC changed its weigh-in procedure, stating a fighter “shall not make physical contact with any person or object other than the scale.”

This is why you now see some fighters having their arms in the air when covered by a towel or screen (for women) so that they’re unable to use the towel trick in UFC weigh-ins.

Is Daniel Cormier the only fighter to have tried the towel trick in the UFC? 

Let’s take a look at some other examples.

Fighters Using the Towel Trick in the UFC

Outside of DC using the towel trick, here are some other examples.

Kelvin Gastelum Tries the DC Towel Trick Before UFC FN:122 (2017)

In November 2017, just 7 months after DC successfully used the towel trick, Kelvin Gastelum attempted to use it during his weigh-ins in Shanghai, China.

He didn’t rest his hands or arms on the towel or grab the towel slightly on the top. Instead, he pinched the middle right side of the towel in order to make it more discreet; and while he did get away with pinching and holding the towel, he came in overweight at 187 lbs.

However, he weighed in again, this time with his boxers off and without using the towel trick, and came in at 186 lbs.

Rodolfo Vieira Shows How the Towel Trick Is Done

Not an official UFC weigh-in, UFC fighter Rodolfo Vieira showed fans on Instagram how the towel trick works.

Rodolfo is seen weighing in at 220 lbs, without the use of a towel. Roan Carneiro and another guy out of the camera shot then tightly hold a towel and Rodolfo lightly grabs it. He then weighs in at 217.4 lbs – a loss of 2.6 lbs in seconds.

Khamzat Chimaev Uses the Towel Trick Before UFC 267 (2021)

Before his welterweight fight against Li Jingliang at UFC 267 on Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, Khamzat Chimaev attempted the DC towel trick several times.

In his first weigh-in, he weighed 171.5 lbs, which is 0.5 lbs over the maximum allowed weight of 171 lbs for a nontitle UFC welterweight bout. Chimaev was given an extra hour to cut half a pound and soon returned for his second and final weigh-in.

After stripping his clothes, Khamzat Chimaev is clearly seen resting his hands on the towel, attempting the DC towel trick. 

It’s also clear that the two guys (one on either side of Chimaev) are holding the towel up with both hands and allowing Chimaev to rest some of his weight on the towel – made more obvious by the dip in the middle of the towel.

The commissioner reading the weight asks Chimaev to get off the scale. He then gets on again and still using the towel trick he weighs in at 166 lbs. A female commissioner from behind calls him out for losing 5.5 lbs in only one hour, and Chimaev had to weigh in again.

Again Chimaev steps on, and this time the commissioner asks him to get off because there’s something wrong with the scales. What most likely happened here is the commissioner noticed Chimaev was applying weight on the towel but was too scared to call him out for it.

Finally, Chimaev steps on again but is asked to have his hands in the air. Now the fifth time overall, Chimaev made weight at 171 lbs without cheating.

So, did Chimaev really make weight? Or was the process corrupt?

Chimaev may have used the towel trick because he was worried he wouldn’t make weight despite the extra hour of cutting weight.

Others have claimed the commission in Abu Dhabi is corrupt, and that the two guys holding the towel must have been in on it.

However, yes, it’s obvious the two guys knew what Khamzat Chimaev was doing with the towel, but maybe they didn’t feel it was their place to call him out – it’s the commission’s responsibility after all.

Overall, the whole process was a mess and it caused many to question the commission’s credibility and whether Chimaev legitimately made weight.

The Bottom Line

So, ‘what is the towel trick in UFC?’

The towel trick in the UFC is where a fighter attempts to transfer some of their weight from the scale to a towel in order to make weight for an upcoming fight.

The towel trick has worked in the past because of inexperienced commissioners, the common use of towels at UFC weigh-ins, and potential corruption.

The towel trick was last attempted in the UFC by Khamzat Chimaev in 2021. 

It no longer works as commissioners ask fighters to hold their hands in the air if there’s any suspicion of foul play, and most commissions have updated their weigh-in procedures to make it against the rules to touch anything other than the scales when weighing in.

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