It’s no secret – weight cuts in combat sports can be dangerous.
The idea that 1 day before a prize fight, you severely dehydrate yourself in order to make weight is scary. Every fight week, the fighters come in knowing they are going through hell until finally stepping on the scale on Friday afternoon. A quick look at their faces say it all, they’re miserable and even worse, in really bad physical shape.
So what if you fail to make weight? You could be ineligible to fight or give up a percentage of your pay and agree to a catch weight. You could miss a big opportunity.
Renan Barao missed a championship fight in 2014 due to a poor weight cut. Johny Hendricks missed a major fight with Tyron Woodley at UFC 192 in October.
During that process you may wind up in the hospital, or even dead. Back in 2015, Yan Jian Bing, while cutting weight for a ONE Championship fight, suffered a heart attack and died, he was 21.
In response to Yan Jian Bing’s death, ONE FC quickly responded with a weight cutting program to help. ONE’s program includes a number of changes that includes a daily check-in, a web portal and an assigned weight class based on inputted data. It basically encourages athletes to compete in their natural weight class.
But what about the largest MMA promotion?
Back in October, The UFC, as part of their new USADA drug testing program banned IV use for re-hydration after weight cutting. The intent of the ban has been targeted at the use of IVs as a masking/diluting agent that makes it more difficult to detect PEDs in the blood stream. But no doubt it has an impact on cutting weight, and also potentially the safety.
This week came the announcement that the UFC will be introducing a new weight management program aimed at improving the safety and health of the athletes. These procedures will go into place starting at UFC 200, though the promotion will give fighters a grace period to adjust to the new rules.
The basic concept of the program is not only rules, but a true education and guidance system. Some highlights as follows:
- The new UFC headquarters in southwest Las Vegas, scheduled to open sometime in 2017, will feature an athlete health and performance center that will be staffed to provide weight management and nutrition plans for all fighters.
- UFC has introduced a system of data collection and athlete monitoring of weight and vital signs that will enable the organization to create a database to track and analyze information on each fighter.
- A fighter must be within 8 percent of their target weight when they check in for fight week, which generally occurs on a Tuesday before a Saturday fight.
- A fighter who doesn’t fall within that range is subject to daily monitoring of weight and vitals throughout the week and will be required to attend weight management counseling before his or her next fight.
“The only hard and fast rule in there, and I think it’s probably the most important thing in terms of the guidelines, is that 8 percent number,” said Jeff Novitzky, the UFC vice president of athlete health and performance. “If they’re not, it’s not in the rules the fight won’t happen, but we sure are going to pay very close attention to them, including taking daily weight, daily vitals, and as it progresses, if they show signs of being dehydrated, they will be pulled from the fight.”