Opinion: The Dangers of Weight Cutting Become a Hot Topic Amid the Death of a Fighter
By Jesse Heitz
There has been some incredibly sad news circulating about the MMA world. Leandro “Feijao” Souza, a 26-year-old Brazilian fighter passed away before his scheduled bout at Shooto Brazil 43. Reports are indicating that Souza died as a result of cutting weight.
Andre Santos, as reported by cagepotato.com, spoke on the death of his teammate, stating,
“We don’t have much information yet, but we do know that is related to his weight cut. He’s my student but he also trains at Nova Uniao for about a year. I wasn’t with him during this process because I have a fight scheduled in Russia, so he spent the night at Nova Uniao’s gym. His sister called me saying that he had passed out so I went to the hospital, but he was already dead when I got there.”
As fans and observers of MMA, we’re relatively unfamiliar with the deaths of our sport’s fighters. Thankfully, it’s a rare occurrence. Perhaps in some sort of perverse way, we would be less surprised by a freak accident or injury, yet we’re seemingly entirely unprepared to fathom the death of a young and healthy fighter, just embarking upon a Mixed Martial Arts career, from something like cutting weight.
Cutting weight is an ever-present component of combat sports in particular. We’ve heard many stories of fighters cutting ungodly amounts of weight in preparation for a fight. It’s a poorly kept secret that very few fighters actually compete at their natural weight. Certainly some have, but that’s really the exception not the rule.
It’s relatively well-known that cutting large amounts of weight in a short window of time can lead to serious health problems in both the short and long terms. Researchers have noted that in the short term cutting weight can lead to adverse psychological effects. Yet, in the long term can lead to organ failure, most notably the failure of the heart and kidneys.
With this in mind and on the heels of Souza’s death, is there a possible fix to this problem? Are there additional safeguards that could be implemented such as better medical supervision, or additional weight classes? Or is cutting weight just a natural by-product of MMA, that the need for a competitive advantage will always make cutting weight a priority for fighters?