HBO’s Real Sports dives into weight cutting in MMA, with some disturbing footage

HBO's Real Sports takes a hard look at MMA's culture of weight cutting.

By: Victor Rodriguez | 3 years ago
HBO’s Real Sports dives into weight cutting in MMA, with some disturbing footage
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

For years, Real Sports has been at the forefront for journalistic pieces that cover a wide range of sport and sport-adjacent topics. A lot of it usually touches on the less-than-pleasant elements that surround athletics and the people involved.

While they’ve covered MMA before, they’ve come back to the sport again. This time the topic was weight cutting and the horrid effects it has on fighters.

The piece begins with former UFC fighter Ramsey Nijem, who was allowed to have the HBO crew join him as he prepared for one of his fights in the PFL. He details the process and the piece goes on to mention fighters that have had notoriously bad weight cuts.

From there, they explain the purpose and methods of cutting weight, and things really go south. The subject is treated with the gravity the subject requires, breaking down the detrimental effects that weight cuts have on the human body including the added risk of brain damage.

Here’s a preview of the segment:

Middleweight Uriah Hall was also included in the piece, detailing his ordeal to make weight in 2018 and the possibilities had he not aborted that cut. Other fighters mentioned to a lesser de

But none was more harrowing than the experience of former UFC champ Nicco Montaño.

Prior to her fight with Valentina Shevchenko, she arrived at the UFC’s Performance Institute and was assured by Clint Wattenberg that while the weight cut would be difficult, it was an attainable goal.

Wattenberg is listed on the UFC Performance Institute’s website as the Director of Nutrition, and in the feature is seen and heard explaining to Montaño that she can safely drop close to 30lbs to get to the flyweight limit since she had enough body fat to do it. That footage was captured as part of a documentary being produced to highlight Montaño’s standing as the UFC’s first (and to date, only) Native American champion, and utilized as part of the piece by Real Sports.

After some more disturbing footage of Montaño in absolute agony, the documentary director claims they were told at the hospital that another 30min of weight cutting and Montaño could have suffered complete renal failure.

It’s a heartbreaker, because it led to her being stripped of the title. Afterwards, she took to social media in a now-deleted post detailing the matter and confirming that this was all indeed recorded for the documentary.

Real Sports reached out to the UFC for comment, which they declined to offer.

Finally, the piece ends with Nijem, who was unable to shed that final pound and was already looking morbidly decrepit. After some consternation, he decides to shave his head to finally make weight, which he does. While he didn’t win the fight against eventual champion Natan Schulte the next day, he at least won the fight before the fight.

Real Sports is available exclusively on HBO, and this episode can be seen either On Demand or via HBO Max.

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About the author
Victor Rodriguez
Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez has been a writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow since 2015. He started his way as a lowly commenter and moderator to become the miscreant he is now. He often does weekly bits on fringe martial arts items across the globe, oddball street combat pieces, previews, analysis, and some behind-the-scenes support. He has trained in wrestling, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the occasional Muay Thai and Judo lesson here and there. Victor has also been involved with acting and audio editing projects. He lives in Pennsylvania where he plays way too many video games and is an S-rank dad.

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