CABMMA exploring radical redefinition of weight divisions

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mixed martial arts is inherently dangerous – it’s a hurting game. However, the culture of extreme weight cutting in MMA is by far the danger that can most readily be mitigated.

Brazil’s CABMMA is run by the highly-respected Cristiano Sampaio, and he has a novel proposal to deal with weight cutting – redefining weight divisions. He wants to keep the same divisions in name, but move the definition up a division.

Strawweight: 115 pounds up to 124.9 pounds
Flyweight: 125 pounds up to 134.9 pounds
Bantamweight: 135 pounds up to 144.9 pounds
Featherweight: 145 pounds up to 154.9 pounds
Lightweight: 155 pounds up to 169.9 pounds
Welterweight: 170 pounds up to 184.9 pounds
Middleweight: 185 pounds up to 204.9 pounds
Light Heavyweight: 205 pounds up to 224.9 pounds (Cruiserweight)
Heavyweight: 225 pounds up to 265 pounds

“I would say 90 percent of the fighters are not gaining more than the ranges I’m proposing,” said Sampaio to Steven Marrocco for MMAjunkie. “There’s simply no purpose anymore for them to cutting that much weight.”

Further, as a transitionary measure, Sampaio wants to expand the customary one pound given in non-title fights.

Because title bouts are more important, Sampaio recommends starting with a four pound allowance, and decrease that by one pound for each following fight. He recommends for non-title fights that the allowance start at three pounds, and decrease by one point for each following fight. By 2020, allowances would phase out altogether.

UFC president Dana White wants a return to afternoon weigh-ins. Fighters have made crystal clear on the social network that they are opposed. However, Sampaio feels neither will solve the problem.

“We could go back to the afternoon weigh-ins without a problem, and we would then be giving the athletes the same amount of recovery time they get in the U.S.,” said Sampaio. “But that itself would not eliminate the problem of dehydration.”

in July of 2017 CABMMA adopted the California State Athletic Commission’s 10-point plan, which includes measuring fight day weights. There have been 227 fights in 22 events regulated by CABMMA since. In 44.9 percent of cases, fighters put on 10-15 percent of their weigh-in weight by fight time. 8.4 percent gained, 15 percent or more.

Effects of dehydration:
3-4% no difficulty of adverse health effects for most people
5-8% can cause fatigue and dizziness
10%+ can cause physical and mental deterioration
15-25% death occurs

Thus in Brazil nearly 10% of fighters are dehydrating themselves to a potentially fatal point. Fighters likely build up tolerance to extreme weight cutting, the same way alcoholics build up a tolerance to alcohol.

Doing approximately 15 shots of hard liquor in two hours is potentially fatal for the average person. On September 25, 1980, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham reportedly had 16 vodka shots for breakfast; he didn’t die as his body was used to it, just as fighter’s bodies are used to cutting 15%. But it’s terrible for you. Bonham kept drinking all day, and died the next night.

Alcoholism has serious health repercussions, even if you don’t die. Extreme weight cutting does too, but too many commissions are waiting around for a high profile death before taking the problem seriously.

Sampaio takes it extremely seriously, and now is in the exploratory phase of this radical proposal.

“That is something we have been very concerned about,” said Sampaio. “In some occasions, [fighters have gone] one, two and even three divisions above. It is a concern to us that involves health and fairness in the sport.”

“If we don’t approach this issue with a more realistic and immediate way – and this is what our numbers are showing us – we will have a long and rough road ahead. To sacrifice the athletes with a weight cut – even being fully aware of these numbers – to maintain our interpretation of the divisions, that isn’t making any sense to us.”

“On a global level, this has to be looked into by commissions.”

The Association of Boxing Commissions is Federally mandated, but in action is not monolithic. Like the balance of power in the USA between the Federal government and states, ABC member commissions each proceed as they determine works best for their region of regulation, while keeping within broad guidelines. This proposal and others will undoubtedly be a major point of discussion at the 2018 ABC Convention held on Monday, July 30, through Wednesday, August 1, at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida.

Non-members of the ABC can also attend, and interested parties can take refereeing and judging seminars on the Saturday and Sunday immediately before the event.

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