Craig White dropped from from 216 to 171 for UFC Liverpool

Monday, June 18, 2018

Darren Till’s ghastly failure to make weight for his main event fight at UFC Fight Night 130 last month drew a lot of attention. However, there are profoundly dangerous weight cuts all the time in this sport that escape notice.

For the UFC Liverpool co-main, Craig White dropped from 216 to 171, a total of 45 pounds, in a short notice fight. He watched the Till video and had a unique reaction.

“I couldn’t help but thinking, ‘If people saw a video of my weight cut it would have made Till’s look easy,'” said White to Peter Carroll for MMA Fighting.

But the are endless monster cuts that never become public and they are causing damage.

White had previously dropped 40 pounds to fight John Redmond at Cage Warriors Fight Night 11 in 2014.

“I got rid of eight kilos (18 pounds) in water that time,” said White. “I had never used salt baths before that. I genuinely felt like I was going to die when I was walking to the scales that time. I promised my coach [Dave Matthews] and my girlfriend that I’d never do it again. Then, the phone rings about two weeks before UFC Liverpool and [CWFC owner and president] Graham Boylan is asking me if I’m available to fight Neil Magny.”

“All I could hear in my head was, ‘You’re 98 kilos [216 pounds] — what the f*** are you doing?’ Two seconds later I accepted the fight.”

White trained four times a day on 600 calories for the biggest fight of his career. Three days before the fight, White was so debilitated his coach wouldn’t let him complete a public pad session. And he hid it.

“I couldn’t let anybody see how badly I was feeling because that could’ve given my opponent some kind of psychological advantage,” said White. “As well as that, if I looked really bad I could’ve ended up getting pulled by the UFC.”

The evening before weigh-ins White took two 15-minute salt water baths every hour from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Then he woke up at 5:00 a.m. and took four more. In all, he did 14 baths to cut the final 10 pounds.

“When I was on the scales hitting the weight in front of the media, all I could think about was how stupid I was for putting myself through something like that again,” he conceded.

White could barely stand; it took two hours of water and fruit to reach the point where he could walk without a struggle. And of course, the next day, he had the biggest fight of his life. He lost in Round 1 to Neil Magny.

UFC president Dana White has announced that he is doing away with early weigh-ins; UFC welterweight Craig White disagrees. He said that despite the toughest cut of his life, due to the extra time, he felt good by fight time. And he said that because of dehydration the night before, you can’t sleep well anyway and that naps during the day compensated.

The fighter says that he is going to reduce his walking around weight going forward, and that another cut like the last one would hospitalize him. He says he will never do another cut like that, unless …

“The only way I’d ever do it again was if I was sitting down and I suddenly got a short notice call to fight for a UFC title. You know, I say it won’t happen again, but knowing my luck it probably f**ing will!” he said laughing.

In no other sport, in no other field of human activity, is there a “safety” rule that reduces the individual to a state of near collapse a day before expecting the greatest level of physical exertion a human being can achieve. And the next day White was 202 pounds in a 170-pound division.

No rational fan or professional in the sport can think the current weigh-in system is okay; to the contrary, it’s a broken system, waiting for a big name to die. UFC matchmakers need to behave responsibly, instead of irresponsibly as they are now. If they need a fighter, no matter how badly, Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard need to find out if that fighter can make weight without endangering his or her life. And asking the fighter is farcical.

One of the most prized qualities in MMA is gameness. That’s the will to win greater than the will to live. Craig White is game as hell. He’s doing what we revere him for. He’s a hero. And his coaches work for him. What the UFC matchmakers are doing is not heroic, and has to end. The sole alternative is waiting until the death of a prominent fighter, and then stopping.

UFC matchmakers ceasing the practice of asking fighters to make potentially lethal weight cuts does not solve the problem of the culture of extreme weight cutting in our sport, but it’s a piece of it, and can start today.