Why the UFC Needs Weight Cutting Standards

Friday May 29th, 2015-– Combat sports participants know a size and weight advantage over their opponents provides an easier way to win. Cutting weight, as a major component of MMA fighting, has generated several shocking anecdotes.

As an adolescent I was fairly big and more importantly, very heavy for my age; this presented exciting benefits and challenging problems for my Little League Football coaches: I wasn’t an extremely talented football player, just big and really heavy for my age. This was good for blocking smaller, lighter kids and great for tackling them. Problem was, Little League had a qualifying weight limit before every game, which meant my coaches had me running in garbage bag suits, taking salt pills, visiting the sauna, all in order to underhydrate my body before the weigh-in.

Weight cutting is a necessary advantage and will always be a component of fighting in the UFC; but as we find out, the UFC will avoid a future scandal by establishing safer standards for cutting weight.

10. Johnny Hendricks said his body “shut down” at the UFC 181 weigh-in, resulting from a bad weight cut. “Shut down” provides image-based wording to describe a situation in which a person’s vital organs cease to function correctly.

9. Fighters manipulate water intake as a major means of cutting weight. As soon as a person’s body is even a little dehydrated, the body goes into water conservation mode, proving the crucial importance of hydration.

8. Even the most educated weight-cut methods require boxers, wrestlers, MMA fighters to restrict water to 1 liter the day prior to fighting, and a few sips (if needed) the day of a weigh-in. The Mayo Clinic recommendation for an average person to maintain their health is 3 liters per day. The average person isn’t preparing for 5 five-minute rounds of all-out fighting

7. No requirements for post weigh-in nutrition. Recovering from the weight cut ranks even higher in importance than cutting weight itself, as we’ll see in the next few points.

6. Chris Leben’s revealed his condition while on-deck (minutes away from combat) at UFC 125, just prior to his bout with Brian Stann: vomiting and uncontrollable diarrhea. He had restricted sugar intake two months prior to weigh-ins, and after making weight indulged in gummy bears, chocolate, ice cream plus other sweets.

5. Chris Weidman said he thought he would crap himself just before his walkout at UFC 187’s co-main event bout with Vitor Belfort. He comments that when Belfort’s walkout music started, he suddenly had to go to the bathroom, bad. Did Vitor cleverly choose a walkout song with carefully placed “Brown Notes” at the beginning? Gastrointestinal malabsorption resulting from weight-cut recovery is more likely.

4. A recent interview with Chris Weidman confirms that accepting fights on short notice puts fighters in dangerous positions for weight-cuts. He said he almost died, and revealed how nervous he was under pressure to answer the state athletic commission’s questions from the required pre-fight physical: What is your name? What is your birthday? He cut over 30 pounds in ten days, said that it was hell and he almost died.

3. Jake Shields divulged that cut 20 pounds of water in one day for his UFC fight with Martin Kampmann. Shields fought previously at 185 and wanted to drop to the 170 pound division. The average male body contains 60% of its weight in water. The problem with losing such a significant amount of fluid in a short time results from the loss of electrolytes as well, needed for proper vital organ function

2. One of Rory Markham’s lungs collapsed after the weigh-in at UFC 95 in 2009, as a result of organ failure from a very bad weight cut. He actually went on to fight the next day, getting KO’ed by British welterweight Dan Hardy. The UFC eventually dropped Markham from their roster, after missing weight and subsequently suffering another KO loss to Nate Diaz.

1. Trying to lose the last two pounds of a weight cut a few hours before UFC 177’s weigh-in, Renan Barao blacked out, hit his head, and didn’t recover consciousness for a long time thereafter. Barao entered the tub for another round of water removal from his body; The question is, how do you control what parts of your body lose the water? The paramedics arrived at his hotel room, analyzed his vitals and determined to take him to the hospital. The rematch between Barao and Dillishaw had to be canceled.

Remember my introductory qualifier about size and weight advantages in combat sports? There’s nothing the UFC can do to erase that desire. But governing their most valuable resource’s attempts to seek out that advantage is clearly in the UFC’s best interest. Eliminate short-notice substitutions for fights and brainstorm other ways to protect your human capital. Do it before the people with guns (Government) step in.

By: Noel Schwenk


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