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The Argument For Banning Weight Cutting in MMA

(Davis during a much easier weight cut. Photo courtesy of MMAJunkie)

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.

Cagepotato Comments

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Maimonides- October 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm
The advantage fighters seek in cutting weight is not a few pounds, but rather a few inches - in height and reach they avoid conceding to their opponent by moving down to a lighter weight class.

Thus same-day weigh-ins are not the answer. Splitting up the existing weight classes into height-based sub-classes is: At 205, for instance, that could mean a "Junior Light Heavyweight" for fighters under 6'0", simply "Light Heeavyweight" for 6'0" to 6'2.9", and "Super Light Heavyweight for 6'3" and up. The lightest weight classes - say, featherweight on down - may need to have only two sub-classes rather than three.

And I bet that there will be a lot of interest in doing something like this after Jon Jones has fought one or two more times.
fingerssfv- October 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm
If that's the case, then Davis might as well either keep his off-training weight at 180-185. 190 at the most, but when a fighter his age is over 200 lbs, he's screwing off. Ya can't eat sh*t food, like Micky-Dee's. And those 3-4 course meals; chill on the amounts. It is very simple to take a few less bites. Really, it is, and if he starts feeling hungry later, drink something (water, liquid yogur; something).

Or Davis could jump to middleweight! It's either that or retire.
fact- October 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm
this is a stupid argument. using marcus davis as an example is silly. he has had some serious ko's and that is the reason for his problems. head trauma is being seriously examined in other sports, but obviously has to be overlooked in mma. if you take a serious ko, your brain won't recover in six months and honestly in may never fully recover. cutting weight isn't going anywhere. it is and always has been huge in combat sports like wrestling, kickboxing, boxing, and bjj. if a fighter is willing to cut huge amounts of weight they're only hurting their chances of winning that fight. their stamina takes the cut, but that's it. if you don't like the way it hurts your chances then don't do it, but just like anything it is your choice. there are huge advantages to cutting weight, like giving you reach and weight on those who aren't cutting, but like steroids, burning your energy and needing more oxygen to fuel larger muscles or in this case exhausted muscles (from the drop in water). your body can get used to regular fasts without water or food and that is why fighters "get used" to the cut. these cuts can have effects on your kidneys and liver, but how does this effect weigh on a fighter's conscious who can profit economically and goal oriented, who knows. we already know a lot of fighters are cheating and this is one of the reasons. it helps cut water weight and utilize tired muscles. the point is you're not going to be able to manufacture a realistic way of monitoring that, when they can't even monitor who is using PED's and really that is what I think. just legalize PED's and give everyone an even playing field.
KarmaAteMyCat- October 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm
Weak... Nuff said.
mt59801- October 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm
As a naturally light guy I always look at extreme cutting as a "bitch move". If over half of a club/promotion's 25'ers and 35'ers are walking around @ 170+ that says to me that they can't perform at a natural weight. I have no problem with guys who get big between fights because they love pizza and beer, but if you're cutting 30lbs and putting a good chunk of it back on in 24 hours it's as bad juicing. The only way to level the playing field is to change the attitudes and move the weigh in to an hour before fight time.
El Guapo- October 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm
I think same day weigh-ins are the way to go. It eliminates excessive weight cuts, which(most importantly)protects a fighter's health, and also evens the playing field IMO.
ORRRRR, at the very least, have a 30 day weigh in like boxing does with championship fights where fighters need to be within a reasonable range(I forgot how close exactly) from the weight limit.
omunto- October 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm
I am all for day of weigh-ins to stop huge weight cuts. Hell, I just did mine today for a fight tonight. The cool thing that they are doing in California now is hydration piss tests before the fights. There are no reprocussions to the results of the test, it's just to gather data on a highly contested topic like this. As someone who dosn't cut weight for his fights I personally think it's great.
El Famous Burrito- October 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm
Not having paragraph breaks makes it hard to read some of these posts. Wall of text is not appealling at all.
Get Off Me- October 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm
pertaining to point B on your post.
