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The Fight with Weight Cutting in Full Swing

Brace light-heavyweight champion Duke Didier is utilising his position in the fighting world to bring to light the health risks of weight cutting in martial arts. Why? To ensure the safety of athletes in the future.

Many would query though, what is weight cutting? Weight-cutting is a practice used in combat sports which sees athletes dehydrate their body over a short period to ensure they make their required weight.

The practice of weight cutting has become a topic of great controversy after Australian Muay Thai fighter Jessica Lindsay passed away after an extreme weight cut in 2017.

I sat down with Didier to talk about the new approaches that are being taken towards weight cutting and why the issue has come to the forefront in recent years.


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‘You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.’ – Walt Disney ••• I’m really hoping Walt is right about this as it’s been a pretty rough run lately. Some health issues are keeping me out of action for a little while but she’ll be right and I’ll be back fighting soon. #TeamDoC

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Q: Weight cutting is topic that has come to the forefront of many conversations in recent years and has become a big issue in combat sports due to the extreme effects it can have on an athlete’s body. Why do you think the focus on weight cutting is so important now more than ever?

A: There are two reasons, obviously there are health implications for the athletes. So, when you are cutting that much weight, you are putting a lot of stress on the body. When it comes to the UFC anyway, there is no one really monitoring how much weight can actually be cut, so these people are pushing their bodies to the absolute limits and nobody knows what the actual limit is. There is evidence to suggest that if someone can push their body to the extreme the day of the weigh in, then they will obviously have the advantage the next day because they will be bigger and stronger for the fight as long as they have rehydrated properly.
The second issue that comes along with weight cutting is the people actually putting in the effort to make the weight. There is a high percentage of fighters that don’t make weight, going on to win the fights. Yes, they are taking a cut in their purse but they are winning, so in a way it’s a form of cheating. You have agreed upon fighting at this weight and you are not meeting it, so in a way you have an advantage over your opponent before the fight even started.

Q: What are some of the advantages that come with a fighter competing at a weight class lower than their natural body weight?

A: Basically, if your body size is at a certain length, height, reach and you can reduce your water weight and food intake to the point where you are meeting the weight division that your opponent may not have the same dimensions and then your rehydrating even more, you are immediately one step ahead. So, sometimes it comes downs to who’s cutting the most weight.

Duke preparing for a tournament in 2018.
Photo: Duke Didier

Q: You currently compete at light-heavy weight (84 to 93 kg), how much of a cut do you have to make in order to make weight and what are the challenges that come along with it?

A: I make a pretty substantial cut, I sit at 106kg and I fight at 93kg. My natural body weight is about 103kg’s. I have a nutritionist who did his PHD in combat sports weight cutting, who I met through my time in the Australian Judo team. For six to eight weeks carbohydrates are eaten only when absolutely necessary and then breaking it down from there to get down to about 95-96 kilos with a few days to go, then cutting out 2-3 kilos of water weight. The hardest part of the whole camp is training on empty. It’s hard enough backing up with these high-volume sessions but it gets even harder when you don’t have that energy source that are you use to.

Q: It is clear whenever athletes are going through an extreme weight cut they are doing some kind of harm to themselves. What needs to be implemented to ensure higher athlete safety?

A: It’s certainly a difficult one just because no one weight cut is exactly the same. The only solution that I have seen that is different to what’s currently happening is the ‘ONE Fighting Championship’ method. They do a hydration test several months out when a fight is scheduled or before a fight is announced, so they can figure out what your natural weight is and where your hydration is at. From there they are doing monitoring during camps and basically you have to weigh in fully hydrated. If in the case you are not fully hydrated on the day of the weigh in, then you will not be able to compete. This means that most fighters will compete one weight division higher, compared to the old system.

Q: Do you think the addition of more weight classes would also in the current system would benefit athletes?

A: Definitely, in my case, if there was a cruiserweight division (102kg), a division between light-heavyweight and heavyweight. It would be greatly beneficial to not only myself but many athletes out there. You have to consider there is a 93 kilo division and there is a 120 kilo division with nothing in between. I believe there should be something around that 103kg mark or anything In between weight divisions for that matter to deter more extreme weight cuts.



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