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There could be some major changes brewing in the world of MMA.
On Tuesday morning, the California State Athletic Commission passed a 10-point plan of new regulations over weight-cutting that could turn the sport upside down. The full list of changes and notes can be found in Marc Raimondi’s piece for MMA Fighting, but it can be summarized as follows:
- Fighters are now licensed by weight class, which requires the approval of a licensing physician to compete at a specific weight or higher.
- Fighters that miss weight are fined from their show money as well as any other bonuses they may receive (including win bonuses).
- New MMA weight classes are introduced under the CSAC’s jurisdiction, including 165, 175, 195 and 225 pounds.
- The commission can investigate fighters for repeatedly missing weight, which could result in them being pushed into a higher weight class.
- Day-of-fight weight checks will be implemented, with a 10 percent increase in weight after 30 hours potentially resulting in fighters being forced up to a higher weight class.
- The commission can call for 30- and 10-day weight checks ahead of major bouts in order to better track fighters’ weight.
Weight-cutting is a process of dieting and/or dehydration whereby athletes can shed upwards of 30 pounds ahead of a contest to face smaller opposition in lower weight classes. It is seen in many different combat sports, including boxing and kickboxing, and it is a major part of both mixed martial arts and wrestling. A number of serious health risks are associated with weight-cutting, ranging from a higher likelihood of physical injury to kidney failure. A 21-year-old fighter, One Championship flyweight Yang Jian Bing, died in December 2015 due to weight-cutting complications.
While no major North American organizations have had fighters die due to similar complications, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been close calls, like that of Dhafir “Dada 5000″ Harris, who nearly died during a 2016 MMA fight in Bellator. Even so, fighters who compete in organizations like the UFC are not absolved from long-term issues, something former UFC contender Chris Leben (who has a lifetime of thyroid issues ahead of him) knows all too well.
Time will tell whether these new regulations help dissuade fighters from cutting large amounts of weight in the days leading up to a fight and whether the commission has the means to enforce them. There have been numerous attempts in other sports to curb weight-cutting, but none succeeded to this point.
These new regulations will be an important story in 2017, as they go into effect ahead of UFC 214 on July 29, headlined by the light heavyweight title bout between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones. Watch for potential changes to the rules and reactions from the fighters affected as the card approaches.