Johny Hendricks and the Weight Cut

Fightland Blog

By Aurora Ford

Ah, cutting weight. If there's ever been a more bizarre tradition attached to a globally loved sport, then I’m Nick Diaz. Speaking of him, did you see the UFC post on Instagram of Nick in the crowd yesterday during Johny Hendricks’ second attempt at weighing in for his fight tonight against Robbie Lawler? I almost didn’t recognize Nick; smiling, laughing, having fun, heckling Johny to make it to 170 after he’d already missed weight earlier in the day. Johny had been grinning and cheerful but almost frighteningly ghostlike, looking dazed, his arms visibly quaking in the effort to raise them over his head for the traditional flexing of the muscles. It made me smile to see Nick looking so carefree instead of wrapped in his normal brooding, frowning grumps, but it also made me feel slightly sick to see Johny putting his body throughout the ringer just to have the opportunity to put his body through the ringer against Robbie Lawler the next day.

Here's how it works: If you cut a ton of weight in the week before a fight, you can fight at a smaller weight class and then balloon back up to your original weight in the 24 hours before your fight. This means your opponents are less likely to be bigger than you, but the whole process (losing 10 to 20 pounds in a matter of a day or two) takes an enormous toll on your body, one that can't always be recovered from in the time between weigh-ins and the fight. Indeed, if you aren’t careful or you push it too far, it can kill you, as was the fate of Leandro "Feijao" Souza minutes before weigh-ins for Shooto in Brazil last year. If you don’t cut any weight, you are likely going to be facing opponents who are larger than you, but there are undeniable benefits to walking into the ring at your physical peak, without having painfully depleted yourself only hours before, right when it matters most that you stay healthy. And really, what real benefits are there, since everyone does it? A bunch of naturally roundabout 180 to 190-pound guys cut to 170. Naturally 170 pound guys cut to 155. They’re all still fighting the same people they'd be fighting if weight-cutting were done away with, the process takes a huge toll on everyone, and entire events are in jeopardy if fighters fail to make weight. Perhaps it makes good drama for TV to throw the poor guys all into the mix with each other while physically at their most vulnerable but past that, the risks seem to far outweigh the benefits.

Can we at least admit that the whole weight-cutting thing is a little strange? In leading up to a night during which each fighter will do his best to prove his physical dominance, he must first starve and dehydrate himself until he is physically drained, mentally near-absent, and emotionally ready to freak out over the very slightest change in schedule or bump in the road. He must walk out on a stage in front of a crowd of screaming people, very likely the last thing in the world that feels good to his pulsing dehydration headache, and, at his absolute worst, he must take up acting and pretend to look fierce, healthy, and determined when all he is really thinking about is how he’d eat a dead horse if it was all that was available right then.

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