MMA: Making weight, rivalries and out of cage issues

Karl R. de Mesa
A lot of other issues take center stage before fight night, that highlight just how difficult it is to be a professional MMA fighter. OneFC competitors are no different.

TIPPING THE SCALES. Making weight is a huge challenge for MMA fighters and is part of the preparations needed before fight night. Josh Albelda.

MANILA, Philippines – Cutting weight is a critical aspect of a combat fighter’s life. 

Just like opera singers adhere to a strict pre-performance regimen for vocal optimization, or scouts learn how to track by cutting for sign in the worst conditions, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters use varying methods to be as light as possible during the weigh-ins, and then as big and strong as possible the next day for their fight. 

Whether it’s sweating it out inside a sauna for 12-hours, continually exercising to flush out excess pounds, or not drinking fluids for the whole day, it is a singularly grueling experience.

Not making weight means you don’t get to fight. Also, it is not only viewed as unprofessional, it’s taken as a clear symptom of an outstanding lack of nutritional discipline.  

At the official weigh-ins of the MMA spectacle that will be One Fighting Championships’ “Pride of a Nation,” held at SMART Araneta Coliseum on the humid afternoon of August 30, fortunately, all the fighters made weight. 

This event is headlined by CFC Australia’s bantamweight champ, Gustavo Falciroli, who fights against Brazilian and DREAM bantamweight champ Bibiano Fernandes. Both MMA superstars came in at 61.5 kilograms. 

Challenge of dehydration

At the open workout sessions held two days previous, neither Falciroli nor Fernandes showed signs of the fatigue common to fighters trying to lose a lot of weight. Fernandes, whose moniker is “The Flash,” showcased his amazing speed and agility with ease. 

“This is great heat for workout!,” Fernandes said.   

The constant sweating and non-intake of fluids leads to a forced dehydration. Just enough so that you don’t go into what sports nutrition experts call “panic mode”–the body’s natural way of conserving fluids for survival. It says: we’re putting a stop to this. The effect being, no more weight loss. 

BIGGER DAYS. During Gustavo Falciroli's last visit to Manila in mid-July, Falciroli was evidently heavier. Shaira Luna.

WEIGHT LOSS. Gustavo Falciroli looked appeared smaller during the weigh-ins the night before the fight. OneFC.

Still, dehydration brings stress and begets weariness, which leads to dull headaches. You can lose 5 to 6 pounds during a 24 hour fast with nary a glass of water. Doesn’t make it any less stressful, though. Imagine a hangover 48 hours long. 

Like being high from insomnia, fluid deprivation can make a man contemplative or moody. Though Ultimate Fighting Championship legend Jens “Li’l Evil” Pulver says he’s always been “the emotional fighter,” he was remarkably candid at the same open workout. 

“A lot of people say they’re not the emotional kind, but I am,” he said. “I wish everybody would slap my mother, insult my family, rage on my pet dogs, say something about my kids, my wife. Make me mad!”  

At the weigh-ins the next day, Pulver’s roguish grin easily became an amused sneer. Pulver, who’s fighting Pinoy striker Eric “The Natural” Kelly in the main card, came in at a light 66.2 kilograms, while Kelly was a hairsbreadth lighter at 66.1 kilograms. 

“The days of being the 155 [lbs] kingpin are over,” Pulver exclaimed. “I’m trying to stay at 135 [lbs] and then fight a guy like this at 145 [lbs].” 

Personal tension

It’s not all about losing weight, but about body manipulation.

The other side of the coin is rehydrating. Mastery of only one is a lopsided skill. So, it’s making weight and then performing at your best 24 hours later, through a small window of 20 to 30 hours to reload post- weight cutting.

This is especially difficult for heavyweights like Tim “the Maine-iac” Sylvia (who came in at 120.5 kg) and his opponent Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski (who weighed at an official 111.8 kg) who’ll be on the co-main event. 

HEAVYWEIGHT SHOWDOWN. Things were heated at the weigh-in between Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, heat that is sure to intensify in the cage. Joshua Albelda.

Both iconic former UFC champs — who’ve carried on a rivalry that will be four fights long — have been noted for becoming significantly bigger after making weight.

The reason for the more intense heat between the two? A girl. Arlovski, the Belorussian, allegedly first dated the said beauty, and then the American Sylvia was later linked to her. 

This is the match-up that carries with it an excitement beyond competition, with shades of the personal. Whether it’s Arlovski throwing verbal barbs at Sylvia at the workout sessions (“Hey Tim, how taste my big pee pee?!”), or the electric tension at the weigh-ins where the obligatory staredown lasted a whole minute too long, this looks like it’ll only be satisfied by drawing blood.

Or a spectacular, lights out knock-out. 

I will, however, be rooting for Baguio city’s Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang, who carries on his shoulders Pinoy pride when he fights against Japan’s Felipe Enimoto, a fierce CFC Euro champion. Manila, we best get our cheers ready. –

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