The dangers of weight-cutting in MMA: do we need an outright ban?

Published 05 July 2018 | Authored by: Jacob Debets

After UFC Fight Night 130, a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event that took place on 27 May 2018 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, it was revealed that headliner Darren “The Gorilla” Till had temporarily gone blind the day1 before the fight whilst attempting to cut up to 40lbs over the course of 48 hours. Two weeks later at UFC 225 in Chicago, Illinois, footage emerged2 of number #1 middleweight contender Yoel Romero needing the assistance of two men to walk after failing to make weight for his championship bout opposite Robert Whittaker.

This article examines extreme weight cutting in MMA competition and the legal and regulatory dimensions of this practice.

  • It first provides a brief description and history of weight cutting in combat sports, which originated in the organisation of weight classes to promote fair competition.

  • It then sets out the scale of extreme weight cutting in professional MMA, focusing on recent case studies in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the dynamics of the MMA landscape that inform the pervasiveness and risks of this practice.

  • It then note attempts by athletic commissions and individual promotions to address the practice, and the significant obstacles faced by policymakers in developing and implementing safe and uniform reforms.

  • Finally, it makes the case for banning extreme weight cutting in MMA, and examines the means, however improbable, by which this reform might come about.

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About the Author

Jacob Debets

Jacob Debets

Jacob is a freelance writer and recent JD graduate from Melbourne Law School. He will be commencing as a trainee lawyer in 2019 for Arnold Bloch Leibler, in their Workplace Advisory team. In the interim, he is working on a book analysing the economic relationship between the UFC and its athletes, as well as academic papers on the influence of technology on legal education, and the labour dimensions of the "gig economy". You can view more of his writing at jacobdebets.com.

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