When BT Sport approached me to contribute to their UFC blog, I was obviously excited but faced with issue of what to write about. After all, some crazy stuff has been happening over the last couple of months. Then The Ultimate Fighter 18 episode 12 happened, which for those that are still playing catch-up focused around a fighter missing weight.
So to paint the picture, Cody Bollinger of Team Tate was disqualified for not making weight against Anthony Gutierrez of Team Rousey, thus giving Gutierrez a bye to the semi finals.
Then for that semi final match up, Gutierrez fails to hit the scales at the 135lbs (+1lb) limit, tipping them at 140lbs! Two fighters failing to make the weight in a single season was a first in the history of TUF, which prompted a reaction from Dana White akin to Georges St Pierre suggesting he is going into retirement! Needless to say, Gutierrez got his marching orders.
Making weight is often referred to as the first fight before a fight. In many combat sports where there is a 24 hour gap before fighting and weighing-in, athletes aim to step on the scales as light as possible and rejuvenate their bodies to attempt to achieve a weight advantage and consequently a competitive edge. This is a practice very commonly used in wrestling.
It is professional courtesy that you stand on those scales at the contracted weight. If a fighter fails to make the contracted weight it looks bad on them and their team."
It is a horrible process which takes many guises, but generally involves restricting food and fluid intake and sometimes combined with the use of a sauna, salt baths, sweat suits or sweat oils to mention just a few. In the case of mixed martial arts where the differences in weight categories are wide compared to boxing (boxing =17, MMA= 9) this potentially leads to some significant differences in weight from the time of the weigh ins and the time of the fight (approximately 24-30 hours later).
This has created a sometimes very scientific culture which sees some competitors ‘cut’ as much as 10kgs (22 lbs). It is now rooted in preparations for a fight and nearly all UFC competitors will endure a weight cut of some description. One marquee fighter that didn't used to cut but achieved great success was Frankie Edgar, but he eventually folded to the pressure to try and gain an advantage.
Depending on the fighter, this could be a lengthy diet and increased cardio work or it could be a rapid weight reduction performed in the sauna, wearing a plastic suit over a number of hours.
Whatever the method, it is professional courtesy that you stand on those scales at the contracted weight. If a fighter fails to make the contracted weight it looks bad on them and their team.
For UFC bouts, you will also surrender a percentage of your fight purse or in the case of TUF you’ll be less welcome than Chael Sonnen at a Silva family BBQ and shown the door.
There’s also the hate you will receive from your peers whose spot you potentially took to be on the show. The sadistic side to us have enjoyed watching these alpha male types on TUF reduced to wilting wall flowers for the weigh ins. The Gabe Reudiger “put me back in” scene was a classic from season 5.
The example of TUF 18 encourages some debate over weight cutting. When executed safely and effectively, the results can be impressive and fruitful, but if carried out poorly a fighter can actually negatively affect his power, cognitive function and gas tank, all of which need to be firing at absolute optimum levels when competing in mixed martial arts.
Both Bollinger and Gutierrez are listed on Sherdog as featherweight, not bantamweight, competitors, but the draw of TUF and the potential spoils should you be successful is motivation enough (or should be) to step outside the comfort zone.
With that said however, serious scientific consideration needs to be given to the weight cutting process and it needs to be examined specifically for the athlete in question as we all have different body and metabolic types.
Despite mixed martial arts as a sport showing huge signs of evolution since its inception, the widespread methods of weight cutting have not developed as quickly.
Nutritional experts like Mike Dolce (of Dolce Diet and UFC Fit fame) have successfully managed massive weight cuts for numerous fighters like Chael Sonnen, and our own Luke Barnatt. They understand the issues with the dehydration of body fluids and also the loss of electrolytes and glycogen. If you fail to ‘get it right’, you may achieve the desired weigh-in limit, but lose the contest due to physical issues associated with energy depletion. Worse still fighters could harm their bodies.
There is no quick fix to this. In the case of TUF, it makes dramatic television as we see the negative effects both physically and mentally. Gutierrez may never reconcile his relationship with the UFC which will significantly affect his career choices. He may never now make a new acquaintance who asks “did you really drink your own bath water?” Nasty!
Despite mixed martial arts as a sport showing huge signs of evolution since its inception, the widespread methods of weight cutting have not developed as quickly."
On the other hand however, we do have a Brit in the finale. Davey Grant clearly didn't want this particular path, but he’s got his spot and I truly believe he has all the tools to win the season- good luck Davey, a nation of fans are behind you!
UFC is the pinnacle of mixed martial arts competition and budding martial artists will seek to emulate their UFC heroes. The underlying point to this blog was to highlight the potential dangers with weight cutting. People experiment with weight cutting and are sometimes ill advised to do so. Not only might they fail to achieve the desired effect by hitting the weight limit and create a life-long enemy of their scheduled opponent and team, they might also cause themselves some damage.
Before embarking on that 16kgs weight cut, proceed with caution. You don’t want to be naked and face down on the coping stones at the local leisure centre pool after a visit to the sauna- just ask Gabe! Alternatively, seek advice from experts and do your research.
John Gooden is an MMA commentator and journalist. Follow him on Twitter @JohnGoodenUK