There are few things more unpleasant and dangerous in MMA as excessive weight cutting.
For years, fighters have been draining themselves of excess fluids and dehydrating themselves to a husk in an attempt to gain an edge in size and power over their opponents. They then have to go out, still depleted and recovering 24 hours later and fight.
The dangers of cutting weight can be severe. In 2015, Yang Jian Bing, a flyweight fighting for the ONE FC organisation, died as a result of attempting to cut a severe amount of weight. Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao had to pull out of UFC 177 after fainting and hitting his head due to the strain of his weight cut. Former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks was hospitalised with kidney stones and an intestinal blockage caused by a misjudged weight cut in 2015. The list goes on.
Thankfully, the recent trend in MMA, and the UFC in particular, seems to be eschewing the severe weight cuts of the past. Fighters such as Dustin Poirier, Donald Cerrone and Anthony Johnson have all moved to higher weight classes and seen significant improvements in both their fighting and their health.The UFC have also recently changed their policy on weigh ins, allowing the fighters more time to re-hydrate before fights.
It seems to be the consensus among fighters and UFC brass alike that drastic weight cuts are dangerous and should be a thing of the past. Except, for some reason, when it comes to Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino.
Cyborg, who headlines this weekend’s UFC Fight Night card in Brazil against promotional newcomer Lina Lansberg, is the long-time number one 145 lb fighter in women’s MMA. A physically imposing Muay Thai wrecking machine, she has not lost a fight since her professional debut in 2005. Of her 16 professional victories, 14 come by way of knockout. She is the most dominant fighter in WMMA history.
So why then are the UFC insisting that she can only fight in the octogon at 140 lbs?
Cyborg has spent her entire career fighting at 145 lbs. She has even struggled to make that weight on occasion, coming in heavy in a previous fight. When challenged to cut down to 135 by then bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, she refused, stating that she would be risking her chances of having children in the future should she attempt it. Despite this, the UFC have insisted on a 140 lb catchweight for her two scheduled UFC fights.
Cyborg’s weight cut for her UFC debut was hellish. The strain of shedding roughly 30 lbs in preparation for her bout caused her to burst into tears on at least one occasion. At the weigh ins she looked gaunt and sickly. Clearly the stress she was subjecting her body to was massively detrimental to her health, and for her sophomore UFC appearance she will have to undergo the same gruelling process. With all that we now know about the very grave and potentially deadly consequences of heavy weight cutting, forcing Cyborg to fight below her natural weight seems not only irresponsible, but borderline sadistic.
There is no reason for Cyborg to be fighting at 140 lbs. She is not contending for a title. Her opponent on Saturday actually weighed in at 145 for her last fight. Why are the UFC putting Cyborg, who has the potential to be a major star for the company in Brazil, through unnecessary misery? Their treatment of one of their top female stars is in stark contrast to their previous company line on weight cutting and fighter safety.
Of course, mistreating Cyborg seems to be something of a hobby in the higher echelons of the UFC. Dana White has previously mocked her appearance and long ago steroid test failure, stating that she looked like ”Wanderlei Silva in a dress and heels” at a UFC press conference. Ronda Rousey once referred to her as an ”it”. The ever classy Joe Rogan also once suggested that she cut weight ”by chopping off her d**k.”
Such juvenile bullying has absolutely no place in a mainstream sports franchise. The president of the NFL or the GAA would never dream of treating one of their top players in such a fashion, and if they tried, they would be chased out of their job.
While the verbal bullying Cyborg has previously endured from her supposed colleagues must have stung horribly, the arbitrary weight restriction imposed upon her in the UFC is irresponsible, reckless and could have terrible implications for her long-term health. When a woman has to take birth control medication to make weight for a fight, something is seriously wrong.
Josh Cogley, Pundit Arena
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