Robert Follis, one of the more respected trainers in the sport, spoke recently with Elias Cepeda for FloCombat about his fighter Kevin Lee's bout with Tony Ferguson at UFC 216. Lee struggled to make weight for the fight; Follis discussed it, and looked at the bigger picture.
"[It's] silly that part of being the better fighter is how well you sweat," he said. "Is this really what we care about?"
The coach rightly called the culture of extreme weight cutting in MMA, "the biggest health concern for fighters outside of knockouts, and weight-cutting can also contribute to knockouts." He wants to "either get rid of weight-cutting or make it about dropping a negligible amount."
However, he had no excuses.
"Tony had a tough weight cut as well, I'm sure," said Follis. "He's a big guy. He didn't look like a spring chicken up on the scales, either. I remember someone telling us after seeing Tony weighing-in, 'Tony looks rough.' I said, 'yeah, well we will, too.'"
The coach didn't blame the staph infection on Lee's chest either.
"The staph infection came up toward the end of camp, close to the fight. We thought it was going down with medicine but the weight cut probably turned it up a notch," he said. "But if you ask me how much it affected him, how do you measure that?"
"Physically, he was ready to go five rounds. But, he got tired quick. Now, how much of that was stress, how much of it was exertion in the first round trying to finish the fight, how much of it was Tony surviving and coming out pressuring right away afterward? It's hard to measure any of that. Something like staph is an anomaly thing that happened. People ask, 'why didn't you pull out?'
"Coaching athletes for the past 18-20 years do you know how many times injuries pop up in fights? You can't pull out every time something like this happens. You've got to go through it and fight."
While head trauma can be reduced in training, it cannot be eliminated from the sport. Dangerous weight cutting can, and there is a solution - CSAC executive director Andy Foster's 10-point plan. Now Nevada has to implement it, or wait until a fighter dies and then implement it.
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