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The Heavy Issue With Cutting Weight

(Weight cutting is a very serious issue in MMA, so here’s a picture of John Lineker as a fat baby. via Ian McCall’s Instagram)

By CP reader Jessie Lorenty

Before the first fight even started, UFC 183: Diaz vs Silva was already filled with controversy. Not one but two of the night’s fighters missed weight, and both who did were notorious for taking the weight limit as a suggestion instead of maybe the actual amount of weight that they’re allowed to be at. The first was John Lineker, who showed up heavy for a record fourth time in his UFC career — the first was against Louis Gaudinot (127lbs), then against Jose Maria (129lbs) and the third time against Phil Harris (127lbs). The second fighter was none other then the lesser half of the night’s co-main event, Kelvin Gastelum, who previously missed weight in his fight against Nico Musoke.

Missing the weight limit is sadly not an unusual thing in MMA, but could not have occurred at a worse time for either fighter. With a shallow division at flyweight, the next shot at current champion Demetrious Johnson could always be just one great performance away. Against Ian McCall, Lineker had the potential to prove himself a title contender (and did with his UD victory), but sabotaged his chances of that happening right from the get-go. On the other side of the (tipped over) scale is Kelvin Gastelum, who was undefeated as a pro and currently on a five fight winning streak in the UFC. In his last fight Gastelum ran through the always tough Jake Ellenberger and was hoping on continuing his momentum against his toughest test to date in Tyron Woodley.

Both fighters were coming into one of their most important fights of their career. A win for either of them could have placed them in the category of next title challenger, but instead, the focus point was shifted to their weight. Dana White has since ordered both men to move up a weight class, shattering their respective chances at a flyweight and welterweight title shot.

Luckily for Lineker, he won the fight, as a loss could have seen him cut from the UFC. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was originally released from the promotion for missing weight time and time again, and after his loss to Vitor Belfort, Uncle Dana had had enough. As for Gastelum, his offense was more egregious than Lineker’s but only the second time it has occurred. With a substantial amount of steam behind him, Gastelum was on the verge of breaking out of the middle of the pack and cementing himself as a potential title challenger. But he nearly killed himself trying to make weight and it showed in his eventual loss to Woodley on Saturday.

Weight is one of the biggest issues in MMA but just like most of the other issues there is no clear cut solution to it (other than same day weigh-ins, of course). Aside from heavyweights and Frankie Edgar, you would be hard pressed to find someone fighting close to their natural weight. Fighters see the weight cut as gaining a potential advantage over their competition but if they damage themselves trying to make the weight they’re doing the exact opposite and giving the advantage to their opponent. Instances like these bring more attention to the issue, as they should, but after it is all said and done nothing will have changed and the MMA community will eventually stop talking about it until it occurs again. (You know, kind of like drug testing.)

Fighters are called disrespectful and lazy for not making weight, but the main focus should be on just how dangerous it is. Prizefighters in general are a special group of people that will put themselves through anything in order to compete. So we can only imagine what their bodies are going through where they finally just give up because they physically can’t go on any longer. Only after pushing themselves to the very end do they finally call it. They need to realize that the damage they are doing to themselves sometimes just isn’t worth it. Instead, they are fined and they still get to compete in most cases, completely forgetting the fact that not 24 hours before they step in that cage their bodies were almost completely shutting down on them.

At the end of the day these men have to pay the bills, the UFC has to sell tickets, and the fans needs to be entertained. But we also have to look further into the issue and understand what these guys are doing to themselves and decide when enough is enough. When that time will come is unclear or maybe even non-existent. It may be that these two men go out there and put on the performance of their lives and somehow the weight thing is overshadowed. But one thing that should never be overshadowed is fighter safety.

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