Fighter in Brazil dies from stroke during weight cut


Nova Uniao flyweight fighter Leandro "Feijao" Souza passed away while cutting weight Thursday for Friday's Shooto Brazil 43 card in Rio de Janeiro. He was 26 years old.

Souza reportedly passed out in the sauna, and was transported to the hospital, where he was declared dead. He had two pounds to go to make weight.

Nova Uniao founder and Shooto Brazil president Andre Pederneiras announced the tragic news, via his Facebook.

"It is with great regret that we here report the death of the Leandro Caetano de Souza. The athlete died at the emergency unit in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro. The reasons are not yet known. We would like to express condolences to all friends and family."

Souza's teammate and sometime coach Andre Santos offered further details, via

"We don't have much information yet," said Santos. "But we do know that is related to his weight cut. He's my student but he also trains at Nova Uniao for about a year. I wasn't with him during this process because I have a fight scheduled in Russia, so he spent the night at Nova Uniao's gym. His sister called me saying that he had passed out so I went to the hospital, but he was already dead when I got there."

The chief of police in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, Joao Ismar told Brazil's UOL Sport that an examination by Instituto Medico Legal (IML) indicates that Souza suffered a stroke. Further investigation is in progress to determine if the stroke is related to the weight cut.

The death certificate submitted by the Forensic Institute shows Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA) as the cause of death of MMA fighter, Leandro Santos.

The chief of police in Botafogo, Joao Ismar, who is responsible for investigating the case, told UOL Sport that it is premature to point out the reasons that led to the death. The delegation requested more information to the IML on the causes of death and called relatives to testify.

"It is too early to attribute the death to the weight cutting effort," said the chief. "Need to check medical records to see if there is a historical factor, because it is not common for someone so young to suffer a stroke. IML is working to achieve more substantial elements that may clarify the case."

Souza's aunt, Elma Caetano, believes that Bean had ruptured vein in the brain due to the intense physical effort made ??by the player to reach the required weight for flyweight.

Souza's coach, Andrew Chatuba understands that the effort made by the athlete to cut weight could be linked to the death.

"He passed out in the sauna, and was rushed to the Emergency Ward," said Chatuba. "It seems to me there is a relationship with weight loss..."

According to a spokesperson for the health department of Rio de Janeiro, Bean was admitted to the public hospital in Botafogo on Thursday, at 2:50 PM, unconscious, having difficulty breathing, and no pulse. He was intubated and subjected to resuscitation, but died an hour later.

He will be buried on Saturday morning, in Rio de Janeiro.

A physiologist, Toribio Leite de Barros, who has worked in sports medicine reports that the stroke that killed Beans may be due to the intense process adopted to lose weight quickly.

Toribio emphasized that the more severe the dehydration caused by fluid loss cutting, the more the body is exposed to strokes.

"Dehydration makes the blood more viscous," said de Barros. "And this causes friction with the wall of the blood vessel to increase, and can break. Int his case, it is logical that there is a set of factors that may have contributed to the stroke, but any person be subject facing a severe degree of dehydration in a short period."

"I'm totally against this practice used in weight cutting. Remember that losing liquid is much easier than losing fat.  Some athletes take diuretic, laxative, in saunas. It is an extremely dangerous practice..."

Read entire article... (original Portuguese)

Pederneiras cancelled Shooto Brazil 43 as a "sign of mourning" for Souza.

Further details will be posted as they come available, but the story is an old, tragic one in combat sports.

Cutting weight hard had been a staple of collegiate and high school wrestling programs for generations. Then, late in 1997, three wrestlers died in a month. SI had the story:

He died crawling to the scale. Glassy-eyed and pale, his legs too weak to hold him after he had shed nearly 17 pounds in three days, Jeff Reese collapsed and expired on the cold floor of a locker room in Crisler Arena on Dec. 9 in Ann Arbor.

Reese, a junior at Michigan trying to make weight in the 150-pound class for a wrestling meet against Michigan State, spent the last two hours of his life in a plastic suit, riding a stationary bike in a room in which the heat was cranked up to 92. He was the third college wrestler to die in 33 days. Billy Jack Saylor, a freshman at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., and Joseph LaRosa, a senior at Wisconsin-La Crosse, died in November while cutting weight. Though the official causes of their deaths varied, Reese, Saylor and LaRosa died of the same thing: the self-inflicted torture of drastic weight loss, college wrestling's ugly secret.

Read entire article...

In response to the three deaths, the NCAA took a number of steps to make wrestling safer, including:
•Banning training in a room hotter than 80 degrees:
•Banning self-induced vomiting;
•Banning extensive food or fluid restrictions;
•Requiring hydration tests:
•Requiring body fat checks; and,
•Restricting the amount of weight that can be lost.

Following the NCAA's lead, high schools too instituted a variety of precautions.

Earlier this year, attorney Erik Magraken in his argued that Mixed Martial Arts should not wait for three deaths in 33 days due to weight cutting.

