The UFC recently been tossing around a ban on intravenous therapy usage. But, is this really a problem? Frankly, it depends on who is doing the talking.
IV therapy is a method used by athletes to quickly replenish the body’s fluid content after extreme weight cuts. When athletes – especially those involved in combat sports – go through extreme weight cuts, they are at risk of losing essential salts that perform a number of duties, including water retention and normal brain function.
Salts both attract water and conduct electricity, both of which are not just keys to performance, but keys to life. When a person gets lost in the wilderness or at sea, the leading indicator that death is imminent is severe dehydration. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the severe depletion of salts in the bodily fluids.
If there are not enough salts in the body, the brain, which is surrounded by salt water, is unable to function correctly, because there are not enough salts conducting electrical impulses. This doesn’t just make a fighter act goofy, which would be the sophomoric response. If the brain is not functioning properly, vital organs and muscles can shut down.
Fighters have a choice about how they cut weight, and the choice is simple. Do they dedicate themselves to their craft and cut weight in a healthy manner by making a lot of sacrifices, or do they try to take the bad ass route and wait until the last minute to cut 20-plus pounds?
Mixed martial arts is a very physically and emotionally demanding sport, and, typically, the promoters could not care less. This begs the question, “Why did the UFC make this decision?”
On one hand, as long as a fighter makes weight, the card goes on as scheduled, and nobody dies, there is no point in changing the IV rules. When fighters take the unhealthy route, – which very few would ever admit – they wait until the last week, cut 15-25 pounds of water weight, and spike a saline IV, so their bodies can start retaining water again before the fight. It may not be ideal, but it seems to work most of the time, and, relatively only a few have actually died from these extreme cuts.
On the other hand, nutritionists, like Mike Dolce for example, have been able to guide focused athletes through gradual cuts, using adequate nutrition and hydration, and, ideally, they aren’t depleted, are at a lower risk of health complications, and, theoretically, perform better physically.
The fact remains that no MMA promoter, as morbid as it sounds, has ever cared about whether or not an athlete is intrinsically healthy or not. To a promoter, the show must go on.
To qualify the last statement, it may seem that this paints promoters as evil, money grubbing business people, but that is not the intention of this observation. Many promoters aren’t sleazy. Most of them just want to put on great shows, but there is a fine line between running a business and babysitting.
What’s on the surface means very little. At the end of the day, the MMA business is a two-way street. The fighters cannot control the promoters, but, more importantly, the promoters cannot control a fighter’s behavior outside of the cage. If guys are going to be irresponsible, but still make weight and keep winning, nobody cares. On the other hand, if the promoter lets fighters do whatever they have to do to stay within the rules, “everybody’s happy.”
Well, while it hasn’t been a glaring problem, the UFC seems to be distancing themselves from this liability. In recent years, a few people across the globe have died while cutting water weight and more have done better, but that is not a monetary gamble the UFC is willing to take. With Fox and Reebok sponsorship, this could sink the whole ship, and that’s the last thing that Reebok, more than anyone else needs.
Athletics are all about role models and doing the right thing, and the UFC cannot afford, at this stage in the game, to have any fighter die while trying to make weight. That would put Reebok and even bigger step behind Nike, a company that has a track record of distancing itself from negative publicity. In addition, a loss of Reebok would be potentially damning to the UFC’s bottom line.
The UFC has a reputation of pushing people around, and the IV ban is no different. If a fighter needs an IV, that means that that person could not make the necessary sacrifices to get to where he or she needed to be on fight night. The fighters, on the other hand, are not compensated fairly to begin with, and how they cut weight should not necessarily be under the watchful eye of the organization that limits their income streams outside of actual event.
The most obvious prediction to this new rule is that athletes will continue to use IV therapy, the UFC will not police this, and when that one fighter finally does hurt himself mortally, the UFC will have a legal cushion to prevent liability.
Fighting is a dirty business, and can be on both sides of the fence. No matter what anybody says, both sides are looking out for number one, and the UFc ban on IV usage is nothing more than a political and legal move to distance the organization for th eugly side of the business.