MMA athletes are almost dying, Cro Cop also warns about a big scam
MMA is developing and progressing day after day. New markets are being opened, training methods are getting better, and the fighters are complete. MMA is the most popular combat sport.
Fights are dangerous and can result in serious injuries, but MMA has a much deeper problem that is present in all martial arts. Weight-cutting is proven to do long-term damage to organs. It’s a matter of days when someone will die because of it, and then it will be late for reactions and rule changes.
Why do they cut weight?
Fighters are cutting weight to be able to fight in a category lower than the weight class they belong to due to their physique and mass. In that way, they want to ensure that they are stronger and bigger than their rivals. Almost every professional fighter in the world is cutting weight, except for those in the heavyweight class where the weight is unlimited.
The most popular fighter in the world serves as an example of how drastically weight classes in combat organizations differ when compared to the ones in real life. In his everyday life, when he’s not at a camp awaiting the fight, Conor McGregor weights somewhat less than 85 kilograms. That hadn’t stopped him from fighting in the featherweight division up to 66 kilograms a few times in his career, which means that in a short period before the fight, he had to lose almost 20 kilograms. Daniel Cormier, who walks with 120 kilograms every day, has spent most of his career in the division up to 93 kilograms.
Mirko Filipovic: That’s the biggest MMA fraud
It’s insane in MMA that the only thing that matters is to satisfy the weigh-ins the day before the fight, and after that, it’s allowed to regain the kilograms. McGregor admitted that he entered the fight, that was in a weight class up to 66 kilograms, weighing 76 kilograms, which means that he regained ten kilograms in one day. “Weight cutting is the hardest part of the fight in the lightweight category. When I succeed, the rest is a piece of cake,” said the famous Irishman.
The greatest Croatian fighter Mirko Filipović has been warning about the big problem in MMA for years.
“I can only repeat what I have already warned: weight cutting is the biggest scam that exists in MMA sports and is fatal to the athletes’ health. It violates the meaning of the fight. It is not normal for a fighter who weighs 100 kilograms to fight in the weight class up to 70 kilograms and pass the weigh-ins. I think that the weighing of fighters should be stopped the day before the match. The weight-in should be done on the day of the fight, before entering the ring. Everything else is a scam. I don’t like watching fighters in lower weight classes at all,” Mirko told Index.
In that way, the committee that organizes and supervises the fight will knock down the fighters if they weigh 100 grams more than the agreed weight at the weigh-in. The same committee will normally allow them to weigh 15 or 20 kilograms more compared to the weight before the fight.
Such a concept is problematic for several reasons. Fighters who have a fast and strong metabolism can lose and regain more weight in a much shorter period, which is why they will usually fight against smaller and weaker opponents. A great example of this is Paulo Costa, one of the best fighters in the UFC’s middle division (up to 84 pounds). He is a heavyweight in terms of body and weight, who is able to lose weight and regain it, which is why he dominates with strength in the smaller category.
But the sports segment of weight cutting isn’t the most important. Health is much more important.
How do you cut weight and why is it dangerous?
There are several methods for weight cutting in martial arts, but the general formula is very similar.
Take an example of a fictional fighter who normally weighs 95 pounds and decides to fight in the 77-pound weight class. He will follow his diet through the training camp, and due to the strong intensity of the training, he will lose a lot of calories. This segment of weight cutting is completely normal and will not cause any health problems in normal circumstances.
Depending on how long the camp lasts and how much the fighter is careful about what he eats, he can lose up to 10% of his body weight. This imaginary fighter would reach 86 kilograms with that and would still be very far from the final goal, which is 77 kilograms. To achieve this, he must resort to extremely dangerous treatment and completely dehydrate his body.
There are no precise statistics on how many fighters cut weight and to what extent, but according to the most UFC elite fighters, about 70% of them lose up to 10 percent of their body weight in the last 24 hours before a fight.
Fighters cry, faint, do not eat or drink
The final part of weight cutting usually occurs in the week before the fight, when all serious training stops, and the focus is only on losing weight.
The process looks like this: the week before the fight, a fighter starts drinking large amounts of water. The goal is to bring the body to a state where the hormone aldosterone (responsible for regulating potassium and sodium in the body) will much easily transfer it to the dormant phase, in which the body will much more easily and more often expel fluid with minerals from its body by urinating.