It is important to introduce forward thinking legislation instead of waiting for a tragedy to occur before bringing legal change.  This leads to today’s topic, rapid weight loss in combat sports and foreseeable tragedy.

MMA, as with all weight-restricted sports, comes with a risk that athletes will subject themselves to rapid weight loss techniques in order to make their fighting weight.  These ‘brutal weight cuts’ are well documented at MMA’s highest level.  This in turn leads to many MMA athletes fighting in a dehydrated state.  This comes with increased risk of fighter injury including increased risk of traumatic brain injury.  With this in mind it is worth examining the justification for weight classes in the first place and discuss whether fights following rapid weight loss should be tolerated.

As MMA has grown in popularity so has legislative oversight of the sport.  These two developments go hand in hand with a proper legal framework helping legitimize the sport in turn creating a foundation on which the sport can grow.  One of the first regulatory developments which has helped legitimize MMA in the public’s eye was the introduction of weight classes.  At their core, weight classes exist for fighter safety.  The risk of injury grows with weight discrepancy among athletes.

Appreciating that fighter safety is the core reason behind weight classes, rapid weight loss is a phenomenon that needs to be addressed. Failing to address this issue undermines the entire foundation underlying weight classes.

Studies show that rapid weight cutting (ie- more than 5% of body weight) lead to increased participant injury risk in combat sports. As noted by Dr. Benjamin, a simple solution to address this issue is to require certain weight metrics from 30 days out from a fight. 

The MMA community should not wait for a tragedy to occur, as did in the 1990′s with NCAA wrestling, before addressing this issue.  Unless safeguards are built in some athletes will continue to undertake dangerous methods to make weight.  Stakeholders in the MMA community, be it event organizers or legislative bodies, should take proactive steps to address this reality.  Not only will this result in competition more reflective of an athlete’s ‘true’ weight, it will promote fighter safety.

Which jurisdiction or organization will have the foresight and initiative to address this issue first?

Read entire article...

The long-feared death has now come. It is incumbent on Brazil's regulatory body, the Comissão Atlética Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA), to step in and make appropriate changes, so that another death from cutting is not inevitable.


tags: Leandro Caetano de Souza   Shooto   


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Recent Comments »

ErikMagraken site profile image  

10/7/13 1:31 PM by ErikMagraken

MMAJunkie just released a piece calling for weight cut reform: with Dr. Benjamin -Doc, what are your thoughts on the recent deaths and injuries in MMA that have been linked to weight cutting? – Numerous readersSadness and outrage.I've been warning the MMA community of the very real dangers of the extreme rapid weight loss culture deeply entrenched in this sport, but few – if any – have seriously listened. Even sadder still, after the numerous stories of "bad" weight cuts from world-class wrestlers turned MMA stars and recent tragic events, nothing seems like it will change.Some seem to suggest that since this is a difficult problem to address, nothing should be or can be done to enhance the safety of combat athletes who already accept tremendous risk. I disagree. Because a challenge is great only means that we must be more committed to finding a reasonable solution.The U.S. military recently faced a similar problem with heat-related illness (aka heat exhaustion/stroke) while fighting wars in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Protocols and policies were inadequate, ignored and/or poorly implemented, leaving an unacceptable percentage of war fighters physically unable to perform. Many felt that such "casualties" (heat illnesses) were just an unavoidable result of operating in a desert environment and merely the fault of the war fighters themselves.Fortunately, those tasked with the health and safety of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen would not accept this "inherent," unavoidable risk.U.S. military leadership discovered once they developed proper protocols and policies and directly tied the execution of those initiatives to the chain of command, the heat-related illness problem virtually disappeared. Simply said: The commanders were held directly responsible for each and every heat-related illness suffered by those under their command. Failure to properly protect those under your command was an offense that could/would result in court martial and end to your military career.Who is in the chain of command in MMA and should ultimately be held responsible for rapid extreme weight cutting? The answer is simple: state athletic commissions (SACs), promoters (and their matchmakers) and coaches.If established safety protocols and policies are not strictly adhered to, then fines, cancellations and suspensions of promotional and coaching licenses may very well have an effect similar to what was experienced in the military. If members of the SACs fail to vigorously enforce the established rules, they should be replaced.I suggest top-down implementation starting with the largest promotional companies that have a defined roster of fighters and sufficient resources:Multiple, official, random year-round weigh-ins to establish every fighter's "normal" weightFighters barred from competing in a weight class that's lighter than 90 percent of their established normal weightShort-notice (less than 30 days) fights cannot be offered to fighters greater than 5 percent of their weight limitFighter can be no more than 10 percent over the weight limit 30 days prior to date of fightFighter can be no more than 5 percent over the weight limit 10 days prior to date of fightUtilize urine specific gravity via refractometer to assess hydrationCurrently, the only stakeholder who pays a price for the continued dangerous culture of rapid extreme weight cutting is the athlete. Athletes are treated as being disposable and easily replaced and have always borne a disproportionate amount of the physical and mental risk.Just as the war fighter, the cage fighter will not be adequately protected until those in leadership positions are held directly and ultimately responsible for their well-being.Many will suggest that the athlete is not being held responsible for his or her actions. But believe me, athletes are always held responsible when their kidneys shut down or their brain is injured due to rapid extreme weight cutting.

