I've heard plenty of horror stories that come as a result of a weight cut gone bad in mixed martial arts.
Most fighters who undertake a weight cut have done so before. They've wrestled since they were kids, and while cutting weight at the junior or high school level is mostly frowned upon, the practice is not yet a thing of the past.
According to the Athens Banner-Herald, an astonishing 81 percent of all wrestlers cut weight. It's no surprise that a wrestler in high school would continue attempting to gain an advantage on his opponents once he grows up and turns professional.
Jacob Volkmann is one of those wrestlers. He's been cutting weight for what seems like forever and continues to do so as he goes through his professional career. Most of the time, he's been successful. Other times—such as last week, just days before he was scheduled to make his debut for World Series of Fighting—Volkmann isn't quite so successful.
Here's what he told Sherdog.com on Wednesday:
“The maid knocks on my door and keeps on knocking, and I [thought], ‘I’d better not get up too fast.’ So I got up and walked toward the door, and by the time I got my hand on the door, I blacked out,” Volkman told TJ De Santis during a Wednesday interview on “Beatdown” on the Sherdog Radio Network. “Next thing I remember, I was shaking on the floor, having seizures.”
“I banged my head, and I must have hit my back on the door handle,” Volkmann said. “I didn’t tell anybody, because I didn’t want them to say I couldn’t fight because I just had a seizure. I had bills to pay, so I really didn’t have a choice.”
And so you can see why I believe that the biggest harm to mixed martial arts will not come from the sport itself, but from athletes doing dumb things. Blacking out and busting your head open because you're dehydrated and stood up too fast to answer your hotel door? Yeah, that qualifies as a dumb thing.
I'd like to say that athletes shouldn't be in a position where they have to lie to the athletic commissions about their health in order to fight. That's not safe. It's not good for the athlete, and it's not good for the sport.
“It was a byproduct of being dehydrated. I don’t think I need a CAT scan or [anything],” Volkmann continued. “There’s nothing cloudy. My memory is fine. I don’t feel sluggish at all. I’m good to go.”
I trust Volkmann's judgment more than most. He did attend two straight years of medical school (M.D.) before branching off to become a chiropractor, after all.
But 99.99 percent of fighters regularly attempt the same kind of cognitive self-checks that Volkmann used, only they don't know what they're doing. They don't have any medical training and they don't know what signs to look for. And even if they do know the signs, they ignore them because, as Volkmann said, they have bills to pay and they need the money.