Following the death of lightweight fighter Yang Jian Bing due to weight cutting techniques, Asian MMA promotion ONE Championship has decided to take action. The promotion has introduced a new policy that will ban all of its fighters from cutting weight by dehydration.
In a press release that can be viewed on their website, the company stated, “The revolutionary weigh-in program was established after thorough discussions and recommendations by ONE Championship’s medical and competition team, consisting of Chief Doctor Dr. Warren Wang, Chief Medical Advisor Dr. James Okamoto, Vice President Mr. Rich Franklin, Vice President of Operations & Competition Mr. Matt Hume, Global Athlete Services & Competition Director Mr. Richard Auty and China Athlete Services & Competition Director Mr. Vaughn Anderson.”
Along with banning the dehydration method of weight cutting the company will implement “a new set of regulations and policies governing the weigh-in procedures and contracted weight limits.”
Fighters will now have to compete at their “walking weight” and that will be determined by what is being called a “robust system” that will track a fighter’s weight on a regular basis throughout the period that the individual’s time with the company.
The move is a very ambitious and if successful could change the way entire landscape of combat sports. For years we have heard the struggles of weight cutting from many fighters. In the past bouts have been called off the day prior to an event because a fighter had went through a dramatic weight cut and could not physically compete. Cutting weight has always been a huge part of combat sports and is integrated as part of training camp for a fight. Amateur wrestlers are infamous for their weight cutting stories and people like Mike Dolce have built entire careers on the guarantee that they can help a fighter make weight.
Having fighters compete at their “walking weight” could introduce several new weight classes and completely reshuffle how MMA divisions are looked at. The biggest question in the minds of many MMA fans is when or if the UFC or any other organization in the United States will adopt such protocols to essentially protect fighters from themselves. It may be a stretch for any organization stateside to adopt such a dramatic new policy. The UFC has already implemented mandatory uniforms and a new payout system for its fighters so it may not be too far out of the realm to believe they may enforce a policy like this, especially if its top stars get behind it.
One of the UFC’s biggest stars, Conor McGregor, has been in the news for his desire to move back up to the lightweight division because he is said to be tired of cutting weight to make the featherweight limit of 145-pounds. His coaches have flat out said that they are sick of seeing McGregor exhaust himself in order to make the weight limit. McGregor’s “walking weight” is said to be around 170-pounds. A 20-pound weight cut is about average for many fighters so if you are trying to rearrange the current roster of your favorite promotion just add 20-pounds to an athlete’s “fighting weight” and that is the division he or she should be competing at.
Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin, who is the Vice President for ONE stated, “Today I’m proud to have been involved with developing the new weigh-in program for ONE athletes. As a former MMA champion, I’ve been through the process of weight-cutting by dehydration countless times and I know first-hand how it affects an athlete physically. I personally understand the importance of safety and competing at your very best as a professional MMA athlete and after reviewing the new regulations and policies governing the weigh-in procedures and contracted weight limits, this new program does both for our athletes.”
In theory this new program should work and if all the fighters are willing to actively cooperate and participate then everyone should win but weight cutting is so ingrained in the culture of combat sports that not all may be willing to jump aboard. If a fighter and his or her coaches believe that competing at a certain weight class is beneficial to their careers then they will cut weight to fight in that division. Winning earns you money, the more you win the more money you make and if this is your only way of earning a living for yourself and your family then going through a few hard weeks of weight cutting is nothing. It is a culture and unless the culture changes then programs like this may be done in earnest but could have no true effect on the sport of MMA.