Leigh site profile image  

10/1/13 9:42 AM by Leigh

No, that was simply conjecture of a promoter's POV on my part.From a personal point of view, I'd probably prefer same day weigh in. I can weigh in at 135 and go back in the next day at 150+ but its a hassle I'd rather not have. Would be better to diet down to 145 and have a good carb meal after weigh ins, then go fight 5-6 hours later.As I posted earlier, I don't mind weighing in as I get in the cage - and have done so for grappling comps - but unforseen circumstances make it risky, like scales not lining up or holding an extra pound of water due to cold medication (or whatever).

Tombmatter site profile image  

10/1/13 9:32 AM by Tombmatter

That just underlines the fact that the current system is forcing guys to abuse their bodies.Leigh, are you against or for the same day weigh-in? I get a wibe that you think we should sacrifice the 95% because promoters would rather see them die on someone else's backyard?Anyway, it's a question for commission I think. Promoter should have no say as it's a safety issue. I personally think that promoters would and should be happy that it would bring more legitimacy for the sport. More talk about the skills and less talk about weight discrepancy.

Leigh site profile image  

10/1/13 8:47 AM by Leigh

"why sacrifice the 95% for the self-destructive 5%?"I agree with you but from a responsibility point of view, a promoter would rather have someone inflict death on themselves in a sauna than have death inflicted on them on their event. Of course, either would be tragic but being killed in the cage would have further reaching implications.

georgejonesjr site profile image  

10/1/13 7:33 AM by georgejonesjr

I guess that's our basic disagreement.For 95% of the fighters, 1-hour before weigh-ins are safer, in that they won't dehydrate more than a pound or two. Large water cuts (10% of body weight) always damage the body (ie numerous organs), there's lots of medical literature on that, its not controversial at all. So not doing that cut is safer for those who aren't into abusing their body. Can we agree on that?That leaves the 5% who are going to damage their bodies to try to fight smaller guys. My underlying feeling is that I see no reason to sacrifice the saner 95% for the 5% who are going to push their bodies beyond the safe limit, but even beyond that, I'm not sure the 24 hour rehydration time is that much safer for those who push that hard.Most guys who are going to push themselves to the point of dehydrating even with just 1-hour to rehydrate are willing to sacrifice health to fight guys one weight division smaller than they are (that's the point of making an extreme cut that few others are willing to do).If there's 1-hour before the fight, that means cutting enough weight with an hour to go that they're down a weight division when they get into the cage. Definitely dangerous (not to mention stupid, and like I said, why punish the other 95% to save these folks from themselves).But if there's 24 hours before the cut, they look around and see that everyone is going down one weight division, so they try to drop two weight divisions (otherwise they're just fighting the same guys they'd fight anyway, and they're trying to avoid that). Which means they do a lot of damage to their organs even in the cut itself, and because they've cut so much, aren't completely rehydrated after 24 hours anyway - still dangerous.Basically, people who are willing to damage themselves to get an advantage are always going to find a way to do so - you can't make them safe. So the safest course in my opinion is to make it safe for the 95%, and that means only 1-hour before fight weigh-in, because then they won't have to do a 10% dehydration to remain competitive.The safest option for the vast majority is weigh-in an hour before the fight.The safer option for the crazy 5% is 24 hours, but not by as much as you might think, and why sacrifice the 95% for the self-destructive 5%?

tenchu site profile image  

9/30/13 6:52 PM by tenchu

TTT for same-day weigh-ins.

HULC site profile image  

9/30/13 5:06 PM by HULC

Day before weigh ins allow fights to happen between people of significantly different sizes if one of them knows how to abuse the system. It also makes a mockery of even having weight classes to begin with if the fighters enter the rig above the maximum allowed weight.Same day weigh ins insure both fighters are fighting at the same weight and remove any insinuated condonement of cheating the system.People cut far higher amounts when they believe they have a day to rehydrate anyway, which is at least as dangerous.Same day weigh ins are safer and fairer.

ajl416az site profile image  

9/30/13 4:26 PM by ajl416az

the Ray Mancini - Duk Koo Kim bout, which resulted in Kim's death, is part of the reason for same-day weigh ins. it also resulted int he end of 15 round fightsalso, someone mentioned the money lost in a Michael Spinks fight due to missing weight, which is a larger deterrent to change then fighter safety

YHTOMIT2001 site profile image  

9/30/13 12:20 PM by YHTOMIT2001

Machida is dropping to 185, you think he won't cut any water weight to get there?

YHTOMIT2001 site profile image  

9/30/13 12:08 PM by YHTOMIT2001

I would argue that day before weigh ins are safer. If fighters will cut weight under any system, we might as well make sure they have a chance to go into the fight well hydrated.