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CSAC study: Nearly 30 percent of fighters step in cage at more than 10 percent above weight class

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UFC 144 Weigh-In Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A study on weight cutting done by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has revealed some interesting numbers.

Nearly 30 percent of athletes tested were stepping in the cage at more than 10 percent, in pounds, above their weight class, per the study done by CSAC over the last year and obtained by MMA Fighting through a public records request Monday.

The study, which looked at 82 MMA fighters who competed in California in 2016 and 2017, was presented by CSAC executive officer Andy Foster to the commission’s medical advisory committee at a meeting Saturday in Los Angeles.

Foster told MMA Fighting that CSAC has done weight checks on the day of the event for 300 fighters in recent years and the study of 82 athletes is consistent with the full data, which will be released at a later date.

The research compares how much a fighter weighs in at the day before the fight and how much they weigh hours before the fight. It’s being done to gauge the amount of weight that is gained back before fighters step into the cage.

Regulators see the weight-cutting problem in MMA as being two-fold: athletes are severely dehydrating themselves to make weight and some are stepping into the cage, after rehydrating, at far above their weight class, which could lend to a competitive disadvantage.

The study shows that 29.3 percent of the fighters tested gained more than 10 percent of their body weight back in between the weigh-ins and fight. That percentage jumps up to 45.1 percent when you look at the amount of fighters putting back on more than 8 percent of their body weight.

The 82 fighters tested gained an average of 12.7 pounds between the weigh-ins and fight, which is an average increase of 8 percent of the fighters’ body weight. One fighter tested gained 26.4 pounds back, an increase of 16 percent. Another gained 25.1 pounds or 14 percent of his or her body weight back. The names in the study were redacted.

All of the fighters who came in at more than 8 percent above their division on fight day were welterweights or lighter, except for one, who was a middleweight.

The 8 percent of body weight figure is significant, because of one part of Foster’s 10-point plan to combat extreme weight cutting, which was presented to the medical advisory committee Saturday.

That point stated that weight checks should be done the day of the fight (like CSAC is doing now for data purposes) and if the athlete gains back more than 8 percent of his or her body weight from weigh-ins, the commission will make that fighter go up in weight for his or her next bout. A fighter can get cleared to return to the old, lower weight class by a doctor.

Foster said the doctors at the medical advisory committee wanted to increase that 8 percent to make it 10 percent of a fighter’s body weight from weigh-ins to fight day. Per the study, that means only around 30 percent of California fighters will be affected by that particular rule, which is fewer than many initially thought, but not an insignificant number.

The rest of Foster’s 10-point plan, with that one alteration, was cleared by the medical advisory committee and will go to vote by the full commission May 16 in Costa Mesa. The plan also includes new rules to license fighters by weight class, make missing weight repeat offenders move up in division, and the addition of new weight classes.