Opinion: The Dangers of Excessive Weight Cutting
By Jesse Heitz
MMA as a whole is rapidly marching towards increased fighter safety. Kudos to the efforts of various athletic commissions, associations, and general advocates, for their championing of initiatives that not only even the playing field, but establish a safe environment for competitors.
Recently, the Association of Ringside Physicians issued a statement calling for increased scrutiny over weight-cutting prior to fights. A portion of their statement, as published by Bloody Elbow, is posted below,
“The ARP recommends standardized weigh-in policies in conjunction with year round weight management programs. These would include scheduling weigh-ins twenty four hours or less before the start of competition. Therefore, establishing a lowest allowed fighting weight (weight class) for competitors through body composition and hydration assessment is essential. Combatants should be assessed and certified at their appropriate weight annually. This assessment should be completed by non-biased examiners, in conjunction with licensure, and stored in an international data bank accessible to athletic regulatory bodies. In this light, the ARP will be establishing a medical database to provide this and other resources. Regulatory bodies should also consider adding additional weight classes in certain sports where needed.
Additionally, in order for an athlete to maintain proper weight control and optimal body composition, a continual commitment to proper diet and training is required. Educational programs should be established to inform coaches, athletes, administrators, promoters and sponsors about the adverse consequences of prolonged fasting and dehydration on performance and health. These programs should discourage the use of extreme methods for making weight; i.e., excessive heat methods (such as rubberized suits, steam rooms, hot boxes, saunas), excessive exercise, induced vomiting, laxatives and diuretics. Nutritional programs should also be instituted to emphasize and meet an athlete’s individual needs for adequate daily caloric intake from a balanced diet high in healthy carbohydrates, the minimum requirement of fat, and appropriate amounts of protein.”
I think this is yet another great step forward. The banning of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), in-depth pre-fight physicals, and a growing cognizance of brain injuries, is all leading towards a sport that is better as a whole. It simply seems insane that we as a collective body haven’t paid attention to a detail such as weight-cutting. I can honestly say that as a fan, I hadn’t given much thought to the long-term effects of weight-cutting, something undoubtedly as important as “doping”.
Simply from a fan’s perspective, improved regulation, for lack of a better term, of weight-cutting should be something that we’re all in favor of. Who among us wants to see a fighter walk into a fight, and due to placing himself at a distinct disadvantage physically, perform poorly. Nobody wants to shell out the money for a ticket or pay-per-view and see a fighter in a highly-anticipated bout gas after the first round, becoming either ridiculously sluggish and a veritable punching bag, or becoming a human blanket. That’s not sporting, it’s not competitive, and it’s certainly not entertaining.
I’d like to see competitive fights between fresh fighters of a similar weight, not a welterweight bout between a natural 170 pounder and a certified 200 pounder. I don’t want to see a title fight get downgraded because one of the fighters couldn’t make weight. Most importantly, I want fighters to have long healthy careers as well as healthy retirements.