Documenting The Tolls of Rapid Extreme Weight Cuts in MMA

Posted: September 3, 2014 in Safety Studies
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Following UFC 177, an event which had headliner Renan Barao yanked from his title bout following a difficult weight cut, UFC President Dana White was asked whether this is a sign that the UFC can or should do anything to get involved in this process” referring to rapid extreme weight loss (“REWL”) practices which are the norm in MMA, to which White responded “Nobody’s ever been hurt from it, I mean, there’s only so much we can do“.

This reminds me of Senator Moynihan’s famous quoteEveryone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

The truth is athletes have been hurt as a result of rapid extreme weight cutting practices.  A few examples include –


After sharing this list on Dr. Rahjai added the following helpful comments:

…weight cutting is very difficult on the body as you are messing around with electrolytes and fluid balances which are against the natural homeostasis of the body.
Low Calcium, magnesium, and especially potassium can result in cardiac conduction abnormalities which can potentially lead to cardiac arrest if severe enough.  Also the strain it puts on the kidneys is tremendous.   That’s just the more likely causes of death not listing the other potential causes!  Dangerous comment to make suggesting it’s normal for people to lose 20+ lbs at a time

Despite Dana’s quote,in reality the UFC is well aware that harm does come from REWL practices.   For proof you simply need to fast forward a mere twenty minutes in time from the post event press conference to the subsequent media scrum.  Here White acknowledges the harm suffered by Barao noting as follows “When they come in we weigh all of them so we have a good idea where everybody is and know where they are.  What happened this time, and don’t quote me on this…is he got to (138 pounds) and that was it, his body shut down and wasn’t cutting any more weight…He was 138 when he feinted and it wasn’t even a feint, what happened is once you deplete all the electrolytes in your body you basically become paralyzed.  That’s what happens.  You become paralyzed and you can’t move any of your limbs.  They had to come and call 911.

White goes on to suggest that athletes alone have the responsibility to make weight.  While it is true that professional athletes do bear responsibility for their actions promoters cannot turn a blind eye to dangerous practices that take place under their nose.  The UFC knows exactly how much their fighters weigh when they arrive at their fight location the week prior to a bout.  In turn this means the UFC knows exactly how much weight their athletes are going to attempt to lose and as illustrated by the above examples these cuts are not always made safely.

Just as the NCAA fashioned safety measures following deaths from REWL practices in the 1990’s, promotions such as the UFC along with State and Provincial Athletic Commissions can fashion minimum safety measures to prevent further tragedies from occurring in MMA.  At a minimum, adding a hydration requirement when athletes make weight can go a long way in addressing dangerous cuts.  Whatever the solution, ignoring the problem and saying “nobody’s ever been hurt from it” is not the answer.

  1. Roman says:

    Good points. You can now add Charles Oliveira to your list.

    Implementation of NCAA type regulation regarding weight cutting would of course require rigorous monitoring and enforcement. Who is going to do that?

    I can see why the UFC is not interested. They are a business, and whatever they might say about how much they care about their fighters, at the end of the day they care about their bottom line more than they do about anything else. They are now spending lots of money on enhanced drug testing, and weight cutting is probably the last thing on their mind.

    The fact that the UFC knows how much their fighters weigh the week before a fight is not very helpful. After all, every fighter is different. There are those Gleison Tibau types who can cut around 30 lbs the week of the fight and feel (relatively) fine doing that.

    I think State and Provincial Athletic Commissions should lead the way. The big question is: Do they have the resources to monitor and enforce new weight cutting requirments?

  2. EMagraken says:

    Thanks for your comment. I agree Athletic Commissions should be on the front lines addressing this issue.

    I don’t profess to have all the answers but it seems that NCAA type regulation with all of its expenses may not be the only possible solution. I would think adding a hydration requirement during weigh ins can go a long way to address the ills associated with REWL.

    If a device such as a refractometer was used during weigh ins and athletes were required to not only make weight but to do so while meeting an agreed upon level of hydration the landscape can be overhauled for the better.

