Watching the Weight Cutting Landscape

A good friend of mine posted on an internet group chat the other day, a link to Conor McGregor vs Dennis Siver post fight interview with Ariel Hewani from The Irishman’s second round TKO victory in the TD Gardens Arena, Boston Massachusetts in 2015.

With this post, he no doubt was being ironic when he stated that McGregor looks like “an underfed Skeletor” from He-man and the Masters of the Universe. Funny right? Also extremely accurate: Conor’s strenuous weight cut, in order to get down to 145 pounds in being able to fight the German took an enormous toll on him both physically, and more importantly mentally.

His reaction post fight by jumping the cage to confront then champion Aldo was perhaps an example of this, it seemed irrational to me watching back then. The off the cuff remark, humorous in its intention, and while it has been maybe 2 years since I have seen that post fight interview, was absolutely undeniable! Watching this video again my skin almost started crawling. I was shocked. I don’t remember at the time in 2015 thinking that he looked bad at all. However, upon reflection of watching this interview, Conor looked like he was at death’s door! His face was sucked in; he had bags under his eyes, cheek bones like katana blades and he genuinely looked like he was depressed.

Conor has since shot to monumental heights, conquering the 9 years undefeated and current UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo Junior in 13 seconds and winning the UFC Featherweight belt. Even topping this amazing feat by defeating Eddie Alvarez to become the first two weight world champion in UFC history this is all fantastic, however a lot of so called MMA “purists” were mad at Conor, as he was yet to defend his 145-pound title before defeating Alvarez. I would on this standpoint, have been in agreement with those sentiments until that video refreshed my memory. My standpoint now is Conor’s camp 100% were smart to vacate! I’m not sure if it was a collective decision or if Dana White made him give the belt back but, I do not ever want to see Conor McGregor go near a weighing scale to make 145 pounds again.

This though is not just an article on McGregor’s wellbeing; this is about weight cutting in general. Khabib Nurmagomedov recently had to pull out of his UFC 209 scheduled Lightweight bout, with Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson due to being hospitalized for trying to cut too much weight.

His AKA teammate Luke Rockhold alluded to blood not being able to reach Khabib’s liver as being the reason for his collapse and eventual hospitalization. Ever since the IV ban, we have seen the guys who are notorious for cutting 30 plus pounds during the week of fights fail consistently, and then miss weight. Something has got to give; Kelvin Gastelum was fined for constantly missing weight and disappointing his fans. The difference being with Kelvin it seemed like a discipline issue. Before his UFC 205 weigh in with Donald Cerrone he was pictured eating burritos on weigh in days on his Instagram page. So you can kind of understand the frustration there with Kelvin. He has since had to move to middleweight where he looks absolutely phenomenal with his latest stoppage of Vitor Belfort. In Conor’s situation, I feel he was simply too big for 145 lbs and had he gone on to fight longer at that weight class I would be afraid of him seriously putting his health at risk similar to what transpired with Khabib. Severe weight cutting and the consequences it can bring for fighters should never be taken lightly.

We all remember the horrible instance when ONE FC fighter Yang Jiang Bing tragically passed away due to “cardiopulmonary” failure, God bless the dead but the flyweight fighter shouldn’t have been cutting that level of weight in order to compete.

The effect weight cutting has on a fighter’s psychological performance is huge. In wrestling, studies have found, the result of high levels of weight cutting has been linked to extreme confusion and dazed reactions, and in a sport like MMA where you have literally a split second to make a decision, this has been well evidenced in UFC fights of the past. For example, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone cut a huge amount of weight for his Lightweight title fight with Rafael Dos Anjos, and he quickly was finished as a result of a liver shot. The massive strain this cut put on his body and internal organs, you would have to feel was the main culprit to this loss. Had it been a healthy, happy Cowboy at 170lbs perhaps the fight may have had a different outcome? Cerrone has stated in the past that he feels brittle and thin at 155lbs. One has to question whether was he too fatigued, dehydrated and unfocused from his cutting to interpret what strikes that were coming at him and react?

Cerrone looks a lot more comfortable and healthy now at 170 pounds and prior to his latest setback against Jorge Masvidal, he was on a 4 fight win streak at Welterweight. Even Rafael Dos Anjos has made the jump up to 170 pounds stating that he fainted before his Lightweight title defense vs Eddie Alvarez. Slowly but surely we are seeing more and more fighters having to make the jump as they cannot rehydrate to a sufficient enough standard with the IV ban.

It’s time we really look at the issue of weight cutting; fighter’s safety should be the main priority here, and there has to be more done in order to stop these massive weight cuts from happening. There has been one death already, I really hope that there aren’t any further fatalities. The solution for me would be to add more weight classes in the men and women’s divisions. The UFC have taken steps in the right direction to rectify this problem. The introduction of the women’s flyweight division would be a massive boon for fighters like Joanne Calderwood who would have been too small to fight at 135lbs, and have been calling for this division for some time now. So kudos to the UFC if that indeed does go ahead. It poses the question, with weight cutting being such a hot topic at the moment, will we see the introduction of new weight classes in the men’s divisions? I would surely hope so and I suspect so do the fighters.

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