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.
Kirik Jenness, owner of MixedMartialArts.com and official record keeper for Canadian and US MMA has been equally vocal about this harmful practice and the need for reform. In his latest article Jenness notes “Weight cutting has killed a fighter. It has very nearly killed many more. It has led to the cancellation of countless fights. Due to the attendant lack of fluid cushioning around the brain, it has surely led to brain damage.”
So what is the solution? I’ve said it before and will keep repeating it. The danger is dehydration. The solution, therefore, is to add a hydration requirement when making weight. It does not matter if the weigh in is the day before or the day of the fight, the fighters must weigh in and be hydrated at the same time. This can be measured cheaply and effectively.
After mentioning this repeatedly on the Underground forum, a South Carolina ringside physician agreed and provided the below practical breakdown which is worth republishing here. Regulators need to take note. There is an inexpensive and effective fix to the dangers of Rapid Extreme Weight Cuts. The sport does not need another death or catastrophic injury before addressing this.
The more I have perseverated about this over the last year or so, the more I think that the fairly simple to implement process that Erik has been mentioning recently is probably the best immediate solution. Keep weigh ins the day before the event so they can be a public, buzz building spectacle like they are now, but add a simple refractometer measurement of urine SG for all the fighters just before the weigh in. A handheld refractometer is ~$500, and can simply be rinsed under a faucet between uses. Someone could test all the fighters on a card in about half an hour just standing at the sink in a bathroom. Fighter comes in, pees in a cup, it gets tested, quick rinse and next guy comes in. The person using the refractometer does not even have to be a medical person, you could train someone how to do it in a minute or two. If the SG is OK, you get to weigh in, if not, you can’t weigh in until your SG falls below the threshold.
There would be some growing pains for sure, and I would expect that initially a number of fights would have to be scrapped at the last minute. However, fighters and trainers would quickly learn what weight they need to fight at to pass the test, and I think for the most part the same guys that are fighting each other now would be fighting each other then, just at a heavier, hydrated weight. I think we will see better fights as well since guys would be performing without having gone through the hell of cutting and rapid rehydration that most do now.
Doing weigh ins like this would eliminate the expense and paperwork of certifying a fight weight like high school wrestling does, and since you would take the SG test close to the event it would make the most common method for “cheating” the SG test more risky than it would be to do it “out of competition” earlier in the year.
The first person to implement an attempt to limit weight cutting is going to draw intense criticism- particularly if it results in fights being scratched
However, I think ultimately it will benefit the sport and in retrospect fans will be glad that it was done