Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Former UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk appeared recently on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, and described the harrowing weight cut before her title losing fight with Rose Namajunas at UFC 217. The issues around the cut led to her splitting with longtime nutritionists from Perfecting Athletes.

 

“Man, I felt so bad, I had to cut 15 pounds in 14 hours; I did it in 14 hours,” said Jedrzejczyk as transcribed by Peter Carroll for MMA Fighting. “I think Perfecting Athletes couldn’t believe that I did that. I start my weight cut at 5 pm on Thursday and I was on weight five minutes before 11 am on Friday, so it was a miracle. I was praying to God for this miracle.

“And it happened. I took this mentally. I was crying, I was so weak but I believed it. I said to one of the Perfecting Athletes team, ‘Hey, it’s a shame for a champion to not make her weight’, and then I made it — a thing I couldn’t believe.”

“After the weigh-ins, I had only fluids and I went to bed because I took just two 15-minute naps during the weight cut. The thing is, my legs got numb after I woke up. I said to my doctor, ‘Hey, my legs are numb’, and she said, ‘nothing to worry about, we’re going to hydrate you more’ and ‘you’re going to be fine’.

“But the next day, I felt the same and thought the most crazy things. I took the fight mentally. I wanted to go into the fight and push away all of the worries.”

“Like I said, I could’ve gone to the doctor and got an IV, but I was worried that they were going to cancel my fight. I couldn’t do that to my fans. I’m a real warrior. And if people want to believe they can believe. If not, I will prove them wrong. I’m still the champion.”

“[Perfecting Athletes] were like family, you know. I trusted them so much and I paid the ultimate cost for someone’s mistake. They agreed with me. We sat and talked on Monday after the fight and they agreed with me that they made a mistake, but I paid the ultimate price.”

The mistake referenced by Jedrzejczyk was starting weigh-ins too heavy.

“I was like 127 on the Friday and Saturday a week before the fight,” she said. “We were planning to get me to 125 by Tuesday, but my weight went up on Sunday to 130 and I couldn’t drop the weight for three or four days. I did everything that I could, and it’s their mistake. I started my weight cut with the limit at 130, so it was almost impossible to make that weight.”

Dehydration is classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the percentage of body weight lost. Mild dehydration is 5-6%, while moderate is 7-10%. Severe dehydration is over 10%, requiring immediate medical care. Death occurs at a loss of between 15% and 25% of the body water. Jedrzejczyk lost 11.5% of her body weight.

The root of the issue is not that Jedrzejczyk started the cut at 130 rather than 125. As long as there is a culture of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts, health-threatening incidents like this will continue.

There is a path out. Andy Foster, executive director of the California State Athletic Commission has created a 10 Point Plan to fix the deadly problem. It works. The ABC medical committee supports it. The ABC has adopted it. The UFC supports it and will continue to adopt further parts of it. It is up to excellent commissions like the New York State Athletic Commission to adopt the plan. The alternative is waiting for someone to die, and then doing it.