Veteran referee Big John McCarthy decided it was time to speak up about an issue that may be harmful to the well being of fighters down the road, weight cutting.
After Renan Barao passed out while cutting weight before UFC 177, and now with Charles Oliveira reporting fever and vomiting after withdrawing from his UFC Fight Night 50 bout, weight cutting is raising more and more questions.
Big John appeared on The MMA Hour to discuss the issue:
“I don’t think fighters are truly educated as to exactly what they are doing to themselves, and I mean doing to themselves over the long term of their life,” he said. “You know, the weight thing is a huge problem in everything that it’s involved in, be it wrestling or MMA — any time someone is losing the weight that some of these guys do, draining their body of fluids, the electrolytes, it’s a problem for everybody involved. Not just the fighter, but the promoter and the promotion itself because you have situations where fighters don’t make weight.
“You also have situations where fighters are putting themselves at risk in going into that contest. Because they’re doing everything in their power to cheat. I don’t mean cheat in a bad way, but cheat the system. The athletic commission is bringing forth a doctor, the ringside physician, to give this person a physical. They’ve had this fighter go through all these medicals already, then they’re going to bring in this ringside physician to give them this last physical to have them checked out and make sure they’re healthy for the contest, and the fighter is doing everything in their power to make sure the ringside physician doesn’t find anything. It’s not somebody going to a regular doctor. You go to a regular doctor and you tell them, ‘I hurt here, I have this pain here, I have this coughing,’ or whatever. With a fighter, the doctor says how you doing, [they say] ‘great.’ Do you have anything, ‘nope, I’m good.’ And they start lying about everything because their whole thing is to get past that ringside physician.”
“As a referee I don’t train fighting like I used to, I train understanding people and knowledge of what occurs,” he said. “And one of the things that we’re getting into, with traumatic brain injuries and all these different things — CTE, which is occurring — and we’re learning a lot.
“One of the things that we’re learning is, we don’t get a lot of heavy fighters, fighters that don’t cut weight, having traumatic brain injuries. But we do have a lot of lighter fighters who cut a lot of weight. They’re the ones that end up being our problem. And a lot of it we’re learning is because of dehydration and them cutting weight. They lose water, they try and replenish the water, they try to replenish the electrolytes in their body. Everything in our body is made of water basically. And when it drains it doesn’t come back in the same form and function that it was before you drained it. It takes time. And the weight-cutting and the weigh-in process and everything is one of the things that I look at that’s going to be a huge factor in what’s going to happen in the future. I think athletic commissions starting to change it.”
“It’s not a bad idea,” he said. “Like what they’re doing in amateur wrestling with hydrostatic testing as far as testing people when they’re regular and saying, ‘ok, here’s the least I’ll allow you to weigh for a fight.’ And telling them, ‘go ahead, you can probably cut more weight than that, but we’re not going to allow it. We’re not going to allow you to fight.’ And putting fighters into brackets. Letting them go in, if they want to have a certain time when they can go to a doctor and have hydrostatic redone to you, they change the actual composition of their body, and they could actually be a lighter fighter at this point, fine, let them do it the right way.
“But we’ve got to put a handle on not allowing people to freelance this in a fashion where it can absolutely affect their health and safety, both in that night of the fight, and in life.”