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Craig White shed 46 pounds to make weight for his short notice UFC debut

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Liverpool Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Till’s failure to make weight for his welterweight main event clash with Stephen Thompson has led to a litany of questions about the current UFC weigh-in system, but promotional newcomer Craig White quietly went about his business and lost 46-pounds to secure his debut against Neil Magny at the Liverpool event.

Like a lot of his peers, White has experience when it comes to extreme weight cuts. One of the most infamous pictures of “The Thundercat” shows him drenched in blood following his fight with Ireland’s John Redmond — a bout that he lost nearly 40-pounds to compete in.

When the call came through to gauge his interest two weeks before he would face off with Neil Magny, the lead up to his April 2014 date with Redmond flashed into his mind.

“For the John Redmond fight, I did 17 kilos (37-pounds) in nine days, it was horrendous. I got rid of eight kilos in water that time. I had never used salt baths before that. I genuinely felt like I was going to die when I was walking to the scales that time,” White told MMA Fighting.

“Of course, I said I’d never do it again. I promised my coach [Dave Matthews] and my girlfriend that I’d never do it again. Then, the phone rings about two weeks before UFC Liverpool and Graham Boylan is asking me if I’m available to fight Neil Magny.

“In that moment, the Redmond cut was the first thing that crossed my mind. At that stage, I was out of camp and I was the heaviest I’d ever been. All I could hear in my head was, ‘You’re 98 kilos (216-pounds) — what the f*ck are you doing?’ Two seconds later I accepted the fight.”

A frenzied fumble of phone calls to Matthews and other relevant parties followed. Although he initially had no confirmation of the fight, White immediately launched himself into a process of trimming down.

For the next two weeks, he worked out four times a day on an intake of roughly 600 calories, each meal comprising of a small piece of meat and as many leaves as it took to convince the Lion’s Den fighter he was eating a full plate. As with most extreme weight cuts, he encountered some problems along the way.

“I got stuck at about 87 kilos (191-pounds). You always get to a stage where you begin to plateau and that was it for me. The thing is, you know it usually takes a few days for the weight to start moving again, but I really didn’t have all that much time to work with. I ended up doing a monstrous session and suddenly I was 84 kilos (185-pounds).”

New obligations that came with the promotional banner and his co-main event status took their toll too.

“Another new thing was the additional media and the open workout. In my head, I couldn’t let anybody see how badly I was feeling because that could’ve given my opponent some kind of psychological advantage. As well as that, if I looked really bad I could’ve ended up getting pulled by the UFC.”

“The Thundercat” thought his poker face might have let him down at the open workouts, three days before he was set to clash with Magny.

“Basically, when you saw me stop doing pads and stretch I was f*cked,” White remembers of his first UFC open workout.

“Even to have the flexibility to stretch at that point was an achievement because I had done an hour of stretching before it and I made sure I ate a bit of food. I was so nervous because that was something that was completely new to me. I was more worried about that than the media day or anything else because it was so alien to me.

“My body was ruined and at one point I just froze. About two thousand people were watching me hitting pads and all I could think in my head was: ‘This must look sh*t.’ I thought I was still good for another two minutes, but Dave turned to Dan Hardy and told him that I was done.”

The hours and days that followed saw White confined to a stationary bike to lose weight due to arthritis (ankylosing spondylitis) in his back restricting his cardiovascular activity. His legs were on fire by the time he hit the scales on Saturday morning, but that wasn’t the first thing he thought of when he was announced on weight in front of the gathered media in Liverpool’s Radisson Blu hotel.

“Honestly, when I was on the scales hitting the weight in front of the media, all I could think about was how stupid I was for putting myself through something like that again,” he recalled.

“I sat down behind the curtain and I had a small bit of water. I went to go back to my room but the lift in that f*cking hotel wouldn’t budge. It took five minutes for the doors to open. Once you’re sat down or lying down you’re fine, but because I had to stand to wait for the lift I was absolutely struggling. It took me two hours of eating fruit and drinking water to get to a state where I wasn’t struggling to walk around.”

Shortly after he made weight, news began to filter through that Till had failed to hit the mark by nearly four pounds.

“I was with Dave thinking, ‘Are you actually f*cking kidding me?’ I’ve taken a fight where the odds are ridiculously tipped against me and I’ve gone through this grueling cut and then I’m seeing people coming in heavy. After what I’d been through, I really don’t understand how anybody misses weight when they have two months notice to hit the mark.”

Although he had foreseen making weight to be the end of his woes, White overheard that Magny was being primed as a replacement for Till in the main event if he wasn’t able to compete.

“My main concern was that Magny had thrown his name in the hat for the Till fight, so I was worried that I had done all of the work for absolutely nothing. So after the ordeal I had put myself through to make weight, there was a chance I wouldn’t fight. I just rang my girlfriend and started laughing down the phone. It was a sh*t feeling for a few hours, but thankfully we finally got word that Thompson had agreed to the fight under certain circumstances.”

White has taken a lot from his first UFC outing despite Magny stopping him in the final minute of the first round. As he sees it, he felt as though he was able to hang in there with one of the best welterweights in the world for four minutes and 30 seconds before a knee to the stomach forced him to deal with his detrimental weight cut head on.

Unlike countryman Pietro Menga who had his UFC debut plucked from underneath his nose back in December, White agreed to a weight and he made it, and that kind of professionalism generally does not go unnoticed by the world’s flagship MMA promotion.

In the days following UFC Liverpool, a video of Till’s weight cut surfaced before it was attempted to be removed. White believes the general public would have thought the Liverpudlian’s battle with the scales looked like a walk in the park if they had consumed footage of his cut.

“The Till video is a strange one for me. There are parts of it where you can see that he’s struggling and I definitely sympathize with him. I just don’t get why you need seven or eight guys to do these things with you. Another thing I couldn’t help but thinking was, ‘If people saw a video of my weight cut it would have made Till’s look easy.’

“I was doing two 15-minute baths for every hour. I started at eight at night and I didn’t go asleep until two in the morning. Then I got up at five in the morning and I did another four baths. Normally I can do 82 kilos (180-pounds) to 77 kilos (170-pounds) in five or six baths, but it took me 14 [baths] in total to hit weight in Liverpool.”

After experiencing his first UFC weigh-in, White doesn’t agree with UFC president Dana White who claims he is planning to get rid of early weigh-ins due to the number of athletes missing weight recently.

“I think it’s a bad idea based on the experience I had in Liverpool. I had got down to that weight and my body was absolutely ruined at that stage, but because I had so much time to rehydrate, it was the best I’ve ever felt on a fight day. I was back up to about 92 kilos (202-pounds) by fight day,” White said.

“The only thing I had to sacrifice because of the early weigh-ins was a bit of sleep, but that was fine because I was able to have a nap during the day to make up for it. The thing is, the night before the weigh-in you never get a good sleep because you’re so dehydrated. [Getting rid of the early weigh-in] just doesn’t make sense to me.”

“The Thundercat” is planning on changing up his current regime to guarantee that he won’t have to go through another soul-shriveling cut.

“I’m medically suspended until the end of the month, but I’m already back training and I’m going to make sure I get my walk-around weight down so I don’t have to do anything like this again. I honestly feel like something as drastic as the last cut would probably lead to me being hospitalized — I just don’t think my body could handle it.”

That being said, he can think of only one circumstance where he might be convinced to reenact the same scale-defying feat we saw in Liverpool.

“The only way I’d ever do it again was if I was sitting down and I suddenly got a short notice call to fight for a UFC title. You know, I say it won’t happen again, but knowing my luck it probably f*cking will!” he laughed.