In the final stages of fight preparation, as the fighters prepare to step on the scale, most people will never know or understand the physical and mental pain these warriors go through during the weight cutting process. Combat Sport athletes are human just like us but endure a life of struggle and stress to be the best. Weight cutting is one of those many struggles.
The weight cutting primarily done in MMA and other weight required divisional sports is brutal and sometimes dangerous. These athletes dehydrate themselves and lower their calorie intake a week or two from a scheduled fight. This is to achieve a lesser weight when they step on the scales. Fighters rehydrate and eat to get as close to normal training and healthy fighting weights for their fight the next day.
Competition is at the highest levels in Combat Sports and it’s a never ending war. Weight classes are packed with young, strong and maybe hungrier fighters than you. Maybe they are willing to cut more weight than the older fighter?
This is also very mentally stressful on a fighter’s mind. When you need to support a family sometimes killing your body to get a win makes you believe it’s all worth it.
Fighters must go through a six to eight week training camp, at times longer, which will include press obligations, sponsorship commitments, and personal life. Consider training outside of the cage is the equivalent to someone working 40 hours a week, 8 hours a day every day. Sometimes fighters have regular full time jobs along with all their training and other obligations. Often at the highest level of competition fighters are away from their families completely during these camps.
Compound the frustrations of being miserable, sore, and home sick with a week or two before the athlete’s moment of glory they have to starve and dehydrate themselves. The ideology for some is a fighter wants to cut as much weight as possible to be the biggest man in the weight division. Unfortunately this has come at the risk of seriously damaging the body and in some instances death being the result.
Rory Markham is a perfect example of a serious close to life threatening problems due to weight cutting. Rory fought for the UFC and on one occasion fighting on a London card he had major health problems. After the weigh-ins Rory had major body cramps, intense pain and almost had to cancel his fight. Rory still managed to get through the bout but his checkup and X-rays post fight revealed he had been fighting with a collapsed lung. Markham had said after “That was the worst weight cut I’ve ever had, now I know what hell feels like.”
Jake Shields had a terrible experience with weight cutting also. Jake lost twenty pounds in one day to make weight for a fight in the UFC welterweight division. This was his first weight cut coming from the middleweight division of a required one hundred eight five pounds. Jake won his fight but it was a less than crowd pleasing affair. Jake said after the fight “I don’t want to make excuses, but that was the first time cutting to a hundred and seventy pounds. I dropped too much weight. I pulled twenty pounds out of of me in a day. I will never do that again!”
Many fighters who have missed weight in the past are now hiring nutritionists and meal preparation experts to assist in healthy weight cuts. This is a very expensive way to make sure you hit that weight at weigh-ins. The sad part is the newer and the not financially stable are left dangerously close to harming their bodies and never being able to repair the damage.
The UFC and other top organizations are implementing safer and new guidelines toward weight cuts and weigh-ins. This is a good step in the right direction but it will take time to smooth out the wrinkles. Until then we will still see lots of fighters missing weight, risking health to fight for glory or more importantly food on their families table.
I’m guilty of ranting here and there on some of these topics that are so frequent in the fight world. My rants are more like a scolding to my kids; they are like a slap in the head from my old man. This is to get your attention and help educate fans that many times an opponent that the fighter must face before they step into the cage is themselves.