At this point it’s basically a part of the routine. Fight week rolls around, the photo ops come and go, then suddenly it’s Friday morning, and we all wait to see who will show up looking like a walking corpse ready to have his remains weighed on the official scale.
At UFC 216, it was Kevin Lee’s turn. After bragging about feasting on tiramisu for dessert, he needed two tries to hit the lightweight mark, looking progressively cadaverous with each attempt. If that wasn’t enough of a fighter safety risk, we learned after the fight that he also had a staph infection on his chest. The Nevada State Athletic Commission deemed him fit to fight anyway, for reasons it wouldn’t fully explain.
Lee wasn’t the only one who struggled in Las Vegas. Nik Lentz was pulled from the event entirely after being hospitalized due to what he called “diabetic-like issues.” It seems his hands and feet went numb during his weight cut, which probably isn’t a good sign just a couple days before you’re supposed to get into a cage and fight.
This all happened just two weeks after Mizuta Hirota was scratched from UFC Fight Night 117 when he nearly fell off the scales at weigh-ins.
As if to drive home the point that it can always get worse, Pancrase weighed in a nearly unconscious Daniel Lima in Japan over the weekend, and then let him go through with the fight anyway, despite the fact that he had to be literally carried on and off the scales.
As longtime MMA referee Marc Goddard asked in a Facebook video, what if “the unthinkable” had happened in that fight, which is really not so unthinkable after seeing how depleted Lima was at the weigh-in?
“Who would take that blame?” Goddard asked. “That’s (expletive) manslaughter.”
What makes this practice more insane is how unnecessary it is. Think about weight-cutting for what it really is. A day before the competition, two athletes of roughly equal size shed their bodies of enough water and nutrients to hit the same arbitrary mark on a scale, all so they can frantically put the weight back on in time for the fight the next day, at which point they will be roughly the same size again.
As dangerous and difficult as it is, nobody’s getting a significant advantage through weight-cutting anymore. What they’re doing with all that suffering is preventing their opponents from having a significant advantage. It’s an absurd price to pay just to end up on a mostly level playing field in the end.
But how do you fix it? More weight classes aren’t going to do it, because fighters looking for an edge (or just for a fresh start in a new division) will still push their bodies to the absolute limit if they’re allowed to.
So maybe you stop allowing it. You institute hydration tests and out-of-competition weigh-ins to get a sense of what each fighter really weighs in the hopes of establishing a safe fighting weight for everyone.
That’s the direction that the California State Athletic Commission is heading in, but it’s going to take more than one commission in one state. This is a change the whole sport needs to make, if we’re going to really address the issue. The entire culture needs to change, and that’s never easy to do.
But if we’re not yet convinced that this is a problem, what’s going to change our minds? People have died cutting weight. They’ve died in the fights that followed rough weigh cuts. They’ve been hospitalized so often that it’s barely even newsworthy anymore. They’ve squandered the weeks and months spent training for a fight, all because they couldn’t survive their own weight cuts in a healthy enough state to go through with them.
The worst things that can possibly happen have already happened. The not-quite-as-bad-but-still-pretty-troubling things have also happened, and with alarming frequency.
Still, most of the powers that be in MMA don’t seem ready to make a change this big. Apparently they’re fine with the almost weekly ridiculousness of pro fighters making themselves sick on the eve of their most dangerous assignments. They’re too used to it, maybe. Too comfortable with it.
Or maybe they just need to see how bad it can really get. But if that hasn’t happened by now, I hate to think of what it’s going to take.
Filed under: AXS TV Fights, Bellator, News, PFL, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie