Rapid Weight Gain and Weight Differential Predict Competitive Success in 2100 Professional Combat-Sport Athletes

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

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Vincent BaribeauDepartment of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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Christopher KirkAcademy of Sport and Physical Activity, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6207-027X
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Danny Q. LeDepartment of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2278-1373
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Arjun BoseDepartment of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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Ariel MuellerDepartment of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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Duncan FrenchPerformance Services, UFC Performance Institute, Las Vegas, NV, USA

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Todd SargeDepartment of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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Carl Langan-EvansResearch Institute for Sport and Exercise, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom

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Reid RealePerformance Nutrition Department, UFC Performance Institute, Shanghai, China

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Kadhiresan R. MurugappanDepartment of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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Purpose: Combat-sport athletes commonly undergo rapid weight loss prior to prebout weigh-in and subsequently rapid weight gain (RWG) prior to competition. This investigation aimed to evaluate the effect of RWG and weight differential (WD) between opponents on competitive success. Methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed using data from professional mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing events held between 2015 and 2019. The primary outcome was RWG (relative and absolute) between weigh-in and competition stratified by bout winners and losers. Binary logistic regression was used to explore the relationships among bout outcome, RWG, and WD between competitors on the day of their bout. Results: Among 708 MMA athletes included, winners regained more relative body mass (8.7% [3.7%] vs 7.9% [3.8%], P < .01) than losers. In 1392 included male boxers, winners regained significantly more relative body mass (8.0% [3.0%] vs 6.9% [3.2%], P < .01) than losers. Each percentage body mass increase resulted in a 7% increased likelihood of victory in MMA and a 13% increase in boxing. The relationship between RWG and competitive success remained significant in regional and male international MMA athletes, as well as boxers. WD predicted victory in international mixed martial artists and boxers. WD predicted victory by knockout or technical knockout in international MMA athletes and regional boxers. Conclusion: This analysis of combat-sport athletes indicates that RWG and WD influence competitive success. These findings raise fair-play and safety concerns in these popular sports and may help guide risk-mitigating regulation strategies.

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