Weight cutting is one of the most serious problems facing mixed martial arts today. The California State Athletic Commission is setting out to do something about it by broadening the conversation to some of the sport's most important decision makers.
CSAC will host a dehydration and weight-cutting summit in Los Angeles on Dec. 17, according to an invitation that was sent out to both the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) and Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) on Thursday.
CSAC executive director Andy Foster and chairman John Carvelli have firm commitments from representatives of the UFC, Bellator, World Series of Fighting and Invicta to attend, Foster told MMA Fighting. Executives from other promotions will be invited as well.
All members of the ABC and APR have also been invited and ABC president Mike Mazzulli will be in attendance. The invitation says that it has become "increasingly apparent that there are many dangerous and unhealthy practices associated with drastic weight cutting and dehydration."
"It's a major concern of ours," Mazzulli told MMA Fighting. "What we need to do is make sure we look out for the fighters. This is just one way we're going to try to do that. "
The invitation mentions that one of the goals of the summit is to offer several ideas for rule changes to the new MMA rules and regulations committee, chaired by former Bellator play-by-play man and current Kansas Athletic Commission commissioner Sean Wheelock. Mazzulli said it's not just up to the regulators, but the promoters as well to lend a hand.
"We want to address the issues before we get to the point where somebody dies," Mazzulli said. "I think it's long overdue to have the discussion in terms of what we can do. We all need to come up with something that's in the best interest and safety of the fighters."
Mazzulli floated the idea of adding weight classes or a minimum weight rule. Beginning on Jan. 1 in California, amateur MMA fighters will get tested for their lowest possible healthy weight, a la NCAA wrestlers. A fighter will then not be able to compete at any weight class below that weight.
It seems like almost every other major card has some headline about a difficult weight cut, a fighter missing weight or even a fighter having to pull out of a the contest due to the effects of dehydration. Before UFC 192, former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks had to withdraw from his bout with Tyron Woodley due to illness brought upon by a steep weight cut. Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao slipped in a sauna and hit his head, forcing him out of a title fight with T.J. Dillashaw last year. The list goes on and on.
Foster has long called drastic weight cuts -- and not performance-enhancing drugs -- the biggest problem facing mixed martial arts today. Dehydration followed by rapid hydration in the hours leading up to the fight can affect a fighter's performance and make him or her more susceptible to concussions and brain trauma.
"I guarantee you there are more people doing this -- cutting drastic weight -- than taking drugs," Foster said.
This summit is designed to get the ball rolling on potential changes before serious injury, illness or worse happens.
"We have to start somewhere," Mazzulli said. "Somebody has to start the conversation."