there’s an ongoing conversation in the MMA community about weight cutting: how to do it safely, how to curb extreme weight cuts, how many fighters have been killed or seriously hurt during weight cutting, etc. just off the top of my head, i can think of a number of notable cases where weight cutting has had life-ending or life-altering consequences: 21-yr old yang jian bing who died from weight-cutting in 2015; 26-yr old brazillian leandro souza who died in 2013; 18-yr old australian jessica lindsay who died late last year while weight cutting for a muay thai fight; 33-yr old UFC fighter uriah hall suffering a seizure and heart attack early this year; alexandre pereira silva (not sure of his age, looks about 25) who has been in a coma for two months since preparing for a fight in january of this year.
for illustration, here’s a pic of conor mcgregor weighing in at 145 lbs vs his normal healthy weight. don’t tell me the 145 lb version of him doesn’t look like someone on the brink of death, because that would be a bold-faced lie.
MMA isn’t the only sport in which weight cutting occurs, and it’s basically the same across the board: as long as an athlete can get down to the max limit of a weight class about a day before the fight, they can compete in that weight class. it doesn’t matter how much they weigh when they enter the ring. as long as they can make that limit for just a few minutes, they can compete against smaller opponents, which is of course desirable.
that’s the theory, anyway. the problem is that everyone is doing the exact same weight cutting — everyone is risking their lives, shedding about 10-15% of their body weight for weigh-ins, and then rehydrating like crazy to put that weight back on for the fight.
at this point, you’re probably asking the same question as me: if everyone is doing it, doesn’t that mean everyone ends up fighting opponents the same weight as them, thus negating the whole point of weight cutting?
now, everyone in sports that involve weight-cutting realize it’s a stupid, pointless, harmful thing, but the problem is that unless everyone stops doing it at once, the few who continue to cut weight will have that size advantage when they get in the ring. and getting thousands upon thousands of athletes on board with a huge shift within their culture is a virtually impossible feat. in light of this, some agencies are attempting to curb weight cutting or make it safer — a few examples are having weigh-ins at certain times of day to allow more time for rehydration before competing, making recommendations about whether a fighter should move up a weight class based on their weight on the day of the fight — but i’m not satisfied with any of the solutions that i’ve heard of so far. it’s all just attempting to polish a turd. weight cutting is still weight cutting, and it’s still a grueling, needless process.
in case you’re wondering what an uneducated, inexperienced lummox like myself suggests as a solution to weight cutting, here it is: ban it. any athlete competing in a sport that involves weight classes should be weighed by a governing body once or twice every month (or something like that — any time frame that would not allow athletes weight to vary wildly), regardless of whether that fighter is scheduled to compete in the near future or not. as long as the athlete is licensed to compete, they should always be within a small window of their weight class. for example, if i fight in the middleweight division at 185 lbs, my weight should always be within a range of, say 180-190 lbs. this would mean that everyone in my division would be fighting people their own size, and it would prevent athletes from shedding dangerous amounts of weight to make limits. then i can safely make the 185 lb limit the day before the fight.
some might argue that weighing athletes on such a regular basis isn’t feasible, but it was also said that testing for steroids in the UFC wasn’t feasible, yet they now have a fairly strong, decent system for doing just so. it would take time to work out the details of a new weigh-in system, and then the kinks once it was in practice, but it’s absolutely possible.
i imagine a lot of professional athletes would think i’m crazy for suggesting such a system (like dominick cruz, who seems to have a hard-on for weight cutting and jumps to its defense whenever the topic comes up) but i think they’re crazier for continually risking their lives and health over a moot point.