There is a lethal culture of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts. Progressive State, Provincial, and Tribal regulators are addressing it from the bottom up, with the amateurs, creating a new, safer mindset around cuts. The Kansas and Mohegan Sun commissions are testing new, earlier weigh ins, and the California State Athletic Commission, which has taken the lead on the issue, is making the earlier weigh in part of their official process.
Extreme weight cutting can cause organ failure and damage before the fight, and has hospitalized countless fighters, and killed two. Perhaps even more dangerously, the body does not always fully rehydrate within 24 hours. The human brain is encased in and protected by fluid, and in a state of dehydration, that protection is lessened, which may be increasing the danger of CTE.
Now the UFC too is getting involved.
UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky sent out an email to fighters on the roster, detailing some of the changes are being developed.
“UFC is also working with the Athletic Commissions to test the feasibility of extending the weigh-in period, including a multi-hour weigh-in conducted at the host hotel,” wrote Novitzky, according to Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting.
UFC 199 in LA, under the control of the CSAC, will see the new protocols used for the first time. Fighters will weigh in at 10:00 a.m., rather than 4:00 p.m. or later.
“I like that a million times better,” said UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who will fight Urijah Faber at the event. “I think that’s intelligent. It’s extremely intelligent. What you don’t understand is if we’re going to weigh-in at 4 or 5 o’clock , that means you don’t want to cut the weight until midnight the night before, because you don’t want to be that low for that long, because it just depletes you and kills you.”
CSAC MDs will be using specific gravity tests to check for extreme dehydration.
The UFC also has an education and information program underway, and will be asking fighters to show up for fight week within 8% of their target weight. Fighters who don’t will be subject to careful testing and will be asked to attend weight management education counseling. Nutritional drinks and food in a special room post weigh in is another step being taken; Gatorade and a protein bar are no longer the state of the art. And when the UFC’s new performance center in Las Vegas open next year, nutritionists on staff will help fighters cut more safely.
Mixed martial arts is inherently dangerous. But that is all the more reason to control those factors that can be controlled. It is finally beginning to happen, at multiple levels.