The amount of water drunk drastically increases at the beginning of the week, and fighters sometimes drink up to eight liters of water per day. After that, the water intake is gradually reduced until the day before the weigh-in (the day before the fight), when it completely stops. Since the body is still in a state where it excretes fluids and minerals, dehydration of the body occurs, leading to the desired weight cut.
In the process, fighters avoid eating any foods containing carbohydrates or sugars, since they bind water molecules to themselves, which makes them much harder to get out of the body. The last days and hours before the weigh-in fighters often spend in saunas where, at brutally high temperatures, they try to additionally encourage their body to eject fluid through sweat.
Once they pass the weight-in, fighters rehydrate their body, and in the next 24 hours, by ingesting fluids, food, and supplements, they can regain the vast majority of the weight.
How painful the weight cutting process is shown in a video in which we see one of the most dangerous women in the world, Cris Cyborg, literally crying and moaning while coaches hold her hands to sweat the last few hundred of redundant grams.
If you ever saw an official weigh-in before some big event, you could have seen gaunt fighters who need help walking to get to the scales. Some of them can’t lose the last few grams, so they weigh themselves naked behind towels not to add the weight of their shorts.
There is a great movie on YouTube featuring the American MMA fighter Thomas Hughes. His coach has been filming the last 24 hours in which his fighter is weight cutting. Apart from the disturbing scenes in which the fighter loses consciousness on several occasions and cannot move or talk, the film shows the brutality of today’s MMA scene. When the dehydration level becomes life-threatening, Hughes’s coach decides to stop the weight cutting process and cancels the fight.
Weight cutting often backfires on the fighters in the ring, and it can be fatal
Weight cutting often causes problems for fighters in the match itself. Some fail to recover quickly enough and are still not at the right operating temperature, with their body still in a state of shock.
Others, such as a regional star Vaso Bakocevic, have gone through the process of weight cutting so often that their livers have swelled, making them extremely sensitive to hits. Bakocevic was defeated nine times in his career after being hit in the liver.
Since in the last hours, the body loses its resources from which it can expel water, it reacts by extracting a part of the brain fluid which protects our brain and helps in the recovery process. Fighters who have a long weight-cutting career have a significantly higher chance of brain damage, which is less protected.
Furthermore, the lack of brain fluid can absolutely be felt in the fight. Due to the lack of a protective layer, hits to the head are much more painful. The brain literally hits the skull, and the fighter can thus experience a knockout much more easily, even from hits that are not too strong.
One of the best Croatian fighters, KSW champion Roberto Soldic, talked about his weight-cutting experience, which is the reason Dricus du Plessis defeated him. When he tried to return the fluid through the infusion after the weight-in, he fainted twice within minutes and nearly collapsed. He believes that weight cutting is the main cause of defeat.
Deaths in MMA that are directly related to weight cutting are not common, but they are a big problem due to the long-term health consequences. The death of a Chinese fighter Yang Jian Bing five years ago showed that weight cutting is especially dangerous for amateur fighters who do not have professional staff, nutritionists, and doctors to help them overcome this process.
How can this problem be solved?
There are several suggested solutions to this problem by MMA professionals and the community.
One of them is to reduce the number of weight classes. Such a proposal would somewhat alter and normalize the structure of fighters by weight class, but there would be a danger that some fighters would have to lose even more kilograms to meet an even lower weight class.
The second proposal is for the fighters and their weight to be monitored on a continuous basis.
For example, all UFC fighters are required to accept a doping test given to them by the anti-doping agency USADA, that comes to their training or even at home unannounced.
If the same test existed for kilograms, it would be better to determine the actual weight class of a fighter. If he weighs 95, 90, and 88 kilograms on three weigh-ins throughout the year outside the camp, he can never fight in the class up to 70 kilograms. This measure is more difficult to implement for small organizations because they may not have enough people and resources to keep such records regularly
The best proposal is the one that is supported by Cro Cop, and that is the weight-in before the fight. If it is established that a fighter weighs 85 kilograms and fights in the class up to 77, then he can no longer do the next fight in a lower class but must move to his natural category. Such an approach would lead to a major change in the structure of fighters by weight classes, and then it wouldn’t make sense for fighters to cut weight because they would no longer be able to gain an advantage in size and weight.
Finally, people are interested in who is a better and more skilled fighter and not who has lost weight and therefore has an advantage that the opponent will find it difficult to deal with.
Any change that goes in that direction is necessary before someone loses their life due to the insane regulation of one sport.