In 2016 the California State Athletic Commission adopted the practise of early weigh-ins in an attempt to mitigate the negative affects of rapid weight cutting in MMA. The practise, which saw fighters make their official weight in the morning of the day prior to competition, instead of the night before competition, has since been adopted by athletic commissions across the US and beyond.
A recent study, titled ‘Evaluation of the early weigh-in policy for mixed martial arts events adopted by North American athletic commissions’, examined what affect this change made to the rate at which fighters missed weight. The study also examined how severely fighters missed weight before and after the adoption of early weigh-ins.
According to that study, the early weigh-in policy may not have curbed the negative effects of rapid weight cutting. And it might have made things worse.
The study examined weight cuts and misses for UFC and Bellator shows between 2014 (two years before early weigh-ins were instituted) and 2018. The study showed that prior to early weigh-ins 5.7% of fighters missed weight and, on-average, they weighed in 2.9lbs over their limits.
The study showed both these figures increased after early weigh-ins were instituted. With early weigh-ins the rate that fighters missed weight increased to 8.4% and the average amount of weight they missed by increased to 3.9 lbs.
Additionally, the study also found that there was an almost 10% increase in the amount of times fighters missed weight by more than 4 lbs.
In their conclusion the researchers behind this study wrote that, “These results appear to indicate that the [early weigh-in policy] has not altered weight cutting culture in MMA in a positive manner.” The study’s authors suggested that ‘longitudinal weight monitoring’—where weight is measured often over a long period of time—might be a better solution for mitigating the risks of rapid weight-cutting.
Erik Magraken wrote about this study on his excellent CombatSportsLaw.com. He included the following summary of the study’s results, which also highlighted factors the study did not take into account:
Two key things to consider, however, is whether more fighters are competing while dehydrated and whether more fighters are being harmed from weight cuts themselves. While having more athletes miss weight and having the misses be by a greater margin is not ideal important measures of success are whether there is harm reduction and whether athletes are stepping into the cage with more adequate levels of hydration than prior to these reforms. A driving force behind the early weigh in reform was addressing the harms from severe dehydration. The study does not shed light on whether these goals are being met.