  3. This well-informed article states the law that banned mixed martial arts in the City of Vernon, BC. The article is not written with the intention of criticism and had left that for the readers

  4. […] play are being followed.  There are lessons to be learned in cases such as this when it comes to issues such as Rapid Extreme Weight Cut practices and PED abuse in combat […]

  5. […] A recurring theme at this website is pointing out the real dangers that come with Rapid Extreme Weight Cut practices in MMA. Documented harm has become so common that my list of injuries from Rapid Extreme Weight Cut practices has to be amended on a far too frequent basis. […]

  6. […] The tolls of rapid extreme weight loss are real and an ongoing concern.  I don’t know if a rapid extreme wight cut played a roll in Smith’s death, what I do know is we now have another lower weight class fatality to add to the statistics.  Stakeholders in combat sports would do well to take the issue of dangerous weight cuts seriously and consider fashioning solutions to lessen the risks associated with the unnecessary practice. […]

  7. […] Rapid Extreme Weight Cuts have taken their toll on the health of many combat sport practitioners and may even play a role in in combat sports fatalities. […]

  8. […] 12.  (Update April 28, 2015) A fighter in Washington State passed out post fight and was hospitalized with kidney failure.  He died a few days later in hospital.  Details are still coming to light but it is speculated that the kidney failure may be due to rapid extreme weight cut practices which are an unnecessary danger in the sport. […]

  9. […] California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster has been one of the most outspoken regulators when it comes to rapid extreme weight cut practices in MMA, an entrenched reality of the sport that comes with real dangers. […]

  10. […] California State Athletic Commission has been one of the more vocal regulators about the dangers of Rapid Extreme Weight Cuts in combative sports.  They continue to take action with the AC’s Executive Officer, Andy Foster, recently being […]

  11. […] There are many documented cases of injury in MMA due to the profound dehydration that comes with rapid extreme weight cutting.  Perhaps the most dangerous risk is that of increased brain trauma and death that comes from being exposed to strikes while not being fully hydrated.  As this industry wide practice is becoming better recognized by the public more calls for regulatory reform are being made. […]

  12. […] Extreme Weight Cuts are perhaps the biggest danger in the sport with many documented injuries and even death.  Simply avoiding extreme dehydration will take away the need for IV re hydration.  Accordingly […]

  13. […] Changes such as this, coupled with those discussed on the North American landscape earlier this month at California’s Dehydration and Weight Cutting Summit are welcome news for the safety of MMA combatants as the death and injury list due to Rapid Extreme Weight cuts has grown far to long. […]

  14. […] at least two known deaths in MMA due to rapid extreme weight cut practices and a much needed Dehydration and Weight Cutting Summit last year in California reforms are coming […]

  15. […] at least two known deaths in MMA due to rapid extreme weight cut practices it is welcome that industry stakeholders are finally acknowledging that this is a real danger in […]

  16. […] at least two known deaths in MMA due to rapid extreme weight cut practices it is welcome that industry stakeholders are finally acknowledging that this is a real […]

  17. […] when it comes to tackling rapid extreme weight cuts in combat sports, a practice which has led to notable injuries and even death, California has passed emergency rules adding much needed regulation and oversight to the dangerous […]

  18. […] cut tactics and not meet the above test for disqualification.  These rules exist for a reason.  MMA’s rapid weight cut injury list is far too long and growing and a consistently troubling pace.  It does not need another death on […]

  19. […] brought on by rapid extreme weight cut practices have led to well documented injuries and death in combat sports.  Despite this combat sport athletes continue these practices under the impression that they lead […]

  20. […] have been numerous well documented injuries due to rapid extreme weight cut practices in MMA and regulators have slowly but surely taking notice (click here to read about California reforms, […]

  21. […] taking the steps needed to adopt this practice along with other weight cut reforms to ensure that MMA’s rapid extreme weight cut injury list stops its never ending […]

  22. […] combat sports regulators turn their mind to solutions for the dangers associated with Rapid Extreme Weight Cutting, a knee jerk reaction is to require same day weigh ins with fighters competing at their weigh-in […]

  23. […] taking the steps needed to adopt this practice along with other weight cut reforms to ensure that MMA’s rapid extreme weight cut injury list stops its troubling […]

  24. […] physician shares Doctor Benjamin’s views Hendricks should be pulled from UFC 200.  MMA’s rapid extreme weight cut injury and death list is far too long.  It does not need to grow any […]

  25. […] MMA’s Weight Cut Injury List […]

  26. […] poor regulatory oversight can lead to greater dangers to athletes than PED use.  One can look to MMA’s troubling and ever growing Rapid Exteme Weight Cut injury list as an example of […]

  27. […] MMA’s Weight Cut Injury and Fatality List […]

  28. […] dangers of rapid extreme weight cuts played a central role at this year’s Association of Boxing Commissions annual meeting with […]

  29. […] with immediate effect to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of competitors.”  Given the ever growing Rapid Weight Loss Injury/Fatality List in MMA this is a sensible call to […]

  30. […] MMA’s rapid extreme weight cut injury list […]

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