Cutting Weight Made Paige VanZant Pray She Wouldn’t Die, UFC Fighter Claimed

Most fans know fighters cut weight, but they’re likely unaware just how dramatic—and dangerous—the process can be. But in a video posted by The Players’ Tribune on Saturday, UFC fighter Paige Vanzant shed light on the perils of rapid weight loss.

VanZant, who now fights in the 125-pound weight class, once competed in the 115-pound class, which required dramatic cuts. She discussed a particularly harrowing cut from 138 pounds to 115 pounds in about 10 days. Her regimen included cutting out all sodium, drinking two gallons of water per days and eating extremely clean, small meals.

Even so, with just one day to go, she said she had about 10 pounds to lose. So she worked out in a sauna. “It’s just draining yourself,” she said.

Even after all that, she had nearly five pounds to lose. Exhausted from the sauna, she tried everything, including bathing in scorching hot water, Epsom salts, and alcohol and taping shut her bathroom door to keep the room hot and draw moisture out of her body.

VanZant discussed having a friend in the bathroom, tasked with scraping sweat from the fighter’s body. The friend left the room at one point, only to come back and find VanZant passed out on the floor.

“You just lay there and you pray,” she said in The Players’ Tribune video. “And honestly I was just praying, ‘Lord, please do not kill me. Please do not let me die doing this.’ And I had my best friend praying because she didn’t know want to do. … She thought I was going to die.”

Eventually, her loved ones intervened. “My parents came in and saw me [during] that weight cut and told me they will not support me in this career if I stay at 115,” VanZant said. “Because I was killing myself for this.”

By the time the fight arrived, VanZant was cramping and in serious pain. “Every step to the Octagon was agonizing and hurt so much,” she said. “I think I proved to myself how tough I was, I fought through all of that. But also that moment I was like, ‘I’ll never do this again.'”

Vanzant has since described feeling like a new fighter in her new weight class. “The biggest difference is I’m going to go in there and feel good, honestly,” she told MMA Junkie ahead of a bout Sunday against Jessica-Rose Clark.

She lost that fight after breaking her hand, dropping her MMA record at 7-4 with the loss. But she was undeterred. “I’ll be back better and stronger than ever!” VanZant tweeted, alongside a photo of an X-ray of her broken arm.

The Players’ Tribune video noted fighters often lose 20-25 pounds in the run-up to a fight—and up to 40 pounds in extreme cases—which can lead to serious issues like kidney failure, dehydration, stroke.

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