One Championship's new anti-dehydration weight cutting policies and analysis

One Championships has announced that they will no longer allow weight cutting by dehydration and have implemented new regulations and policies to enforce this change. This is a great idea conceptually, but will they be able to pull it off? What they are suggesting seems like a logistical nightmare, but at least it’s something. As a long time observer of Asian MMA, I can tell you, it’s not high on standards and regulation enforcement. However, I’m happy they are attempting to change the policy of weight cutting, and really, they had to given the most recent death of Yang Jiang Bing, the 21-year-old who died cutting weight in preparation for a fight in One Championships on December 11, in Singapore. My thoughts will be in italics after the regulation.

 

GENERAL REGULATIONS & POLICIES RELATED TO ATHLETES’ WEIGHT

1. Athletes must submit their current walking weight and daily training weight regularly. Athletes will input and track their daily weight online via a dedicated web portal. Athletes may input data weekly but must include daily weights. — This is a great idea and is something that is already imposed to a degree in high school wrestling, but obviously this can easily be gamed by lying athletes. I’m sure athletes will argue that this is too frequent, and really, it is too frequent, but I understand the attempt at accountability. Start strong. You can always back it off later.

2. Athletes will be assigned to their weight class based on collated data and random weight checks. Athletes are not allowed to drop a weight class when less than 8 weeks out from an event. — Another great policy, especially the first part. Your weight class should be based on data. What a novel concept! We use science to answer a question about biology, it’s genius! I’m not sure what is intended with part two because if you’re booked to fight, it’s not like a month in advance you’re going to say, “Hey opponent, I’m going to drop to 145, so if you want to fight, you have to meet me there.” I’ve never heard of that happening. It’s an attempt at something, but I’m not sure what.

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3. During fight week, weights are checked daily. Urine specific gravity will also be checked the day after arrival and 3 hours prior to the event.  Athletes must be within their weight class and pass specific gravity hydration tests all week and up to 3 hours before the event.  If an athlete falls outside the weight, or fails a test, they are disqualified from the event.  Doctors may request additional testing at their discretion. — The specific gravity thing is currently being used in high school wrestling, and I’ve seen it gamed first hand. I actually sat in on a meeting while the coaches discussed how to beat this. If they are really going for something legitimate, then this is a no-brainer rule, but it needs to be subject to examination by non-crooked doctors/trainers, that’s all I’ll say.

4. Catch weight bouts are allowed. However, the athlete with the higher weight will not be heavier than 105% of the lighter opponent’s weight. — This is fine, but seems needless. Once guys are fighting in their proper weight classes, there won’t be a reason to have catch weight matches. The reason GSP vs. Anderson Silva was ever possible was because they were going to do it at 177 or something close, with the theory that since GSP has a huge cut to 170, he’ll sacrifice a bit of size for a little less suffering during the cut, and all Silva needs to do is dehydrate 8 more lbs down from 185 which he’s done before. OR THEY COULD HAVE BOTH FOUGHT AT 195! The thing that is dumb about catch weights is that it’s just like saying, “Weight classes don’t really mean much.” Which is fine, but you’re saying the exact opposite by enforcing them. Catch weight matches should not really need to exist. 

5. ONE will conduct random weight checks on athletes at our discretion. — Solid. Now let’s see if it happens.

6. Athletes may petition to change weight classes outside of the 8-week competition zone and must be within their new desired weight at that time. In addition, athletes must pass a specific gravity urine test when their weight is within the limits of the newly petitioned weight class. ONE doctors can request additional testing to determine the amount of weight drop allowed over a specific time. — This stuff is all good and practical, but unless you’re monitoring the fighters all year with in depth body fat analysis, specific gravity, hydration, etc. what will happen is that guys will just end up cutting much earlier, just to get the declaration of a weight class. This means that now the fighter will be potentially, under weight, under fed, under hydrated, and in a worse state physically for his 8 week camp. They are claiming that this will be a sweeping, contractually long policy, but I’m skeptical. Will they really send doctors to just check weights? Maybe.

7. The usage of IVs for the purpose of rehydration will not be allowed. — That’s good. It seems to be working for the UFC thus far. 

 

Overage and limits of weight reduction:

· 3 weeks to event day: Athlete must be within contracted weight class

· 4 weeks: 1.5% bodyweight over max

· 5 weeks: 3%

· 6 weeks: 4.5%

· 7 weeks: 6%

· 8 weeks: +6% max over.

(ONE Chief Doctor may approve up to +/- 0.5% maximum error in any weekly weight check)

 

Final thoughts: My predicition is that for at least the first year, this will be a disaster. The mentality of the fighter does not change even when the rules change. Just as we see with PEDs, testing evolves behind the discovery, which is to say, they make the new steroid first, then it gets out there, then they develop the test. There will definitely be a window of time where we see a lot of fights cancelled becasue dehydration is inherent in the sport and fighters are attempting to game the system. Good coaching is the only way to really stop this, but this is a great first effort, and I applaud One Championship for making the effort.