UFC 241 fight day weights highlight potentially fatal problem in MMA

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Dehydration is medically classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the percentage of body weight lost. Mild dehydration is said to be present with fluid losses of 5-7%. Moderate dehydration is 8% to 10-11%. Severe dehydration is 11-12% or more of body weight; it requires immediate medical care. Death occurs at a loss of between 15% and 25% of the body water.

California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) executive director Andy Foster has created a 10 Point Plan to address the problem of extreme weight cutting in MMA. One of the steps he and other progressive commissions take is to weigh in fighters on fight day. If a fighter is more than 10% heavier than their contracted division, then they are severely dehydrating themselves, and can be recommended to move up a division, unless cleared to be in their division by a physician. Foster plans to add a rule allowing CSAC to cancel fights where fighters put on more than 15% of their bodyweight between weigh-ins and fight time.

Foster today released the figures for UFC 241. The figure in () is from the official weigh-ins. The figures at right are Fight Day Weight - Percent Change.

Stipe Miocic (230.5) • 233 - 1.1%
Daniel Cormier (236.5) • 247.0 - 4.4% • Note: DC weighed in clothed, with items in his pocket.

Nate Diaz (170) • 180.0 - 5.9%
Anthony Pettis (169.5) • 177.2 - 4.5%

Paulo Costa (186) • 213.8 - 14.9%
Yoel Romero (184.5) • 207.2 - 12.3%

Sodiq Yusuff (145) • 169.2 - 16.7%
Gabriel Benitez (146) • 164.6 - 12.7%

Derek Brunson (186) • 204.8 - 10.1%
Ian Heinisch (185.5) • 

Khama Worthy (155.5) • 167.6 - 7.8%
Devonte Smith (156) • 163.8 - 5.0%

Cory Sandhagen (136) • 149.2 - 9.7%
Raphael Assuncao (136) • 153.2 - 12.6%

Drakkar Klose (155.5) • 175.2 - 12.7%
Christos Giagos (155.0) • 176.2 - 13.7%

Casey Kenney (139) for 140 catchweight fight • 145.0 - 4.3%
Manny Bermudez (140) for 140 catchweight fight • 164.8 - 17.7%

Hannah Cifers (114.5) • 125.6 - 9.7%
Jodie Esquibel (115) • 127.8 - 10.2%

Kyung Ho Kang (136) • 156.4 - 15.0%
Brandon Davis (136) • 156 - 14.7%

Sabina Mazo (126) • 145.6 - 15.6%
Shana Dobson (124.5) • 136.0 - 9.25

Kyung Ho Kang fought at bantamweight, but wouldn't have made weight for lightweight; that's crazy. Drakkar Klose and Christos Giagos endured severe dehydration, weighing in within .5 of a pound of each other. They fought 20 pounds heavier, within a pound of each other. So what is the purpose of the cut?

The simple fact is that Manny Bermudez is not a bantamweight. The entire purpose of weight divisions is for fighter health and safety, but Kenny had to fight an opponent 20 pounds heavier. That's crazy and dangerous and unfair. And Bermudez didn't even win. Indeed, of the eight fights where one or both fighters exceeded the 10% limit, the lighter fighter won four of them, indicating that in addition to endangering health, it doesn't seem to have a huge effect on fight performance. 

Foster will require Bermudez to move up to featherweight in order to fight again in California. Decisions will be made shortly for the remaining fighters who broke the 10% and 15% thresholds. A note will be added the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) database noting the recommendation; to date, other commissions have honored it.

Foster is not being radical here; rather, he is his usual brilliant, rational, conservative, normal self. There is no earthly justification for allowing fighters to endure a potentially fatal level of fluid loss, in the interests of health and safety. The sport needs to adopt the 15% rule immediately, everywhere.