Should Athletic Commissions Ban Extreme Weight Cutting in MMA?

extreme weight cutting - pancrase 290

The short answer – yes. A few days ago, the MMA world witnessed one of the most shocking weigh-ins ever at Pancrase 290. Dehydrated, depleted, and almost unconscious, a fighter named Daniel Lima had to be carried to the weighing scale by his teammates. This brutal display of extreme weight cutting is sending ripples down in the MMA world with many fighters and coaches calling it downright disgraceful.

This video shows Daniel Lima, who looks like a semi-conscious heroin user, being gently dragged up to the stage by his teammates. Barely able to stand or walk, Lima’s body was crying for help in this video grab.

Well, someone should have said something. If not the coaches, the organizers must have intervened. The fact that the weigh-in (and eventually the fight) was allowed to happen shows how messed up this organization is. Even top organizations like UFC and Bellator have horror stories of fighters going through brutal weight cutting, but nothing ever came close to this sorry spectacle.

Will it ever change?

There will always be fighters pushing themselves to the lowest possible weight to have the size advantage over their opponents. It’s true that competing at the lowest possible weight class is always easier. Still, I couldn’t believe that a fighter like Lima had the strength to fight 3 full rounds after that horrible display of extreme weight cutting. I can only wonder how you could regain your fighting strength within a short period after such a massive weight cut.

At UFC 216, Kevin Lee cut 19 pounds in just 24 hours and took two attempts to qualify. No one had any second thoughts that Lee looked extremely unhealthy after the weight cut. In the fight, he looked seriously drained by the end of the second round and eventually lost in the third. Before UFC 209, Khabib got hospitalized following the weight-cut and his matchup with Tony Ferguson got scrapped.

All I am trying to say here is that Fighters will continue with extreme weight cutting until they are allowed to do it. Unless a much more stringent weight cut reform happens, MMA fans must prepare themselves to see many more incidents like what happened at Pancrase 290.

What is the solution?

A fighter must be allowed to cut only a certain percentage of his walking weight. In most MMA fights right now, almost all the serious weight cuts are dehydration based. Most fighters cut at least 20 to 25 pounds within a period of 2 to 3 days. It is not uncommon for fighters nowadays to cut 20 pounds in a timeframe less than 24 hours.

Joe Rogan once said in his podcast that RDA (who now fights at 170) went unconscious for a few minutes while cutting weight for 155. Stories like this prove that the serious risk of a fighter losing his or her life during a weight cut is a damn near possibility.

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has already developed a 10-point regulation for weight cutting before MMA events. Some strict moves like a fighter can be allowed to gain only 15% of his body weight between the weigh-in and the fight can be welcomed. But it must be even more stringent in my opinion.

It is unhealthy to cut more than 5% of your body weight through dehydration. I don’t recall one single fighter following this right now. Like USADA does for drug tests, athletic commissions must do surprise weigh-ins at least a week before a fight to check the walking weight of a fighter. Nothing more than 5% to 7% of the weight should be allowed to cut within a week before the fight.

Strict measures like this will force fighters to fight at a higher weight class. With this system universally implemented, I believe the competition is just going to be the same. We’re just going to have some smaller guys at higher weight classes. Will these weight-cut reforms ever happen? Only time will tell.