Is it unfair?
I’ve never understood why people piss and moan about weight cutting and how it is so “unfair”. Everyone has the option of cutting weight.
This is like saying that it is economically unfair for one bakery to sell their goods at a much lower price than a competing bakery. The increased sales come at the cost of a per item profit.
Likewise, people think that when Matt Hughes cuts weight, it’s like a takes a shit and it’s gone. It is grueling, painful, requires tremendous willpower, and if it is excessive and the athlete cannot rehydrate in time, it will sap his strength.
There is an equilibrium that is reached between how much weight you can cut and the detrimental effects on performance. Anyone can cut a ton of weight–be it Matt Hughes or Mike Goldberg, so long as they have the willpower. The question is can they rehydrate in time.
Is it unnecessary?
If the question is, “is it useless?”, I think the answer is quite obviously no–all things being equal, the person who weights the more tends to be stronger, and therefore the more effective athlete. Of course, there are always the amazingly talented athletes who can overcome strength with speed and skill. But size certainly is a factor.
Is it unsafe?
Maybe? Probably? Does it matter?
There are certainly health and unhealthy ways of cutting weight. Interestingly, the healthiest way is probably the most effective too–reducing bodyfat to as low as possible and then briefly dehydrating a few pounds right before the match. This is not only healthier, but will maintain energy levels much better for the athlete. However, in my years of wrestling both at the high school and collegiate levels, I rarely saw anyone cutting weight in an intelligent manner. They would eat junk a few days up to the meet and then stop eating for at least 2 days and drinking for at least one, while working out in rubber suits.
However, as far as long-term health goes, unless new data has come out, I think that the data has been unsupportive of such yo-yo diets having long-term negative effects.
But I’m not convinced it matters, because…
Is it preventable?
I’d like to add my own question that is equally important–does it matter? I say no. There is no reasonable way to stop people from cutting weight. So long as weight classes exist, there will be people trying to cut one lower for the edge. So long as we agree that it is a good thing to have weight classes, talking about stopping weight cutting altogether is a moot point.
That said, there are some things that can be done to reduce the impact of weight cutting, at least in its more drastic forms.
I have always advocated that people move weigh ins closer to the show. Hell, if the NCAA is having a problem with athletes cutting unhealthy amounts of weight, have them weigh in right before the match–I’m talking about stripping down and stepping on the scale right before they walk out onto it. That will end dehydration cutting to any significant degree. Dehydration simply reduces performance to too great of a degree, and ultimately, weight cutting is a strategy to gain the edge in performance. Make the con stronger than the pro, and cutting will stop.