Unsafe weight-cutting has been a major issue in the sport of mixed martial arts for years, but recently reached a peak with the death of ONE Championship fighter Yang Jian Bing due to weight-cutting complications last year. The death caused multiple commissions and organizations to re-consider weight-cutting, and also to introduce new policies and rules.
After the passing of Bing, ONE Championship announced a brand new weight-cutting policy, essentially eliminating the entire weight-cutting process altogether. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and Kansas State Athletic Commission (KSAC) have both worked to resolve the issue in recent months. California hosted a weight-cutting summit late last year and in February, banned severe weight cutting and the use of IVs with a set of new rules. Earlier this year, the KSAC allowed Bellator 150 fighters to weigh-in earlier than usual, giving them more time to re-hydrate. With all of this occurring, it seems like MMA organizations and commissions across the globe are headed in the right steps to make weight cutting healthier and safer for athletes.
The UFC hasn't had much to do with the idea of making weight cutting safer -- up until now.
According to a report from the Las Vegas Review Journal, the premier MMA organization has adopted a new weight-cutting policy which will go into effect at UFC 200 in July. "The UFC has introduced a system of data collection and athlete monitoring of weight and vital signs that will enable the organization to create a database to track and analyze information on each fighter," the report stated.
Fighters must be within eight percent of their official fight weight when they check-in at the beginning of fight week, which usually occurs on a Tuesday night. If fighters check-in more than eight percent overweight, they are subject to daily weight checks and vitals from the UFC and will be required to attend weight management counseling. Their scheduled fights will not be cancelled, however.
"The only hard and fast rule in there, and I think it’s probably the most important thing in terms of the guidelines, is that 8 percent number," Jeff Novitzky, the UFC vice president of athlete health and performance, said (via Las Vegas Review Journal). "If they’re not, it’s not in the rules the fight won’t happen, but we sure are going to pay very close attention to them, including taking daily weight, daily vitals, and as it progresses, if they show signs of being dehydrated, they will be pulled from the fight."
Since the IV ban went into effect in October, Novitzky claims the majority of fighters have checked-in less than eight percent over their fight weight. He also says the IV ban has really affected the way most fighters cut weight.
"It had a very surprising side effect in that it helped curtail extreme weight cuts," he said. "You also see a whole bunch of fighters employing the services of nutritionists, so they are being smart about managing their weight. And the UFC is trying to provide as much as we can for the fighters that can’t afford a nutritionist. We’ve consulted with experts who have told us, ‘Hey, here’s the optimal things you want to be eating or drinking 24 hours before your fight, after the weigh in.’ So we provide that for the fighters."
As of UFC 196 last month, the organization now offers a wide variety of approved food and beverages in a special room on fight night. Prior to this, fighters were only allowed sealed bottled water in locker rooms.
Fighters are used to regular weight-cutting procedures -- a large cut just prior to their fight -- and the new policy will force them to cut earlier, possibly making weight-cutting even less safe than it already is. One of the few fighters to react to the new policy is UFC lightweight Kevin Lee:
The UFC wants us within 8% of the weight class fight week?? pic.twitter.com/hZz4F5H5S0— Kevin Lee (@MoTownPhenom) May 13, 2016
155+8%=167.4 that ain't gonna happen lol. https://t.co/cOK4gbs9QS— Kevin Lee (@MoTownPhenom) May 13, 2016
@JESnowden it's just gonna mean a precut before the actual cut...so I'll spend a week dehydrated instead of a day— Kevin Lee (@MoTownPhenom) May 13, 2016
They gonna need a lot of monitors lol. Hope they pay those guys by the hour https://t.co/MVKUGu7owa— Kevin Lee (@MoTownPhenom) May 13, 2016
Not I lol. When is 165 or 163 gonna be added. That's the only answer imo https://t.co/Dn5GBXdpuW— Kevin Lee (@MoTownPhenom) May 13, 2016
UFC 200 takes place live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on July 9 and is apart of UFC International Fight Week. The landmark event is headlined by a light heavyweight title rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones.