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CSAC passes emergency weight-cutting rules, including bans on dehydration, IVs

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES -- The California State Athletic Commission's war on dehydration and extreme weight cutting continued Tuesday.

CSAC passed a package of new, emergency regulations regarding weight cutting at its meeting in Downtown LA. The new rules include a ban on severe dehydration to make weight, the prohibition of IVs to rehydrate and the ability to move back the time of weigh-ins.

"Dehydration and weight cutting are the biggest problem facing mixed martial arts today," CSAC executive officer Andy Foster told the commissioners. "There are more mixed martial events in California than any other state, so this is the biggest problem facing this commission."

These rules can go into effect as early as March 1. Because these were emergency rules, they were added on a trial basis and will be revisited by the commission at a later date.

Multiple doctors involved in combat sports have pointed at dehydration to make weight followed by rapid rehydration as increasing the chances of concussions, traumatic brain injury, as well as susceptibility to knockouts and poor performance. Studies have shown a significant number of fighters enter a contest while dehydrated.

Perhaps the strongest language in the new CSAC rules is the outright banning of severe dehydration to make weight, which is a practice common in MMA and amateur wrestling. While it was merely suggestion before, CSAC will now require doctors to test for signs of dehydration in pre-fight physicals and make it part of the physician's pre-fight questionnaire.

Under the package, CSAC will now have the ability to collect urine samples from fighters for specific gravity tests, which detect proper hydration. If a fighter cannot pass that test, he or she will be given two to three hours to properly hydrate. If he or she still cannot pass the specific gravity test, the bout will be off.

If severe dehydration is verified by a physician, CSAC now has the ability to not approve a fighter to compete in that weight class in the future.

USADA's ban on IVs under the UFC's new anti-doping policy has come under controversy, but CSAC has now adopted the same rule. USADA is more concerned with performance-enhancing drug use and the masking abilities of IVs, whereas the California commission has installed the regulation due to weight cutting. Foster has said that he doesn't believe a fighter who needs an IV to rehydrate is in the correct weight class.

Of course, an IV can be administered to a fighter after weigh-ins if it is medically needed. But that fighter does not stand a very good chance of being cleared to fight by the commission in that case.

"I can't imagine a time in my mind when someone needs an IV and we'll say, 'OK you can go on and fight,'" Foster said. "I think that would be irresponsible."

The new regulations also allow CSAC to move the weigh-in back to up to 30 hours prior to an event. Dr. Edmund Ayoub said in December at a CSAC-hosted weigh-cutting summit that the more time the fighters have to rehydrate the better. Ayoub said that it's impossible for a fighter to rehydrate fully after an extreme weight cut in just 24 hours, with or without an IV.

CSAC will look in the future to move the time back up to 72 hours before a card, according to chairman John Carvelli, but the current state statute only allows up to 30 hours. The previous rule was 24 hours.

The Kansas Athletic Commission is already testing out a new weigh-in procedure for Bellator 150 on Feb. 26. Fighters will be given the option to weigh-in beginning at 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. the day before the event. The normal Bellator weigh-ins at 4 p.m. will not be the official weigh-in, unless fighters would prefer to weigh-in then.

The Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) is likely to vote this summer on the addition of new weight classes with the advent of more stringent weight-cutting rules.