As a member of a group that has done some consulting for the Ontario Athletic Commission in terms of MMA fighter safety and regulation, I’ve been a longtime opposer of the practice of weight cutting. It’s just a matter of time before a fighter dies from the practice.
Not only is the process a dangerous one that has led to the death of several high school and college wrestlers, its side effects are non-reversible and can cause major health problems for fighters later in life. It’s no coincidence that many of the sport’s participants who used to wrestle and cut weight in their youth are now on hormone replacement therapy. Starvation and extreme dehydration — two of the facets of the weight cutting procedure — put stress on the body’s endocrine system and inhibit the production of key chemicals such as testosterone, adrenaline and insulin.
Former UFC welterweight-turned-lightweight Marcus Davis shared a scary weight cutting story with MMA Weekly recently that should be a must read for athletic commissions who allow such a dangerous practice as dropping between 10 and 40 lbs the week of a fight to take place.
Davis, a former pro boxer who had been cutting weight since he was a teenager explained that his first post-UFC bout weight cut for his MFC 29 bout with Curtis Demarce in April was a nightmare that very well could have had fatal consequences.
“It’s kind of scary to say this but that fight almost killed me, making that weight. I had a really, really, really bad time and I still made the weight, but I’ll never ever be able to do that again,” Davis explained, revealing that the dehydration left him without his voice at weigh-ins and unable to urinate or have a bowel movement for the better part of a week. “After that, I think I was all the way down to 154 (pounds) when I ended up weighing in and that fight was on a Friday. That Monday I was 207, so it had nothing to do with my overeating. It had to do with my body freaked out and thought that I might torture it again like that so it just held onto everything.”
In spite of his health issues, “The Irish Hand Grenade” won the bout. Figuring that the symptoms he displayed were simply his body’s way of telling him that he should go back to welterweight, Davis took a fight two months later against fellow UFC vet Pete Spratt at 170. Unfortunately the cut was as brutal as the last one.
“Saying it was a hard cut to go to 155 is one thing, but you know I fought Pete Spratt about eight weeks later and I had difficulty making 170. What was weird was I followed the same routine cause I got into panic mode cause I wasn’t losing any weight, so I went to my 155-pound diet and my body still wouldn’t let that weight go. I had a really tough time with those two fights,” Davis said.
Heading into his W-1 bout with Chuck O’Neil this weekend in Miami, Davis says he feels 100% healthy with the cut this time around and that the health scares he had earlier this year prompted his wife to make the 38-year-old father of four promise he wouldn’t go down to 155 again.
“My body’s back being adjusted for 170. That probably was the best fit and the strongest that I’ve been in a long time,” he explained. “I honestly don’t think my body would allow me to do it, and if I did, I wouldn’t want to know what it could do to my health in the long run. I made a promise to my wife that I wasn’t going to do that again.”
The advantage a few pounds gives a fighter over a smaller opponent is a negligible one when it affects their cardio and performance in the fight and causes them irreparable damage to their body and health. The ABC need to hire an independent group to study the effects of cutting weight and hopefully ban the process from combat sports. Same day weigh-ins would simply make fighters fight at their natural weights, which would mean an even playing field for everyone, especially if they were weighed just prior to their bouts.