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California State Athletic Commission issues memo about 'dangerous' practice of cutting weight

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) is trying to raise awareness about what it feels like is a growing problem in mixed martial arts: bad weight cuts.

In a memo obtained from executive director Andy Foster by MMAFighting.com, the CSAC said severe weight cuts and dehydration can cause "life-threatening problems," like decreased kidney function and increased risk of brain injury.

Fighters missing weight and suffering after cutting a large amount of weight is a hot topic in MMA right now. On Saturday alone, UFC fighter T.J. Waldburger fainted during his weight cut and was not able to make it to the scale for weigh-ins. His bout against Wendell Oliveira at UFC Fight Night: Bigfoot vs. Mir in Porto Alegre, Brazil was canceled.

At UFC 183 last month, both Kelvin Gastelum and John Lineker both missed weight by significant amounts, prompting UFC president Dana White to tell them they must compete from now on at a higher weight class. Gastelum missed the welterweight maximum of 170 by nine pounds after falling ill the day of weigh-ins and having to be rushed to the hospital.

This is not a new problem in combat sports, but it seems to be more evident now than ever. The CSAC memo advises fighters not to use "excessive heat methods" or "excessive intense bouts of exercise" to drop pounds. Saunas and steam rooms are a staple of fighters cutting weight and those, according to the CSAC, are hazardous to health.

According to the CSAC, a recent study found that 39 percent of MMA fighters were entering the cage in a dehydrated state.

"Heat illness and death in athletes have already happened in the sports of wrestling and MMA," the memo states. "It's been shown that excessive weight loss, rapid weight loss, and repeated cycling of weight gain/loss causes decreased performance, hormonal imbalance, decreased nutrition, and increased injury risk."

The memo states that among the side effects of dehydration and improper weight loss are decreased muscle strength and endurance; decreased heart and cardiovascular function; reduced energy utilization, nutrient exchange and acidosis; heat illness; decreased kidney function; electrolyte problems; mood swings and mental changes; eye trouble; and increased risk of brain injury.

The CSAC advises fighters "commit to year-round proper dieting and training for proper weight control and body composition" as well as "not competing in a weight class outside your appropriate weight class."

UFC 184 will be held under the sanctioning and regulation of the CSAC on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles. Invicta FC 11 will also take place in LA one day earlier.