Earlier in December, 21-year-old Chinese prospect Yang Jian Bing passed away as he was cutting weight for ONE Championship's 35th event. Less than two weeks later, the Singapore-based promotion has decided to completely revamp their weigh-in system.
Their new systems hopes to curb dehydration and all the complications related to that process, and make fighters compete at their walking around weight. Fighters in the promotion will have daily weight checks throughout fight week, and will be tested up to three hours prior to the event.
The complete details of their new policy can be seen below:
1. Athletes must submit their current walking weight and daily training weight regularly. Athletes will input and track their daily weight online via a dedicated web portal. Athletes may input data weekly but must include daily weights.
2. Athletes will be assigned to their weight class based on collated data and random weight checks. Athletes are not allowed to drop a weight class when less than 8 weeks out from an event.
3. During fight week, weights are checked daily. Urine specific gravity will also be checked the day after arrival and 3 hours prior to the event. Athletes must be within their weight class and pass specific gravity hydration tests all week and up to 3 hours before the event. If an athlete falls outside the weight, or fails a test, they are disqualified from the event. Doctors may request additional testing at their discretion.
4. Catch weight bouts are allowed. However, the athlete with the higher weight will not be heavier than 105% of the lighter opponent’s weight.
5. ONE will conduct random weight checks on athletes at our discretion.
6. Athletes may petition to change weight classes outside of the 8-week competition zone and must be within their new desired weight at that time. In addition, athletes must pass a specific gravity urine test when their weight is within the limits of the newly petitioned weight class. ONE doctors can request additional testing to determine the amount of weight drop allowed over a specific time.
7. The usage of IVs for the purpose of rehydration will not be allowed.
Overage and limits of weight reduction:
· 3 weeks to event day: Athlete must be within contracted weight class
· 4 weeks: 1.5% bodyweight over max
· 5 weeks: 3%
· 6 weeks: 4.5%
· 7 weeks: 6%
· 8 weeks: +6% max over.
(ONE Chief Doctor may approve up to +/- 0.5% maximum error in any weekly weight check)
As ONE FC doesn't have to adhere to athletic commissions the same way US-based promotions do, and they're able to immediately make all these changes when and how they want it.
The policy, as written above, is an interesting take and it seems to be both ambitious and well researched. It also seems like generally a really good idea on paper, but like many solutions that have been proposed over the years, there are worrisome things involved.
The majority of fighters may follow the rules and drop weight properly, but much like the current situation we have, it's the minority we should worry about. The outliers, the desperate, those who drop weight the wrong way; it's those few that could cause the truly big issues and deaths in the sport.
Whether it be injuries, sicknesses or other factors that causes their weight to fluctuate, we all know there will be those who will still find a way to make weight, knowing that his paycheck and livelihood is on the line. Whether it's extreme dehydration, or going on an insane diet for the entire week, there would be similar problems regardless of rule set. The difference is, this new system could possibly have those desperate fighters competing just 3 hours after.
The harmful effects of weight cutting has been well documented, but while I truly applaud them for the effort and thought process put into this, is it really a better system than what we currently have? I'm not quite sure I'm comfortable with the idea that some may struggle to pass all those daily checks, and still have to fight without any recovery time.
Unlike boxing, MMA also has very few divisions, leaving those 'tweeners with less of a choice to compete in their "natural" weight. If the goal is less extreme and unhealthy cuts, and not the business aspect of having deep divisions, maybe we should start with better education and more weight classes.
Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena