Top UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov appeared recently on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, and discussed the medical incident during weight cutting that led to his removal last month from an interim title fight vs. Tony Ferguson at UFC 209. Late in the evening the night before weigh-ins Nurmagomedov began to feel pain in his body so great that his team took him to the hospital.
“In the evening, I feel badly,” he began, as transcribed by Shaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting. “I feel different. I never feel like this. One day before weigh-in, of course I don’t feel good all the time, but I think this is like something different. And when I go home the night before weigh-ins, I feel crazy. I’m cutting weight with my team, and I don’t remember how I cut weight. I don’t remember a lot of things, something going wrong.
“I feel so bad. I never feel like this.”
“The doctor say, ‘you cannot fight. You almost die. How you fight? How you can fight if you almost die? … No way. We say no fight, 100 percent. No make weight. No fight. No nothing. You need to stay in the hospital for seven hours, we have to make sure your body is good.’ But I feel I almost died,” Nurmagomedov said.
“We know a lot of times when you’re cutting weight, you can die. I know one month ago somebody died in Brazil. Before, somebody died in Japan. We know sometimes this happens. But this can happen with me too. If we still cutting weight, and we still force my body, maybe I can die too?
“But it’s okay. Sometimes when I have injury or when I have bad situation, I all the time come back strong. Now, I know a lot of people asked about this, a lot of fans asked about this because this is a very big fight. The UFC promote this fight very good. We promote this fight. A lot of people are waiting for this fight. I know a lot of fans are upset about this, and I understand this, but I want to say sorry about everything. And I come back. I’m going to come back.”
Nurmagomedov says a month later, he still cannot train, but hopes to be back to normal in three to five months.
“I don’t think I’m cutting too much weight,” he said. “I make weight, 155.5 pounds, when I fight with Michael Johnson (at UFC 205) and I feel very good. I feel perfect. I make weight no problem.
“I’m just coming from Germany. I need like three or five months to make my body the same, three or five months of rehab. And obviously I’m going to Germany, I’m going to fix everything. This problem, this is not about cutting weight. This is about my health, and I have to [fix] my health in three or five months, and I’m going to come back. I think I can fight end of September.
“In Germany I’m going to check my body, what happened, everything. And I have a little bit of a problem with something, but I don’t want to talk about this. But I need a couple months to fix everything.”
The Eagle says he wants to fight Ferguson, in September, and said he is not moving up to welterweight.
“I never fight 170, because I can make . I make 155 all of my career,” he said. “I make all my amateur career at 155. All the time, I can make and I will make 155. Of course, before, I think about ‘maybe I fight at 170, superfight,’ something like this. But I want to say that I never fight 170. Never. I know this. This is not changing. I am going to fight only 155, and now I have difference motivations. I want [figure out] how I can make 155 and how I can become UFC lightweight champion. This is my different and new motivation.”
“I want to say thank you to [UFC president Dana White],” said Nurmagomedov. “I know sometimes he goes crazy when somebody pulls out, but I understand. I understand everything. I am professional fighter and I have to make weight and this is my job, but sometimes you cannot control your body, and you do everything. This is my fault. I know, 100 percent, this my fault. But we will see what happens next time. I’m going to come back. This is not finished. This is not finished, my career. I’m going to fix my body and come back.”
One of the deaths Nurmagomedov referred to was Brazil’s Leandro ‘Feijao’ Souza, 26, who passed in 2013. He had two pounds to go. The other was China’s Yang Jian Bing, 21, who passed in 2015. Bing fought for ONE championship, which responded by ending weight cutting via dehydration. The company suffered no harm from the move – fights are better as fighters are less depleted.
Nurmagomedov has reportedly experienced health issues cutting in the past. He is not getting younger or smaller. He needs to move up a division, but 170, with guys cutting from 190, is too much. Nurmagomedov needs to be in a 165-pound division, with guys cutting from a walking weight of at most the very low 180s. And he is just one of thousands in the sport who are jeopardizing their health. The whole sport needs a shift, before a UFC fighter dies, not after.
California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) executive director Andy Foster crafted a 10-point plan to combat the culture of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts. The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) Medical Committee has voted unanimously to recommend the 10-point plan to the full ABC body at the annual conference, on July 22-26 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.