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ABC medical committee will recommend weight-cutting reform plan to ABC body

UFC 196 Weigh-ins Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

There is a push to expand a weight-cutting reform plan outside the state where it originated.

The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) medical committee voted this week to recommend a sweeping California weight-cutting plan to the full ABC body at the annual conference in July, MMA Fighting has learned.

California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) executive officer Andy Foster and his team wrote up a 10-point plan which attempts to curtail severe dehydration and extreme weight cutting earlier this month. Foster presented it to the CSAC medical advisory committee last week and will bring it up for a vote at the next commission meeting May 16.

The plan includes a fight-day weight check, additional weight classes and making repeat weight miss offenders go up in division. It was written in response to countless instances of extreme weight cutting affecting the health of fighters and loss of scheduled bouts.

“I didn’t have anything to do with formulating this 10-point plan, but I read it and kind of dissected it and I think it’s pretty genius,” said Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) president Dr. Larry Lovelace, who is on the ABC medical committee. “It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close to perfect. I think it’s gonna create a safe environment for the fighters and ultimately that’s what it’s all about.”

The ABC medical committee approved the plan for recommendation to the full ABC body unanimously. Foster is the chair of the committee. The full ABC membership will vote on the plan at the conference, which will be July 22-26 at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Of course, even it passes through the ABC, that does not mean it’ll automatically become rule in every state and province. The ABC passed changes to the Unified Rules of MMA last year and not every jurisdiction has adopted them. Each commission will have to enact the plan individually, which is no guarantee.

“I applaud Andy Foster and the CSAC proposing changes to stop dangerous weight-cutting,” said Dr. Margaret Goodman, who sits on the ARP board of directors and the ABC medical committee. “For years now, I’ve recommended serial weigh-ins including one the morning of the fight allowing only a certain percent gain. We have to stop waiting to see if a fighter passes out at the weigh-in to make a determination to cancel a bout.”

The 10-point plan calls for weight checks on fight day to see if athletes gained more than 10 percent of their body weight back in between the weigh-ins and the fight. Any fighter who gained more than 10 percent back will be asked to move up in weight class for his or her next bout or cleared by a doctor to compete in the lower division. (The number was initially 8 percent, but that was changed by CSAC doctors last week.)

One of the best things about this part of the plan, Lovelace said, is it’s not eliminating fights at the 11th hour, which would be a nightmare for promoters.

“If a guy doesn’t make weight, he’s not automatically disqualified,” said Lovelace, who is the head ringside physician in Oklahoma. “He’s just going to have to move up a weight class for the next time, for the next show. It’s not too strict; it’s not gonna be a promotion buster or anything like that. But at the same time, it does add quite a good element of safety to the risk of the weight cutting.”

Another thing Lovelace likes is the overhauled medical forms that fighters and doctors will have to fill out as part of the licensing process. On the new forms, athletes must fill out what they intend to be their lowest intended weight class and the doctor will evaluate whether that is possible based on the athlete’s weight at the moment and the physical examination.

There’s even a guide on the form that informs doctors the MMA weight classes and what weight is 10 percent above them. That 10 percent figure is what doctors have said is the beginning of the danger zone in terms of extreme weight cutting and severe dehydration.

“As a doc that has sometimes dealt with other docs that don’t know anything about combat sports, all the help you can get is great,” Lovelace said. “I think that form that they gave for fighters to take to the doc is a good one.”

The 10-point plan also includes the inclusion of a fighter’s win bonus in the fine if that fighter misses weight and the addition of new weight classes (in 10-pound intervals), which has already been passed by the ABC rules committee and medical committee.

“Weight cutting is a big deal,” Lovelace said. “We’ve seen deaths and near deaths with people cutting too much weight. In a perfect world, we would know what everyone’s walking around weight is. They would weigh-in every month or go to a place every couple of months just to see what they really weigh when they’re just not training. And then we can limit how much they can lose. But with privacy laws and things like that, you just can’t do that anymore.”

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