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Weight-class issues keep Carano from reaching top

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Minutes after the video of last week's Elite XC weigh-in hit the Internet, you just know there were thousands of pubescent boys just praying that the white towel would somehow find its way to the floor.

Behind the towel stood the most famous female mixed martial artist in the world, a buck-naked Gina Carano (7-0), who had to be saying two silent prayers herself.

The unbeaten Las Vegan, who is on a collision path to what may be the richest women's MMA fight in history with Cris "Cyborg" Santos, had to be praying feverishly that the needle on the scale would somehow register 141 pounds.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, have no doubt she was whispering a million prayers that the men holding the towels that were guarding her privacy and protecting her from Internet infamy would retain their grips.

Carano looked gaunt and drawn, but performed admirably the next night in winning a unanimous decision over Kelly Kobold that set up her 2009 bout with Santos.

Hopefully, CBS and Elite XC will put that bout on network television and not on pay-per-view, where it would be seen by an infinitely smaller audience than would witness it on the Tiffany network.

Most significantly, though, Carano can't be allowed to sign a contract to fight at 140 pounds again. Carano weighed 144 at the Elite XC debut on CBS on May 31, but Kaitlin Young agreed to the fight anyway. She missed weight in her fight before that in Hawaii against Tonya Evinger.

She's unbeaten on the scorecards, but the scales have repeatedly kicked her backside. Those three fights aren't the only ones in her seven-fight MMA career in which she hasn't been able to meet her contract weight.

It's clear she can't make 140 and it's clear she's putting her health at risk. Elite XC should simply set the bout for 145 or 150 pounds.

Carano is the star and she'll dictate the terms. But whichever weight is chosen, it should be one that she can make easily and without having to spend much of the final day in the sauna.

Margaret Goodman, a long-time ringside physician in Nevada, said the dramatic cuts aren't good for Carano's health.

"She is hurting her career and her body in these drastic fluctuations," said Goodman, a neurologist who is no longer working fights.

If there is money to be made on a fight, rest assured that a promoter and a manager will, in most cases, do just about anything to make sure the bout goes off. Jose Luis Castillo became notorious in boxing over the last several years of his illustrious career for his inability to make weight.

If the limit was 135, he'd come in at 138. If it were 140, he'd be 142. Make it 147, he'd be 150.

Before a rematch with Diego Corrales, Castillo was so spent from trying to make weight that he barely could lift himself off the ground and needed to be assisted in walking from the room. One of his promoters, though, argued that he should still be allowed to fight, even though he appeared emaciated.

Acquiescent boxing commissions throughout the country will often bow to either a powerful promoter or television network and sign off on a fight that is dangerous because of the silly notion that the show must go on.

Dr. Tim Trainor, an orthopedic surgeon who is a consulting physician for the Nevada Athletic Commission, said dehydration will begin to impact performance and cause serious damage when a person loses more than two percent of body weight in a day.

No one knows what Carano weighed when she awakened on the morning of the Oct. 3 weigh-in for her fight the next night with Kobold. But after spending time fasting and in the sauna, as well as using other weight-loss techniques, she weighed 142 3/4 pounds on her first try.

By rule in Florida, she had two hours to make the contracted weight.

To account for variations in scales, the contracts allow for a fighter to weigh one pound over the weight, except in title matches, meaning Carano had to weigh 141.

Two percent of her body weight at 142 3/4 would be 2.85 pounds.

Presumably, though, Carano had already lost weight prior to coming down to be officially weighed.

Carano had said before the fight she was taking her weight-cut seriously and had hired a nutritionist to help her make the weight.

Assuming she did what her coaches told her, she simply proved to be too big to make 140 safely. She eventually made 141, losing another 1

3/4 pounds, and managed to rehydrate enough to both look good physically and perform well in the fight the next night.

That's beside the point, Goodman said. She said a fighter in any class shouldn't have to cut more than five pounds the week of the fight.

"Many of the MMA guys, especially those who began as wrestlers, believe there is some advantage to cutting five, 10, or even 15 pounds the week of a (fight)," Goodman said. "It makes no sense physiologically and contributes to a lesser performance. Bottom line, irrespective of the weight class, if a fighter has to cut more than five pounds the week of the fight, they are either unprepared, unhealthy, or fighting in the wrong weight class.

"These guys all start this at younger ages. At younger ages, their bodies can take the punishment, but it sure doesn't help them perform better. But as a fighter progresses in their career, they are doing a disservice to the sport, the fans, and most importantly themselves."

This is a situation where Carano has to be protected from herself. She clearly can't make 140 pounds, even though she sincerely tries. Elite XC must convince her it's time to move up.

But if Elite XC doesn't act, state athletic commissions need to do so.

She has a history in this area and it's not good.

Carano is an elite fighter and has the personality to be a superstar in the business. She can't risk that by foolishly trying to make a weight that's impossible for her to do.