On December 11, 2015, at 12:06 pm in San Juan De Dios Hospital, Manila, Philippines, One Championship fighter Yan Jiang Bin died of Rhabdomyolysis. Early speculation implies that his death was due to his weight cut. The autopsy report later stated that the Chinese fighter died of heart attack. This is not the first time an MMA fighter has died while cutting weight. In September of 2013, Shooto Brazil fighter, Leandro Souza passed out while cutting the final two pounds(0.9kg) and his death was confirmed moments later.
The perception of weight cutting in Asia
The sport of MMA may have spread exponentially in Asia, but the weight cutting issue is still relatively new to the Asian MMA fans. In March 2014, Singaporean fighter Sherilyn Lim was subjected to criticism for missing weight after her opponent opted not to fight at a disadvantage of 2.3kg(5lbs). Just recently, Luis Santos was called unprofessional by One Championship CEO Victor Cui for refusing to cut to 190lbs on fight day after missing two pounds(0.9kg) over on the weigh-ins.
According to a source, who was present with Luis Santos on fight day, Luis was showing symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis. The source’s eyewitness account claimed that he urinated blood, complained about having dizziness, and suffered from finger cramps as he made his way to the hospital that morning. Fortunately, Santos’s health was in a stable condition, despite One Championship’s representative disallowing him from being administered with an IV at the hospital.
Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle tissue that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the blood. This physiological process is harmful to the kidneys, however, it is very common during weight cutting because fighters are losing so many fluids in a short period of time. The key to preventing Rhabdomyolysis is to just simply drink water, but it is not so simple for fighters who are abstaining from drinking or eating for days at a time. The possibility of having one’s fight cancelled, or even worse gain a bad reputation within the promotion, would undoubtedly make a fighter push himself to the limit or possibly even over the limit. This was the same for Yang Jiang Bin’s case, and this would unquestionably be the norm within the sport.
What is a dangerous cut?
It would be almost impossible for a fighter to risk his or her life if they were to only cut less than 5% of their normal weight. MMA Latest called upon One Championship fighter Bashir Ahmad, who also holds a master degree in exercise science and was a medic in the US army. Bashir told us that he personally cuts 20lbs(9 kg) starting 8 weeks out from a fight and not 24 hours before the weigh-ins.
“I gain weight very easily, and to be near fighting weight all year round is very difficult,” explains Bashir. ” On the flip side, I also lose very easily. A key thing here is that everyone is different and that everyone’s body will react differently. Weight cutting is not that common in Pakistan so most other guys are within 5 pounds of their weight usually unless they are exceptionally heavy.”
However in April this year, Bashir needed to travel halfway across the world and lose nearly 10 kilograms(22 lbs) in less than 48 hours after accepting a short notice fight. He described the weight cut as “hell on earth and he will never do it again.” In an interview with MMA Weekly, Bashir stated that he wore a sauna suit on the plane from the United States to the Philippines.
“I had been traveling for almost 24 hours straight and I was 74 kg(163 lbs),” recalled Bashir. “The next 11 hours, I cut the remaining 6 kg(13.2 lbs) and at a certain point, I thought I would do serious harm to myself. My voice changed and I had cramps so bad that any movement would trigger crippling muscle spasms.”
Bashir’s cut is not typical and is probably one of the most extreme examples of what a fighter would be willing to go through. Bashir confessed that it was a bad idea and he would never recommend that any other fighter should endure a cut the same way he did. Bashir also explained that the most common weight cutting method that fighters use today is also the most dangerous.
“The most common weight cutting method I have seen by far is the use of the sauna and plastics,” said Bashir. “It’s almost an obsession. Unfortunately too many people equate cutting weight with hours in the sauna hating life and it doesn’t have to be that way. Have I used a sauna – yes, but I did it because I wanted to and I like the sauna, I was in no rush. This is the most common method and it is also the most dangerous.”
The use of IV
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has banned the use of intravenous therapy (IV) for fighters in the UFC to help discourage fighters from cutting an exorbitant amount of weight. According to an article from MMA fighting, it seems to be working well. UFC fighters usually have been arriving, on average above 8% above their weight class for fight week and the numbers have dropped to 5% after the ban.
The use of an IV is still legal and common practice in Asia. This all done in order to help fighters rehydrate after suffering a huge weight cut. However, contrary to popular belief Vice President of the Association of Ringside Physicians, Dr. Edmund Ayoub, stated – in the same article – that the theory of intravenous hydration is a myth.
“It is a myth that you can be dehydrated, put on 30 pounds(13.6kg) before the fight and actually be stronger,” explained Dr. Ayoub. “A fighter might feel better after using an IV to rehydrate for about 20 minutes, but from a physiological perspective, it’s impossible for the body to replenish all its fluids after a cut like that in just 24 hours. After losing a large amount of weight, a fighter wouldn’t even be fully rehydrated 48 hours after the weigh-ins, IV or no IV.”
What is a safe cut?
Evident from the sources above, cutting up to a maximum of 5% above a weight class seems to be the safest option.
Bashir Ahmad explains the competitive balance between a healthy weight cut and a game advantage, “The safest method is not cutting at all, or just fasting a day, but then you do [have to] fight a heavier guy the next day. It’s a risk and benefit game.”
Weight cutting, if not done right, could turn from a risk and benefit game into a game of life and death. It is crucial for coaches, corners, and whoever is present during the weight cut process to be observant and knowledgeable enough to know when to stop a fighter from risking his health. One fighter death is too many deaths in MMA.
“The number one danger sign is when someone stops sweating,” Bashir cryptically explains. “This is bad and it’s a sign of heat stroke. Don’t ‘rest’, go to the Hospital. You have other signs that will be leading up to this point – confusion, fever, severe muscle cramping, dizziness, and even unconsciousness. These are all bad signs, but passing out, and when a person stops sweating, that’s when you rush to the hospital. But you should never get near that point in the first place.”
Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship
28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.
Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.
While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.
If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.
While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.
Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship
After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.
The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.
Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.
Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.
“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen
ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017
Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship
Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.
“Essentially, I see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.
As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.
“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”
“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”
4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.
“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”
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