You seem to be pretty certain that weight cutting over "decades" will reduce your bodies ability to produce hormones...or something like that. Bottomline, it has not been proven, I am living proof that you are wrong. It is not ridiculous to ask anybody who claims this to produce facts either, it is ridiculous to claim this without any proof.
Also, using Hendo, Sonnen and Marquardt as examples of people who need TRT as a result of weight cutting for decades is almost as ridiculous as throwing Randy's name in with them when he has never been caught(only gossip about Randy, no proof). The body naturally produces less "hormones" as it ages, couple that with the fact that many people use TRT before they "need it" from all their extensive "weight cutting" over decades and you may begin to understand why TRT has no place in MMA. Go ahead and believe Marquardt needs TRT because at the age of 30 he has stopped producing testosterone naturally from all his weight cutting.
Chris Leben did not need Stanazol because of weight cutting and low hormones. come on now.
ccman- October 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm
oh boy, been waiting for this since i been the only person (if i missed someone else arguing this sorry) for same day weigh ins for years on here.
A. the people who seem in favor also seem to be those who either 1. have a fighter favorite who they know could not compete at their natural weight, 2. are a fighter and enjoy the size advantage while fighting. Both are nuetralized by being to close to the situation.
B. those in favor also seem to be all up on the drug testing and blast those on TRT, though if you look at those on TRT, all have long wrestling backgrounds and decades of weight cutting (Hendo, Sonnen, Marquette, i been waiting for someone to catch randy) saying you want studies is rediculous, it has long been proven that extreme weight cuts harm your ability to produce hormones, same as shocking the system with hormones does. No water, you quit producing, it aint that hard to connect.
C. Saying you do it right and should not be punished for doing it wrong is bullshit. Camps are not responsible for monitoring a weight cut, and same a DW, i wouldn't trust them to be. Schools, all the brotherhood BS aside, are a business. they develope a champ, they gain students. They have other pro's seek them out, all equals revenue. Sorry but If Karma was fighting for a championship, i wouldn't trust anyone there to worry about his long term health, just his next few weeks health. He could die at 45, so long as he brought a belt into my school. And no i am not unique in this.
D. i will still no matter how you want to argue, see the down side in people having to fight at least close to their natural weight. I have the same problem with anyone dropping more than 10#-15#'s to fight. If you are so scared of people your own size, you are a bully and a coward, and yes i extend this to the Griffeins, jones, Spiders, Florians, ect of MMA. Can't be champ against people your own size, hire a dietician and go be a tough guy does not wow me at all.
macreadysshack- October 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm
Goddamn it would you people all just SHUT UP, please? I can't hear myself think over all this talky talk. And, Karma, you made SEVERAL grammatical/spelling errors in your posts which basically says to me 'Hey, my name is Carman and I don't know anything about MAM.' Skeletor, I'm pretty sure Danga wrote this article. Mike Russell, you cut down to 245 pounds? For a piece? That's some method writing shit right there.
I'll reserve my opinion until I know what Dr. Spaceman has to say about the topic.
Seriously shut up, too. I kept reading post after post thinking 'oh, I'll reply to that . . . Oh, I'll address this . . .' Yeah? well it turns out reading all that shit was the equivalent of giving myself a frontal lobotomy and I can't address Jack Shit now.
TheCanadian- October 14, 2011 at 11:46 am
Anyone else here immediately read "I was back up to 207 by monday" and immediately think that all of the health problems Davis faced should have been blatantly obvious to him? I recall a lot of people maybe a year or two ago discovering Tibau cut from like 190 to 155 and thought that was rediculous. Or Alves using that drug that makes you urinate copiously so he could make the cut to 170 from 200+ and thinking that was insane. Davis walks around at almost 210?? Why in the name of god would you EVER cut to 155 if you weighed that much? Can anyone here imagine Johnson going to LW? Hells no. Although he WOULD be the scariest skeleton anyone has ever seen if he did...Point is, Davis obviously brought the problem onto himself the second he decided to cut almost 45 pounds to fight the smallest guys possible. 20 pounds of cutting really doesnt seem like it would be all that hard to me (I dont fight mind you and the problem my body has is keeping weight on as opposed to shedding it) but once guys start dropping 40+ pounds, just stay in your god damn division. Maybe work harder on your conditioning and technique instead of trying to kill yourself over that extra 20-30 pounds you gotta cut to drop weight classes.
Cestus84- October 14, 2011 at 11:30 am
KeithHackneyWindmillPalmStrike Says:
Fri, 10/14/11 - 07:01

If you are cutting weight properly, there is no way in hell you should have to cut 20-40 lbs the week of the fight….10, maybe

