Overeem explained his plight with food poisoning last week in an interview with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. In the 36 hours before fighting Hunt at UFC 209 on Saturday in Las Vegas, Overeem said he was hospitalized not once, but twice.
“I was dizzy in the head, I was nauseous, extremely low energy,” Overeem said of his condition Friday. “I had a hard time coming out of the bed. I didn't want to come out of the bed. … Yeah, it was pretty bad.”
Overeem still somehow ended up beating Hunt by TKO with a series of vicious knees in the third round. Just getting to the Octagon, though, was a chore for the Dutch slugger.
Overeem said he went out to Bellagio with his team for sushi Thursday night. It’s a luxury heavyweights who don’t cut any pounds to make weight can enjoy on fight week. On Friday morning, though, Overeem felt terrible getting up before weigh-ins, he said.
“I was messed up,” Overeem said. “It kind of got worse during the day. Then it got really bad.”
Overeem, 36, made weight fine Friday morning, but he said he barely ate all day and felt poorly in the evening and had to go to the hospital. Overeem said doctors there gave him an IV and medications for nausea and diarrhea. They also gave him a sleep aid, he said.
The situation has come under some scrutiny, because IVs are a prohibited method under USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, and the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC). However, in the event of hospitalization, a IV is allowed without a therapeutic use exemption (TUE), per USADA’s rules.
“If the athlete has an acute medical condition where an IV line was essential for treatment in a hospital admission, surgical procedure, or clinical investigation,” the USADA rules on its website state.
Overeem (42-15, 1 NC) has failed a drug test before as a member of the UFC roster and whispers of performance-enhancing drug usage has followed the well-muscled heavyweight’s career. Hunt even called him a “cheater” in the pre-fight lead up last week.
“We checked everything with USADA before,” Overeem said. “Listen, we don’t want to get in any trouble. We’ve had our troubles, we learned from it. We’re not gonna go in that direction any time again. We really did our homework.”
Overeem said he felt a bit less ill Saturday morning, but not well enough. He had to go back to the hospital.
“When I woke up I was kind of better, but not really,” he said. “Still low energy. So again, hospital and IV. That was fight day.”
NAC executive director Bob Bennett said in a post-fight press conference that he was made aware of the situation Saturday morning and a Nevada ringside physician checked Overeem on fight day to see if he was fit to compete, ultimately clearing him.
“He was fit and ready to go, which was evident by his performance tonight,” Bennett said.
IVs are also prohibited by the NAC, which follows the World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines. On IVs, WADA says they are prohibited “except for those legitimately received in the course of hospital admissions, surgical procedures or clinical investigations.”
Overeem said he was motivated to fight despite the illness because of what Hunt was saying about him during fight week and a speech UFC president Dana White gave to the fighters after ceremonial weigh-ins Friday. Khabib Nurmagomedov had already dropped out of the UFC 209 co-main event due to weight-cutting issues and Overeem did not want to be next.
“I felt kind of OK for the fight and I really wanted to do it,” Overeem said. “Especially, you know Khabib dropped and we had the weigh-ins and always after the weigh-ins we get this motivational speech from Dana. And Dana was pissed, because the Khabib fight was cancelled. If that happens, then there’s not gonna be another cancellation. That’s just the way it is.
“I just knew that this is gonna be enough. Even if I’m 70 percent, I can still beat Mark Hunt. So that’s what we did.”
Overeem said he barely ate anything Friday and Saturday and still does not feel 100 percent. It was a rough few days, but he at least has a win to put himself right back in the contender mix to show for it.
“It turned out good, but I would not hope it on anybody,” Overeem said. “Food poisoning sucks. It takes away energy, focus. We pulled through.”