How boxing and MMA stars like Darren Till are risking their lives by cutting weight

Darren Till heads into his fight against Tyron Woodley at UFC 228 knowing it’s likely to be one of his last at welterweight level.

The Gorilla could win the title against Woodley and will likely defend it once before make the leap to middleweight.

UFC fighter Darren Till has failed to make weight on two occasions.

UFC fighter Darren Till has failed to make weight on two occasions.

It’s unsurprising given the incredible toll Till takes trying to make weight.

Against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson earlier this year, the 25-year-old missed by 3.5 pounds and his attempts to get down to the correct level saw him losing his sight while on a treadmill and having to crawl out of a sauna, scenes which provoked plenty of talk about what fighters go through to get to the right size.

Last time out, Till had to forfeit 30 per cent of his fight purse, while he could not weigh more than 188 pounds on the day of the fight as the bout went ahead at a catchweight.

The Liverpudlian was victorious by unanimous decision against Thompson but will once again be trying to cut weight ahead of his battle with Woodley.

It is done in many ways with fighters burning fat and losing fluid, while also retaining their lean body mass.

Till was seen running on treadmills with multiple layers of clothing, doing pad work, lying under blankets and towels, before taking to a sauna for 45 minutes.

All this saw him lose just 2.5kg of the 5kg he needed to drop before another treadmill session was ended due to a loss of sight.

And Dr Mike Loosemore, the chief medical officer at GB Boxing, highlighted the dangers of trying to shift weight in such extreme manners when he spoke to Betway.

Darren Till in action against Bojan Velickovic in 2017.

Darren Till in action against Bojan Velickovic in 2017.

“There’s the danger of losing the weight, because you get very dry, lose a lot of electrolytes, that are in your blood that are required for running your heart nice and smoothly, putting yourself at risk of heart arrhythmia, heart attacks and death, and then when you re-hydrate you disturb your electrolyte balance.

“Those electrolytes are very, very important for the nerves that make your heart beat regularly to work properly. They start misfiring, you start getting heart arrhythmia and then you get to the weigh in and drop dead.

“[Seizures and blindness] they are probably due to a fighter’s blood pressure being so low because he is so dehydrated. It’s just so dangerous.

How fighters make weight and the risks they take

How fighters make weight and the risks they take

“Losing 20 pounds just a few days before you fight – it’s just Russian roulette,” adds Loosemore. “It really is dangerous.

“I think it’s the responsibility of the whole team to make sure the weight cut has been done sensibly and the onus usually falls on the coach, not the medical team.

“It’s the coaches and nutritionists that guide the weight cut, certainly not the medics. Weight cutting is unpleasant and tedious but you are much healthier at the end of the day if you can go into a fight eating a full meal and eating what you like than you are not drinking at all and sucking on ice cubes three days out and eating half a jelly bean once a day.

“If you think that’s a good way of preparing for a major fight then you’re just crackers.”

Till faces Tyron Woodley (pictured) at UFC 228.

Till faces Tyron Woodley (pictured) at UFC 228.

But despite the high risks involved fighters are still carrying out the practices rather than getting themselves to the correct weight in the long-term, and Loosemore insists a change needs to come in attitudes before a more serious event occurs.

“Combat sports are tough sports, and you don’t need to make them any tougher to do this crazy weight-making.

“It’s not cheating if that’s what the rules are. If the rules are that you can do that then you need to look at the rules.

“I understand that people want to get their fights on, however you have got to think about the fighters at the end of the day.

“Fighting men want to fight. The fighters will do anything to fight. You’ve got to protect them from themselves, in a way, you can’t just allow anything to go otherwise we will start seeing terrible injuries and deaths in the ring, and the sport will get banned because the public will be revolted by it.

“The rule should be that if you miss the weight you don’t fight, and you get a fine.”

Fellow UFC fighter Yoel Romero failed to make weight ahead of a rematch with Robert Whittaker at UFC 225.

Fellow UFC fighter Yoel Romero failed to make weight ahead of a rematch with Robert Whittaker at UFC 225.

Loosemore also advocates a longer weight-monitoring processs which would see losses managed in the run up to the fight across eight weeks, rather than in the final hours prior to stepping into the ring.

“I’m sure there’s very good reasons why the changes haven’t been put in place so far,” he continued.

“But as a doctor who cares about the fight game passionately and cares about the fighters, I don’t want to see these brave, talented young men dying because of a mad strategy to make weight.”

Whether Till makes weight against Woodley is yet to be seen and will no doubt worry fans and coaches given he’s now missed the cut off in two UFC bouts and the risk he is taking with his life.

A step up to the more manageable middleweight is surely the answer sooner rather than later.

Dr. Mike Loosemore is a director at The Centre for Health & Human Performance (CHHP)

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