Is cutting less weight and fighting at natural weight the latest UFC trend?

UFC fighters have become wiser and smarter when it comes to weight cuts. I have been saying on Twitter and on the Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast that fighters should fight in divisions close to weight they walk around at. This allows them to walk into a fight healthier and more importantly with a lower risk of illness and/or injury.  

It is common knowledge that fighters dehydrate themselves to lose weight one day before a fight. MMA fighters drop well over 10 pounds in preparation for a fight and shedding sometimes more than 10 pounds of water also. Shedding water weight is bad for a fighter’s kidneys. Although kidney failure is among the symptoms associated with excessive weight cuts, fighters can also suffer seizures, like Uriah Hall did. The UFC has denied the use of intravenous (IVs) to rehydrate fighters, this rule took effect at the same time they moved to USADA testing.    

We have seen fighters like Robert Whittaker, Kevin Lee, Anthony Pettis, Anthony Smith, Chris Weidman and Thiago Santos move up a weight class. Most have said the move is for competitive purposes but more importantly the weight cut would be less dramatic for them. If you look at how they have fared in the octagon since moving up, you would have to agree that their performances have been better due to them being healthier and more hydrated during their fights. 

One fighter that has always fought close to his walk around weight is Frankie Edgar. Edgar fought at lightweight from 2010-2012, and it has been reported that he rarely had to cut weight to make the 155-pound championship limit. Edgar who stands at five-foot-six, with a 68-inch wingspan, eventually moved down to featherweight (145lb) a division that sees him fighting guys close to his natural size, rather than fighting bigger and taller guys at lightweight even though he did win the lightweight championship at UFC 112.    

Missing weight would become a thing of the past if fighters fought close to their natural weight. As fans we look at missing weight as a lack of professionalism. We normally don’t dig deeper into why, we just get frustrated with the fighter. The older a fighter gets, the harder it becomes for them to cut a massive amount of weight. UFC has made fighters move up a weight class for missing weight, the list includes Kelvin Gastelum, Renan Barao, Yoel Romero (even thought he still fights at 185), Luis Pena, and Anthony Pettis when he couldn’t make 145 pounds. Some fighters not in the UFC have almost died during weight cuts such as Yang Jian Bing, Leandro Souza, Dennis Munson Jr., Jessica Lindsay, and most recently, Aspen Ladd.

Although Boxing and MMA are two different sports, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has agreed to incorporate fight-day weigh-ins to better address the sport’s dangers of weight cutting, extreme dehydration, and rapid rehydration. The commission studied 754 boxers and found 164 inflated more than 10 percent beyond their official day-before weigh-in figure. The health concerns that could result from this rapid inflation included heart, kidney, and brain issues, along with kidney weakness, drowsiness and decreased vision and alertness.  

CSAC officials agreed that gaining more than 10 percent of weight back before a fight is a hazardous rise and if a fighter were to do this, they could be fined (and the fight could be cancelled as well). The International Boxing Federation has a system in place to strip champions of their belt or bar challengers from winning a title fight if their fight-day weigh-in figure is 10 pounds over for those fighting at 140 pounds or less, or 7½ pounds over for those fighting at 147 and heavier weights. 

UFC should look at adopting this rule to help promote healthy weight cuts and rehydration practices. 

The purpose of cutting weight is to gain a size advantage over the competition, but is it worth it in the long run? Fighters are starting to figure it isn’t and considering their long-term health so hopefully this trend continues.

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The Scrap’s Lee Brown is a 22-year Air Force Vet, fan of all sports – especially UFC, NFL & NBA, and cohost of Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast. You can follow Lee on Twitter (@Levanstian757) and Instagram (@Va121Lee).