UFC 227 not only provided two fantastic title fights and a string of new narratives inside the cage, but it stoked a longstanding debate for the MMA community outside of it. Beyond Henry Cejudo’s improbable win and TJ Dillshaw putting the stamp on his rivalry with Team Alpha Male, weight cutting was one of the core topics to come out of the weekend. Thanks, in large part, to the California State Athletic Commission’s release of fight day weight numbers for the competitors.
The CSAC’s interest in tackling and improving the safety around weight cutting in MMA has lead them to measure how heavy athletes are, not just on weigh-in day, but at the start of fight week and just before they step into the cage as well. And for UFC 227 it showed that most fighters were putting on at least 10 lbs in the 24 hours before entering the Octagon, with some going up as much as 24 lbs in weight.
On a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, the longtime UFC play-by-play man gave his thoughts on MMA’s weight cut culture. And to his mind – apart from its potential dangers – it represents a bigger source of possible performance enhancement than doping (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“It is stupid,” Rogan said. “What it is is sanctioned cheating. It’s sanctioned cheating and it’s cheating at a much higher scale even than PEDs. If you get two people and they both weigh 135 [pounds] but they’re both totally hydrated and one of them has been doing steroids and one of them hasn’t been doing steroids, the difference will be far less than if one person weighs in at 135 [pounds] but then balloons up to 160 [pounds] and then gets into that octagon at 160 [pounds] but there’s no PEDs involved. That’s a much greater advantage than someone whose doing some sort of testosterone thing or something. They’re compromised but the benefit of being so much larger might outweigh being compromised.
“Dude, if I was running s**t, I’d fix that first. That would be the first thing I would fix.”
Rogan pointed to ONE FC’s recent weight class changes – a move made in response to the tragic death of Yang Jian Bing – and their implementation of hydration tests throughout fight week as a possible solution to stop weight cutting. On the UFC end, their most recent move was a plan to go back to evening weigh-ins after more than a year of holding them in the morning – which gave athletes more time to rehydrate. However, the plan proved so wildly unpopular with fighters that it appears to have been scrapped for the immediate future.
Whether or not the UFC wants to take a page from ONE’s play book or not, weight cutting in MMA does seem like a problem that needs more attention than it’s had to date. If not because it necessarily improves performance (that’s certainly up for debate), then purely for safety reasons. Hopefully it’s something the UFC is looking to address in the near future, before MMA suffers another weight cutting related tragedy.