Monday, January 15, 2018

The culture of extreme weight cutting is the most dangerous fixable problem in mixed martial arts. You cannot remove all danger from MMA – it’s a hurting game. But dividing fighters by weight for safety and then allowing them to dehydrate to near death is extraordinarily irresponsible.

“I guess from the outside looking in, you’re just dieting to make weight,” said PVZ. “A lot of people don’t realize why we do it. We do it because everybody does it, everybody cuts weight. Nobody wants to be the smallest person in the cage. So if you just cut as much weight as you can, then you’ll be the bigger fighter.”

Andy Foster, executive director of the California State Athletic Commission has created a 10 Point Plan to fix the deadly problem. One of the points is the addition of weight divisions, so, for example, there is no massive jump from 185 to 205. An example of the value of more divisions was explained by PVZ who made her flyweight debut on Saturday, after suffering to make 115.

“The main reason I stayed in the 115 division so long is because they didn’t have a 125 pound division. I knew I belonged at 125. I think people look at me I don’t look like this big, buff monster, but I weight a lot more than most people assume.

VanZant detailed a prior tough cut.

“I cut from 138 to 115 in like 10 days,” she said. “First day I lost like two pounds, just by flushing out my body. Then the second day I got another two pounds off. Then I could only lose 1/2 pound a day. I got down to the day before weigh-ins and I had ten pounds to lose. That’s a lot, a really significant amount of weight for a female, or for anyone in general to cut ten pounds off your body.

“I put this gross stuff called Albolene all over my body. And you put on a sauna suit. And you go into a sauna, and work out. You get yourself as hot as possible, and just keep sweating. I’ll stay in the sauna 30 minutes the first time, come out for a minute, then I’ll do 15 minutes, get out, 15 minutes get out. Then I get as low as I can, until I can’t walk anymore. And then the next day, I still had four and a half pounds to go.

“Too exhausted to put the sauna suit back on and work out, so you get your bathtub as hot as it goes. There’s a few tricks. One trick is I put six bags of Epsom salts and 10 bottles of alcohol in the bathtub because it opens your pores. It kind of sucks everything out of you. So then you just lay there, and you burn yourself, to try to get your body to sweat.

“I couldn’t do it, so I taped off the whole door in my bathroom, and put the blow dryer on, the sink on as hot as it goes, so you could get the bathroom as hot as possible. Then you just lay in the bathtub and sweat. I would get up and sit on the corner of the bathtub and my best friend would scrape the sweat off of me, beause once the sweat is gone, your body will produce more to cool you off. So she just scrapes and scrapes until I stop sweating. And then get back in the bathtub.

“The only person I had in my hotel room with me helping me cut weight was my best friend. She’s not a fighter, she’s not an athlete. She’s there to be my support system. She leaves the room because I was sitting in the bathtub trying to sweat. When she came back, I was passed out on the floor.

“You just lay there and you pray – ‘Lord, please do not kill me; please do not let me die doing this.’ I had my best friend praying, because she didn’t know what to do, finding your best friend passed out on the floor after you scraped them with a credit card. … She thought I was going to die.

“My parents came in and saw me that way cutting and told me they will not support me in this career if I stay at 115. They won’t support my career, they won’t be a part of it. Because I was killing myself for this.”

PVZ believes she broke her forearm in the first round vs. Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Fight Night 124 on Sunday. And while her weight cut didn’t threaten her health and well-being, for countless fighters, it still does.

Foster’s 10 Point Plan to fix the deadly problem 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 now up to each athletic commission to adopt it. Or the sport can wait for a well-known athlete like VanZant to die first, and then act responsibly.