Last week, the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) world was rocked by tragedy, when news broke that Leandro Souza had passed away due to a stroke during his weight cut. It was later discovered that the fighter had used diuretics to assist in cutting the last few pounds.
Weight cutting is one of the most dangerous facets of MMA and also one of the most widely accepted. Fighters look to gain any advantage they can when heading into a fight, that they'll cut an obscene amount of weight. It has been a major part of wrestling for years, with competitors sweating out the last pounds.
Last night (Oct. 4, 2013) on Inside MMA, it was announced that the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board(NJSACB) was proposing to amend their policy for additional weigh ins. They reported that the NJSACB would be weighing fighters 30 days out, seven days out, and finally the day before a fight to ensure a safe cut.
MMA Mania reached out to NJSACB Counsel Nick Lembo late Friday night to discuss these reported changes. Lembo was quick to shoot down the report.
"It was actually a World Boxing Council (WBC) policy for championship boxing matches. And it's something that New Jersey did in conjunction with them and still does for championship title matches. And what it is, is 30 days out, a fighter has to be within 10% of the contracted weight. 7 days out, the fighter is 5% of the contracted weight," he told MMAMania.com. "And then you have your typical day before weigh in, where you have a one pound allowance, other than for championship fights."
He continued, "so the question was posed to me: what can be done to stop the dangerous, rampant weight cutting in MMA? And I said that that's something to consider. Something under contemplation, but we have not changed our rules, yet. And I'm not sure if or when we would do so. At this point we have a pretty comprehensive pre-fight physical and also all the fighters are urine tested, not only for drugs, but from the urine you can also find out dehydration levels."
"But I will say this for a fact. We are not in favor of the rules where you have a second weigh in. Like for example, I believe the IBF (International Boxing Federation) and it was contemplated by Massachusetts for a time, where you have a weigh in -- a standard one day weigh in and then you re-weigh in the fighters the next day. And limit their percentage. That I'm not in favor of, even though it has been discussed."
The same day weigh in Lembo refers to was discussed by the Massachusetts Athletic Commission prior to 118 in Boston. The fighters would weigh in the day before as per usual, but would also be weighed in on fight night where the fighters had to remain within a certain percentage of the contracted weight.
Luckily, that rule was not adopted. And Lembo believes that a big reason for it is because once a fighter weighs in, they shouldn't have to dedicate any more focus to their weight. Instead, they should be mentally preparing for their bout the next night.
"I think that after a fighter weighs in, that focus should be done. And they should then focus on their fight. They shouldn't sit there and have some pedialite and have to think 'okay, I can gain two pounds.' I think the focus after the weigh ins, should be completely on your fight," he said.
He added, "and we've evaluated it, the fighter that gains the most weight after the weigh ins, it was only 52% that the fighter who gained the most weight won the fight. So really, it didn't really statistically prove that the weight gain after the weigh ins had given the fighter a significant advantage. Typically, the fighter that gains all that weight gassed out after the fight went beyond the first round. It had a negative impact."
"In some fights you could pick the point where the fighter hit the wall, so to speak, and becomes a different fighter. So the focus would be how the weight cut is done prior to the fight. And that was New Jersey and the WBC's way to find out how they were a month before, a week before, and you can guarantee they weren't dropping 20 pounds in 24 hours. They weren't having drastic cuts with diuretics, which is also something tested for in New Jersey."
Those big cuts have been becoming the norm in MMA, especially on short notice fights. When Chris Weidman took his fight with Demian Maia on 10 days notice, he wasn't at his typical gym weight. 10 days out, he was 33 pounds overweight and he cut an absurd 20 pounds in 24 hours to make weight.
But obviously, there are dangers to weight cutting, both long term and short term. The short term are usually nausea or light headedness. There's also a possibility of just being too physically weak to function. But it's the long term effects that could prove deadly if not monitored.
UFC Heavyweight standout Daniel Cormier saw his Olympic dreams cut short because of kidney failure due to excessive weight cutting. Cormier was wrestling at 211.5 pounds in the 2008 Beijing Games and was forced to pull out because his body was giving up on him.
"I think it depends on body type. I think it depends on diet in conjunction with a physician, you can lose a large amount of weight. Some of these schemes and water loading diets and the bath salt soak, that aren't under the care of a physician, I've seen some of the situations where they've gone wrong for the fighter."
"Either the fighter missed weight because they miscalculated something, which is what happens when a fighter misses weight by a couple pounds or a fighter falls ill and has to get hydrated. I'm not against fighters getting hydrated with IV's under a doctor or nurse's supervision after the weigh ins. It takes the brain 24 to 48 hours to properly rehydrate, which is one of the areas we're most concerned about. It's better to rehydrate as efficiently as you can."
So don't expect any issues for UFC 169 when Jon Jones defends his UFC Light Heavyweight title against Glover Teixeira in New Jersey. The commission won't be making any changes to the current weigh in practices.