Cutting weight has been a long-used strategy among fighters to have what they perceive to be an advantage over their opponents. While shaking off 10 or 15 pounds seems viable for most, some fighters are making cuts upward of 25 and 30 pounds. That type of cut can have a drastic impact on the body, metabolism and, most importantly, performance.
The UFC, as well as several other promotions, have fallen victim to failed weight cuts. Most recently, Renan Barao and Henry Cejudo experienced botched weight cuts that made the headlines. While they may not be the first two athletes to miss weight, having two last-minute drops for UFC 177 brought some serious questions to answer: Why can some fighters make weight and others can’t? How can promotions avoid this issue going forward? Let’s take a look at those questions.
The most ideal option here is for fighters to hold themselves accountable and be intelligent. If you have not made a certain weight, don’t try it alone.
Combat Press caught up with two nutrition and diet coaches who have had no problem with clients making big cuts.
Eric Triliegi of NEWtrition For Life has been in the nutrition game for well over a decade. Working with the likes of Anthony Pettis, Carla Esparza and Chris Holdsworth supplements his already professional reputation.
“I think the biggest thing is that a lot of fighters wait until the last minute to start their cut. That, mixed with fighters not eating properly during that crunch time, usually leads to a fighter not making weight or having drained themselves so much that it will be hard to recover enough to be able to perform at your highest level the next day,” Triliegi said.
Tyler Minton, the brains behind The Melee Way and nutrition coach to the UFC’s Zak Cummings and James Krause, echoes the same, saying that by not outsourcing diets and weight cuts, fighters are running a risk.
“If a fighter doesn’t make weight, not only did they break contract, but they obviously had issues during the cut which results in underperformance,” Minton explained.
While the UFC tends to pull the reins tight to avoid missed weight, companies such as Bellator and other regional promotions still struggle with fighters being on weight. A myriad of options are available to reduce the occurrence of fighters missing their mark on the scale, but they all have their drawbacks.
One argument might support a fight-week weigh-in, meaning fighters would be regulated in the amount of weight they could cut the week of the fight. It’s a great idea to consider, but consider the amount of individuals starting their weight cut before their first “weigh-in.” There’s no object way to account for that, and we all know it would happen. Plus, there are many fighters who cut over 20 pounds the week of the fight and have no problem with weight or performance.
A second argument might be to encourage fighters to fight at their “natural” weight. However good the idea, again, it’s unlikely. Even with a “day of” weigh-in, you’re likely to find fighters who’ve cut to make the weight limit.
So, if we can’t establish a fair and consistent way to weigh in, we’ve then got to attribute more responsibility to the fighters, because making weight is part of their contract, right?
A failed weigh-in typically carries the burden of a fine—the fighter will pay a percentage of their purse to their opponent. Perhaps more punitive measures could be set in place to, say, encourage fighters to make weight. As we know, professional fighters often earn a living on their fight purse, so it may be wise to do a six-month suspension or heavier fines as a result of missing weight. Many options can be considered here by the promoter or the athletic commissions, but a slap on the wrist (i.e. 10-20 percent of the purse) won’t fix the problem for all fighters. To some, it may be worth it.
Although it may not be concerning for some, being professionality ought to be implied as part of being a professional mixed martial artist. Perhaps it might be useful to regulate weight more for amateurs so there’s not such a lackadaisical approach to making weight. Those amateurs become professionals, and given the recent state of affairs with making weight, perhaps the expectations of amateurs and professionals ought to be raised.
Triliegi feels as though a fighter’s weight should be crucial to a fighter’s camp.
“Weight cutting has been such an issue as of late, that fight camps and managers should be just as worried about a fighter’s weight as they are about training and sponsors,” he said.
Another suggestion would be to simply have a nutrition coach.
“Fighters should worry about fighting and winning—that’s it,” suggested Minton, expressing the importance of a comprehensive coaching staff for all fighters. “You have a striking coach, wrestling coach and jiu-jitsu coach. You should also have a qualified nutrition coach.”
Whether we’ll see more regulations in place for making weight or see more fighters gravitate to an addition in their coaching staff is yet to be known, but what we know for certain is, something has got to give.