One of the ongoing stories in MMA the past couple of years is the problem of weight cutting in the sport and last weekend at UFC 216, that problem almost reared its head again. Kevin Lee initially missed weight for his main event fight against Tony Ferguson, coming in one pound over the 155-pound limit. He was given an extra hour to cut the last pound and managed to do so despite also battling a staph infection. Afterwards, Lee admitted the entire process was among his worst ever and “damn near killed” him, though he didn’t want to get into specifics.
Well, now we know, and it doesn’t sound good. Speaking on Chael Sonnen’s You’re Welcome podcast recently, Lee went into detail about his how what had been a successful weight cut turned bad on the morning of weigh-ins.
“The actual weight cut itself didn’t start off bad. It started off the same as most of my other ones. I normally come into fight week about 176 [pounds] and I’ve got about 20 pounds to cut, this time 21, so I came in at 176. I keep details of all my weight cuts so I know exactly where to dial in and where to turn it up. So I was following one of my weight cuts that went really well when I went in Ireland and everything was fine and we dialed it back. I normally don’t start the actual water cut until about 10 PM, but we dialed it back to about 5 PM to give myself the extra time for the extra pound and the weight started coming off quick. I normally go to sleep the night before at about 165, this time I went to sleep about 161 so when we woke up at 5 AM, we kind of were in too much of a lackadaisical – I was kind of in a good mood, like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be smooth. I’ve only got six pounds to cut. I normally cut nine pounds.’ I thought it was gonna be smooth and I took it a little too light.
“The first three hours I only got a pound off. Put yourself in my shoes, it’s 8:00, the weigh-ins start at 9:00, and I’ve still got five pounds to cut; so they’re literally throwing boiling water into the hot tub with me because I’ve got to get it off now, get it off quick. . .
“So right around 10:30 is when the doctor came up and we were still a pound and a half over and he was saying I had to weigh in by 11:00 and then they’d give me the extra hour. I was hoping that somehow their scale was off and they would just give me the pound. I was hoping and I was praying but it was what it was.”
Lee weighed in at 156 pounds, but because he was within two pounds of the target weight, Lee was given an extra hour to try again under NAC protocols; that’s where things get scary. When asked about how he shed the remaining pound, Lee admits to not being very clear on what happened because he was so “out of it” at the time.
“That last hour that I had to cut that extra pound, I don’t even know how I got it off. I don’t know where I was. Your mind just doesn’t want to work when you’re in those kind of states. . .
“Like I said, I don’t even remember much. I don’t really know. I was kind of out of it and I just left it up to my coaches and they got the job done.
“Once I actually made the weight, as soon as I sat down I was more exhausted than I – I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like that in my life. I was carrying the stress of the whole event too so it was a lot.”
Lee weighed in officially at 154.5 pounds on his second attempt, but by fight time, Lee was back up to 183 pounds. Even Lee described himself as “a little too heavy” for his own liking and some people believe that cutting almost 30 pounds affected his performance as Lee looked strong early but faded before being submitted in the third round. Lee himself even admitted that the cut, illness, and stress of the situation affected his performance that night.
As for what’s next for Lee, he may well stay lightweight going forward despite the bad weight cut. “The Motown Phenom” has been a vocal supporter of the UFC adopting the new 155/165/175 weight classes recently put in place by the Association of Boxing Commissions but should they not, it appears Lee still has his eye on the big names at 155 pounds for the time being. First though, he says he’s taking a break to let his body recover from the hell he’s been putting it through.
“We’re gonna see. I’ve taken four fights in the last year. It’s been a major strain on my body. I think right now I need some time and see how everything shakes out in the division. Does McGregor fight Diaz? Does he fight Tony? Do they open up 165 [pounds]? Who’s there? Who’s gonna be top dog? I’m gonna let everything shake out. I’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting these past couple of months so I need some time to let my body rest.”