Under the spotlight: Weight cuts once again take the centre stage

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Another week, another instance of people wondering just why weight cuts aren’t completely eliminated from the sport of mixed martial arts. Recently, a study done by the California State Athletic Commission showed that nearly 30 percent of the fighters fighting in California in 2016 and 2017, stepped inside the cage weighing at least 10 percent more than the weight class they were fighting at.

In simpler terms, a fighter fighting in the lightweight division (155 lbs) stepped inside the cage weighing at least 170.5 pounds or more.

CSAC has been lobbying for strict restrictions regarding the amount of weight fighters can cut before a fight. It has become a norm for fighters to shed around 20 pounds a day before the weigh ins. This is usually done by extreme dehydration – shedding dangerous amounts of weight by forcing oneself to “sweat it out” – and as one nutritionist put it, “cooking the insides”.

In the past couple of years, the fans and some of the fighters have lobbied to either bring in tighter regulations as to how much weight can be cut, or to completely remove the practice of cutting weight in MMA. The fighters usually do everything within their power to walk into the cage with an advantage – the conventional practice is to cut large amounts of weight before the weigh ins, and rehydrate during the fight night.

However, this is a slippery slope – not only are the fighters putting themselves in precarious situations, but are also essentially cutting their life span short every time they subject themselves to this often overlooked practice.

The only time we raise this issue, is when something tragic happens.

Deaths due to extreme weight cuts are rare – most of the times, the fighters are rushed to the hospital due to kidney stones, or other serious – but treatable ailments. But the threat of impending catastrophe looms every time a fighter decides to go the extra mile, and shed those couple of extra pounds, which ultimately proves to be the difference between life and death.

Couple of days ago, a young Muay Thai fighter by the name of Jordan Coe was preparing for a fight in Thailand. The Scottish youngster, who was just 20 years old, was loved universally – his infectious energy made him a crowd favourite everywhere he fought, and his pre – fight dance routine made him one of the more entertaining fighters.

 

However, Jordan’s life was cut short when he was undergoing a rigorous weight cutting process, and was found in a sauna suit. The preliminary post mortem indicated that Jordan suffered from severe dehydration and heat stroke, resulting in his body going into fatal shock.

One of the greatest Muay Thai fighters of all time, and a 10 time World Muay Thai champion, John Wayne Parr recently dwelled on the tragedy, and offered his thoughts on the issue, during an exclusive interview with MMAIndia.com.

“People need to learn to cut their weight earlier in their weight camp, and not at the end, where they have to lose their last few kilos”, Wayne Parr told us. “They have to look after their body”.

While most fighters try to get an early advantage, even before they step inside the cage, one particular fighter doesn’t believe in weight cuts. Current UFC welterweight Gunnar Nelson spoke to us couple of weeks ago, and offered his thoughts on the matter as well.

“I understand that there are all these guys that cut all this weight because the others are doing it, and they don’t want to be the smaller man”, Nelson reasoned. “I don’t believe in this weight cut (practice), and I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t participate in it the way all these guys do, and I enjoy my training. I want to focus on becoming a better fighter. I focus on being something else than being the ‘bigger’ fighter.”

“I can fight bigger opponents, or smaller opponents, I don’t mind. I think you need to develop your skills, and all of these guys are walking around at a similar weight. They all cut about 10 kilos, maybe some cut a little bit more. I think they should all fight at their weight, and it has become a ridiculous thing now.”

“You see it with fighters dropping out of fights, going to the hospitals due to their kidneys (problems) or whatever, their liver failure from all that weight cut. So I hope they get rid of it, and they fight at their own weight.”

Gunnar also proposed weighing in two hours before the fights, so that the fighters are more cautious about their weight cuts, and take a more cautious approach to cutting weight.

Last weekend, Invicta FC 22 nearly lost three fights, with three fighters coming over the weight limit. In the end however, only one fight had to be scrapped; this wasn’t the first time that the fighters were forced to pull out of their fights, and certainly won’t be the last.

ONE Championship came down hard on the extreme weight cuts, and has implemented better monitoring systems for the fighters, while also forcing the competitors to move up a weight class. This step was taken after the untimely demise of ONE flyweight competitor, Jianbing Yang in December 2015, due to complications stemming from his weight cut.

 

Initiating a dialogue, only to quickly brush it under the rug until the next tragedy, doesn’t help the fighters, or the sport. CSAC has proposed a 10 point plan to curb this menace, and the sooner promotions recognise the importance of doing away with weight cuts, the better it is for the safety and well being of the fighters.

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