Bingo!!! I had an inside source inform me that Vinny Magalhaes once had to drop 30lbs in about 3 days to fight at 205. Thats fucking rediculous.
GistoftheFist- October 14, 2011 at 11:26 am
No better argument than to just point out Frankie Edgar. He doesn't pack on extra muscle and shed waterweight before fights, and everyone criticizes him because he's "too small", Rogan bemoans that Edgar should drop down a weight class so he isn't at a disadvantage to all the bigger stronger fighters he faces. Yet, he punks bigger opponents all the time. While they suck wind and throw punches at thin air, Edgar is full of 10-15 pounds of water he didn't cut, unlike the guy facing him.
whiterice- October 14, 2011 at 11:24 am
One thing about the people who say, "Fighting is already unhealthy for you, so what's the difference?"
We regulate how much damage a fighter can take ("intelligently defend themselves" and all that.) Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only regulation regarding weight cutting is 'just make sure you make weight'. I get the sense that many fighters don't understand the long term consequences of cutting. Why should they? They're not doctors. This is exactly the type of thing that ought to be regulated, 1) because their health is at stake, and 2) it is a complex medical issue, best left out of the hands of layman and people whose ambition clouds their judgment.
skeletor- October 14, 2011 at 10:45 am
@MRUSS - there was a video going around I belive you guys posted it of Rory and GSP demonstrating a john smith single. He looked to be quite a bit bigger than GSP there so I am not surprised.
Mike Russell- October 14, 2011 at 10:40 am
I talked to Rory MacDonald a couple weeks ago and he told me he walks around at 200-plus between fights.
Ederon- October 14, 2011 at 10:29 am
How about next time you Win a fight, don't go over to ihop and BK and pig out until its 10 weeks before another fight.

Get a trainer and stay in shape all the time. Lazy people...
agentsmith- October 14, 2011 at 10:13 am
"That Monday I was 207..."
Does this mean Goldberg WASN'T insane/retarded when he claimed Maynard walks at 200lbs?
flyingogoplata- October 14, 2011 at 10:09 am
Weight cutting really is stupid when you think about it. Most guys that walk around at 185-190 cut down to 170. Without weight cutting they would still all fight each other just at a different weight class!
I would like to see a system in place where the commission both drug tests AND weighs the fighters 2 weeks out from the fights. The fighters would have to be within 5% of their weight class (ie. no more than 178.5 for WW) and could drop the remainder by the day before the fight.
superflat- October 14, 2011 at 9:59 am
@guy_incognito: I mostly agree, about the sportsmanship dimension that is. That said, body enhancement (in all forms) is basically a pillar of modern sport. The obvious reason is that you can get away with it. Weight cutting is legal, but even if it weren't, how do you fault a dude for dieting? What's the difference between working on cardio and a contrived weight cut? Who the hell can say. I do think though that fighters like BJ Penn, the Diaz brothers, and Anderson Silva all would prefer a fight game without so much emphasis on physique. But then again they're the ones with the mad skills -- if I was fighting Silva I'd sure as hell want to bulk up and cut weight. Then again (again) maybe Edgar really is The Answer.
MMAposeur- October 14, 2011 at 9:54 am
This is idiotic, these people are adults and should be allowed to make whatever choices they see fit. High school wresting? Sure. Professional Sports? GTFO.
danomite- October 14, 2011 at 9:52 am
speaking of the Dolce Diet, does anybody know what the fuck it is, exactly? I'm starting to think the only thing that makes it popular is that people like saying 'Dolce Diet'. It has a nice ring to it.
guy_incognito- October 14, 2011 at 9:37 am
Yeah i think gist nailed it. I think fights should be about technique and athleticism, not who is better at cutting weight. Weight cutting has become another dimension of the sport. If you come from a background where you've cut weight a lot before, it becomes a major advantage. I feel like it's cheating the system a little bit. To be honest though my concerns are about the sportsman aspect if it. I dont really care about the fighters safety all too much. They're adults, they know what they're doing
Me likey- October 14, 2011 at 9:32 am
i just think of james irvin and how he looked like he came straight outta auschwitz. when i cut weight it is a 2-3 month process depending on how shitty i eat between fights. i target my actual weight to be about 5 pounds away day prior to weigh ins. take a gentle all natural laxative the day before and i am good to go. usually have to sweat off about 3pds of water. don't feel drained or exhausted because i stay on my diet and lose the proper way. anything else is just unhealthy.