Mixed martial arts is slowly waking up to the dangers of extreme weight cutting. Cris Cyborg recently cited it as a reason she was not dropping to 135 for a potential superfight with Ronda Rousey or Holly Holm. Another reason to avoid extreme weight cutting is that it can end up with fights were the fighters are in different weight divisions.
And the entire point of weight divisions is that one fighter not unfairly and dangerously outweigh the other.
Cris Cyborg weighed in at 144.6 lbs on Friday for her fight Saturday night with Daria Ibragimova. By contrast, the Russian weighed in relatively far from the 145 championship limit, at 143.7 lbs, indicating she is not likely to put in a massive amount.
Six hours later, she weighed in at 163.8 lbs, as seen in this video from her friend Ray Elbe's Instagram. That is a difference of over 19 pounds, and pushes her up to the welterweight division.
None of this is Cyborg's fault. She is following the rules, to her advantage. That is the responsibility of every fighter and camp. In fact, her performance and nutrition consultant George Lockhart did an extraordinary job.
However, it is also critically important that fighters educate themselves about the dangers of weight cutting. Andy Foster, the executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, and has an unparalleled perspective on the sport, as a fighter, promoter, judge, coach, fan, and regulator.
THE DANGERS OF CUTTING WEIGHT AND DEHYDRATING
Unhealthy and dangerous weight loss practices continue to be a serious problem in combat sports. One recent study found that 39% of MMA fighters were entering competition in a dehydrated state. Heat illness and death in athletes have already happened in the sports of wrestling and MMA.
It’s been shown that excessive weight loss, rapid weight loss, and repeated cycling of weight gain/loss causes decreased performance, hormonal imbalance, decreased nutrition, and increased injury risk. Other life-threatening problems associated with improper weight loss and dehydration include:
•Decreased Muscle Strength and Endurance: Decreased blood flow to muscles makes them work less well.
•Decreased Heart and Cardiovascular Function: The heart works harder and less efficiently.
•Reduced Energy Utilization, Nutrient Exchange and Acidosis: With decreased blood flow to tissues nutrients don’t get delivered, and the body’s waste products do not get
removed as well. A buildup of acid occurs which ch anges cells’ functions in the body.
•Heat Illness: This takes on four forms: heat cramps, heat syncope (loss of consciousness), heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which may be fatal). Dehydration results in decreased blood flow to skin and muscles. This is followed by decreased ability to regulate body temperature. The ability to sweat becomes impaired and core body temperature can rise. This increases the threat of all of these to poorly hydrated athletes doing strenuous workouts.
•Decreased Kidney Function: Dehydration leads to decreased kidney blood flow and decreased kidney function. This contributes to the problems listed in the points here, in addition to decreased urine output, concentrated urine, and leakage of protein into the urine. (It is not known if these changes can result in permanent kidney damage.)
•Electrolyte Problems: Decreased kidney function results in imbalances of electrolytes such as unhealthy increases in potassium and sodium.
•Mood Swings and Mental Changes: All of the above contribute to increased mood swings, poor concentration and focus, disorientation and other mental changes.
•Eye Trouble: Dehydration can cause blurred vision and dry eyes.
•Increased Risk of Brain Injury: There are likely increased risks of brain bleeding and concussion.
•Don’t use extreme methods for making weight such as excessive heat methods (rubberized suits, steam rooms, saunas), excessive intense bouts of exercise, vomiting, laxatives and diuretics.
•Don’t use dehydration as a mainstay of making weight. In addition to the above, it puts you at risk of improper rehydration techniques when, in reality, proper re-hydration takes several hours to days. (Many cases intravenous fluids being used for rehydration after weigh-ins have been reported - this is a doping violation with several organizations.)
•Commit to year-round proper diet and training for proper weight control and body composition.
•By maintaining your weight year round near an appropriate competition weight and not competing in a weight class outside your appropriate weight class you will help avoid large swings in weight.
•Maintain a good state of hydration by drinking fluid throughout the day and staying hydrated during workouts.
•Follow nutritional programs that meet your needs for adequate amounts of calories from a balanced diet high in healthy carbohydrates, the minimum requirement of fat, and appropriate amounts of protein.
•Be wary of nutritional supplements as they are not regulated by the FDA and some have been shown to be harmful.
For more information visit: associationofringsidephysicians.org.
Cris Cyborg fights Daria Ibragimova in the main event of Invicta FC 15 on Saturday night at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California, live on UFC Fight Pass.