2010 marked the unofficial inception of MMA in the Arab world whereas the sport itself is barely 20 years old. Fast-paced, technical, exciting, and unpredictable, MMA is understandably one of the world’s fastest growing sports. I have been over zealous about MMA since 1997 and I have turned my passion into a reality by representing the largest MMA organization in terms of market share and TV exposure within the Middle East.
Like any type of physical training and exercise, weight cutting is a scientific process therefore I am solely offering my opinion which stems from one-on-one hands-on interactions with the sport and fighters in the Arab world. Weight cutting is a very delicate and pressing topic for fighters since training and preparation can make or break a fighter.
Brazilian Mixed Martial Artist, Leandro “Feijao” Souza, died several days before participating in a MMA event in Brazil. The details surrounding his death are sketchy but individuals familiar with Souza blame the fatal accident on flawed weight cutting. This is an eye-opening event even though it is surely isolated and rare. Without drawing red lines and taking proper safety measures, other fighters could suffer the same fate as Souza. The truth is the pre-fight preparation process includes dehydration, starvation, and the most rigorous training. MMA great Junior Dos Santos conceded in recent months that he flirted with cardiac arrest in gearing up for his fight with Cain Velasquez. The first step to combatting this issue is raising awareness among promoters, trainers, and most importantly fighters. After all, it is the will of the fighters that will prevent promoters and trainers from expecting them to participate in over the top and draconian training sessions.
If Souza’s tragedy were to be repeated in the UAE, the country would take the blame because there are no committees or athletic commissions that monitor and regulate combat sports. The country’s immediate reaction to the death of a fighter would be to ban the sport since the absence of a governing authority eliminates the probability of preventing the event from repeating again. The country would not and could not take responsibility for fighters falling prey to the will of over ambitious fighters and cutthroat trainers and promoters. The UAE and any other Arab state that allows combat sports to take place on its soil needs to call for the creation of a governing body or authority to oversee all issues pertaining to combat sports.
The goals and intentions of fighters, trainers, and promoters will not change due to the nature of the sport. Fighters will get into tip top shape by any and all means, trainers will push their fighters to the limit, and promoters want fighters to be physically matched up as evenly as possible. The greatest problem is that promoters are inflexible in achieving their end means. Accepting rules and regulations will force them to absorb more medical costs and the brunt of the burden in the event that another fighter dies even before stepping into competition. Fighters, promoters, and trainers must find common ground in achieving safety without inhibiting the essence of training and superb competition.