October 26, 2020
I Like to watch the show Real Sports on cable. The stories are insightful and always interesting. The format is to feature some of the lesser known aspects of the sporting world. These range from everything from Eagle hunting competitions by a girl in Mongolia to brain injuries in football (from High School to Pro). This past month there was a feature on using dehydration to make weight in mixed martial arts matches. The people interviewed were both men and women. What they had in common was they were lower tier fighters. The dehydration employed was severe, sometimes as much as 15 pounds over the course of three or four days. If they refused, they would not get to fight.
Hearing about the lengths these fighters went in order to make weight reminded me of my wrestling days in high School. The wrestler in my weight class was not only good, he was also a senior. We had another ok wrestler in the class above him who was also a Senior. My coach suggested I should drop ten pounds in order to wrestle at the lower weight where we did not have an accomplished wrestler. I was a team player who thought the coaches were looking out for my best interest, so I dropped the weight. I found this to be a constant battle as I tried to meet a weight below my class. I generally found myself not eating the night and day before weigh in. If I were still heavy, I would have to put on sweats and a rubber suit and run laps most of the afternoon until I lost the weight.
The point made by the sports show was the toll it took on the fighters. After losing 15 pounds in three days they were often unable to stand on their own. They would make weight and then have a single day to rehydrate. For many, this meant they were in no shape to fight the next day. Sometimes they had to forfeit and sometimes they went into the hospital as their kidneys or other organs had shut down. The real tragedy was that those were the lucky one. Some were able to go into the octagon. Often these fighters were defeated early in the match. While our bodies can tolerate incredible stress, there is a limit. Some never came out alive.
𝗧𝗛𝗢𝗨𝗚𝗛𝗧𝗦: I think my brother had the best attitude about weight when he went out for the wrestling team his Junior year. Once more the coach was trying to fill a weight class. My brother was not a wrestler but was willing to help. Rather than losing weight he filled the open weight class, heavy weight. This was reserved for wrestlers over 210 pounds and he weighed about 185. At least he never had to cut weight. While I understand the allure of extreme sports and testing yourself, there is a limit. I have experienced the “runners high,” but also witnessed the complete collapse of the body. We are finding the virus effects people differently. Some have few immediate symptoms or even be asymptomatic. Others rapidly progress from “fine” to a ventilator in a matter of days. There are some risks that ought not be taken. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.