Paddy Pimblett discussed his disordered eating recently
Paddy Pimblett has been one of the UFC’s main characters for a couple of years now. He’s maintained that status through some fun fights, some controversy and, above all, winning (though, not always convincingly). A big part of his sustained popularity has also been his skills on the mic, both during in-cage interviews and when he is moonlighting as a content creator.
Pimblett’s a unique character in a sport that often suffers from a glut of guys and gals who, through no fault of their own, just aren’t that interesting to listen to. Another aspect of Pimblett that is certainly different, and also quite fascinating, is his extreme fluctuation in weight between fights.
The former featherweight and current lightweight has been unrecognizable in some images during times he’s not preparing for a fight. Pimblett has gone on record saying this isn’t something he’s very proud of.
He addressed the situation recently in an interview with SLOTHBOXX.
“I think I’ve just got an eating disorder when I’m fighting, when I’m cutting weight and dieting, then after a fight, I’ve got a bad eating disorder,” revealed Pimblett.
During that interview Pimblett also remarked that he isn’t as big now as he usually gets between fights and that he is hoping to hover around 200 lbs. He also said he has curbed his “8,000 calories a day” eating habit.
Pimblett said he has received a lot of criticism about his weight gain, but he tries not to pay much attention to it.
“It goes in one ear and out the other. They can all fuck off,” he said, eloquent as ever.
Pimblett’s weight gain is hard to ignore and very unusual in a sport that features some of the fittest, most work-out obsessed folks on the planet. But people making fun of ‘Fat Paddy’ are being cruel and don’t understand that Pimblett’s struggles between fights are a symptom of something rotten about the sport.
Pimblett isn’t alone in experiencing health issues between fights. For fighters, their time between fights is their time between pay-cheques. It’s a time of constant stress. I know this from interviewing dozens, maybe hundreds of fighters over the years.
Between fights is a lonely place
It’s a waking nightmare waiting for your next fight. You’re waiting for a chance to put food on the table and hopefully advance yourself to a place where the previous pay-cheque might be able to stretch until the next one. That’s pretty hard, though, given that six months between fights is the norm and it is very common for fighters to go a year or more without
These lean times between fights are often filled by trying to stay prepared for when that call will come. That training, on top of the stress of uncertainty and financial issues (exacerbated by unprecedented cost of living crises in many of the places these fighters live) leads to over-training, injuries and off-field issues which can conspire to put them out of action even longer.
The mental health implications of all this can not be ignored. Eating disorders are mental health issues which can’t be dieted or exercised away. The need to consume, binge and purge your comfort speaks to deep wounds that can only be addressed through trained professionals.
I have no idea if Paddy Pimblett is seeing a therapist. That’s not any of my business, either. But I’m certain that his employer (sorry, client) the UFC is not providing him or any other fighter with this kind of support.
The dark days between fights are so dark, and lonely, because they see UFC fighters out on their own, without any kind of safety net from a company that has made billions off of their broken bones and brains. Other mainstream sports have their athletes in constant connection with their teams and leagues (because those organizations view them as assets they own and know that those assets make more money when they can perform longer and better). The upshot of that is that these athletes have access to facilities and professionals to help them maintain and improve their physical and mental health, without cost, and that those athletes have the best shot at being game ready when the bell sounds.
That being said, plenty of pro sports orgs and teams struggle to provide their athletes with all the care they need — care that prioritizes long-term health over short-term sporting success. And many of those athletes do end up shit out of luck when they leave the sport, whether through retirement or just not being able to bag a new contract.
However, it would be hard to argue that an NBA contract doesn’t come with health and wellness perks that are completely out of reach for 95% of UFC fighters.
The UFC PI doesn’t cut it
Yes, the UFC has a Performance Institute with incredible trainers, equipment and therapists that fighters can drop by and use. But they have to go to Vegas for that. Is the UFC covering their flights, accommodations and meals for that? This little perk is just a band-aid over the real problem; that UFC fighters are out on a ledge between fights, at risk of falling into financial ruin, physical impairment and/or emotional distress.
Many fighters I have spoken to reveal that the fights themselves are their safe spaces. They know they will be paid if they can just show up and get themselves in a cage. That this is a place they can get an extra $50,000 if they land the right punch (despite leaving themselves open for the wrong one). And they know, if they get hurt there, the UFC will take care of them (this is a big deal since many don’t benefit from universal health care).
I have spoken to multiple fighters who have gone into UFC bouts injured, smiled through their laughably lax medicals and then fought just so they could claim the injury happened in the fight (so the UFC will pay for their surgeries).
If the UFC cared about delivering the best product possible, they would put more effort into ensuring their roster is taken care of when they aren’t wearing a Venom fight kit. That would cost money, though. And right now, they don’t need to do that. They have a never ending conveyor belt of men and women who will take someone’s spot and fight anywhere, anytime (for any purse).
If the UFC won’t support fighters during times that those fighters aren’t paying the promotion’s bills, then fighters will have to find a way to support themselves, together. A professional association of fighters could fund medical coverage for all its members and access to therapists, who might help them through those long lean periods when financial ruin and emotional disaster is lurking over them.
However, it’s unlikely that we ever see fighters join together in such a way, since the entire industry is set up to reward fighters who make things easier for the promotion. Fighters who show up when someone else is hurt or unhappy. Fighters who takes everything from their brother when there was enough to share.
So, given how much is working against fighters between bouts, maybe think again before you bash someone for being out of shape or unwell during those long days between getting punched for their supper.
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