Is There a Possible Solution to the “Weight Cutting” Dilemma?
Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez III on 09.04.2014
The weight cutting fiasco that was UFC 177 has reasserted the fact that the current state of weight cutting in MMA has dangerous effects on a fighter’s health and well being. 411’s Lorenzo Vasquez III examines the issue and possible solutions!
UFC 177 turned out to be a decent, if not, excellent event despite all the weight-cutting fiasco. Before the start of the show on Saturday this debacle lead many fans and the media alike to bash what was already presumed a weak card with some going as far as labeling the event unworthy of pay per view or even watching altogether. It seems one of mix martial arts nagging issues interjected the sport again nearly destroying the card.
The card took two big hits on fight week. First, the UFC debut of Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo was scrapped. Cejudo sustained medical issues as a result of his weight cut which lead to his withdrawal from the event. Second, was the loss of Renan Barao. There was no secret the value of UFC 177 hung on the bantamweight championship rematch between TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao. When word got out Friday afternoon that Barao was pulled from the card and replaced because of an issue sustained during his weight cut, not only was the event thought of as doomed, but the topic of weight cutting was at center stage once again.
The issue with weight cutting, to be put simply, has become ridiculous. It is nonsense that fights are scrapped because a fighter could not make weight. It should never get to that point at all. Further, it is far more outlandish that fighters put their health at risk to make weight and promotions and athletic commissions do little to resolve the issue. It was sad to hear Dana White mention during the post-fight press conference that the problem with weight cutting was not a big issue because nothing bad has happened yet, presumably to any current UFC fighters.
He must have, like most, forgotten that, while not a UFC fighter, Leandro Souza died almost a year ago prior to weigh-ins as a result of trying to cut weight. At the time, Souza, with only 2lbs to go was trying to cut down from 159lbs to 126lbs. That's 33lbs he tried to lose in a short window of time. While fighters are to blame for the most part, promotions and commissions are also comparably to blame. Under the current system more harm is done than good. Clearly there is a problem that should not exist and can easily be dealt with, yet, it probably won't be. Weight cutting has long been a traditional part of different combat sports beside mma. If done correctly through a large window of time, there is no problem. Yet, many fighters continue to use a small window of time, hence, increasing the risk of something going wrong.
Fighters for their part need to hold themselves responsible. It is their duty to make sure they will be prepared and able to make weight. For that matter, fighters should be fighting at their natural weight class. One of the things I have trouble comprehending is why a fighter would want to lose 20 to 50 pounds in a short time span to get a competitive edge at a lower weight class. Why stress your body to do such a thing. The potential health risk greatly outweighs any benefit.
No title is worth the risk of your kidneys shutting down or fainting and cracking your skull on the floor. Renan Barao claimed he had to lose 10 kilos which amounts to about 22lbs. to make the bantamweight limit. In the process of dehydrating himself he fainted while reportedly getting out of the shower tub and fell and hit his head in the process. He was taken to the hospital and later released with a clean bill of health. Yet, imagine his fall would have been more serious, causing injury or death. I just don't see how starving and dehydrating yourself prior to a fight gives you the upper hand.
In fact, by all accounts, dehydrating yourself is associated with a higher occurrence of concussions in combat sports. With that notion, it is safe to say the current way of going about weight cutting is just not safe. My belief is, fighters would have much better performances if they fought at a more natural weight class and did not have to starve or dehydrate themselves before fights. However, the reality of things is many fighters choose to fight at a weight class below their natural weight. I believe little change will come form the fighters themselves. Fighters are stubborn individuals by nature. This characteristic is part of what drives them to improve and compete.
For this reason, if change is to occur, promotions and athletic commissions will need to pave the road for change and if their interest is in the best interest for the fighters, then there is no reason why they shouldn't. It is ridiculous to consider how easy this issue can be resolved. It really does not take much consideration. One way of thinking about the matter is creating a level playing field. If we scrutinize the usage of performance enhancing drugs then so should weight cutting. In other words, make fighters fight at a weight that is more natural to their walk-around weight. If that's not good enough, it should not be too hard to develop and implement a system to keep a fighter's weight in check over an extended time prior to official weigh-ins.
This has been mentioned a few times. For example, develop a structured system were fighters will have to weigh a certain weight at predetermined intervals such as three months prior to a bout and then one month, etc. It doesn't have to follow that structure but something similar can surely be developed and put into practice. There are other ideas that can be taken into consideration such as allowing a fighter to only weigh 15 or 10 pounds above the weight limit during camp, only allowing a fighter to lose no more than 10 pounds a week before official weigh-ins, and increasing penalties and the severity of punishments for missing weight as Cage Warriors instituted.
If anything, Cage Warriors insinuated the cornerstone, so to speak, of the type of action needed. The fact is, there are no reasons for fighters to put their health at risk. Daniel Comier set a great example of properly and safely making weight and other fighters, promotions, and commissions should evaluate his success. Fighters like the Anthony Johnson of two years ago need to stop and be stopped before another fighter dies or is seriously hurt. However, it seems another serious incident will occur and another or a few more UFC events will endure the same fate as UFC 177 before something is done.