Cris Cyborg Is Killing Herself to Make Weight Again

In all of MMA no one may have it worse than Cris “Cyborg.” In an era when Jon Jones can violate the USADA’s rules and the state of New Mexico’s laws and still be in the running to rule his chosen division, when the UFC will curate an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter just to find a challenger for flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, and Conor McGregor is allowed to float to whatever weight class fits his whim even as his featherweight belt goes to seed, only Cyborg among fighters on the pound-for-pound list is forced to bend and contort and mar herself to accommodate the sport she dominates, instead of the other way around. Cursed and blessed with the body she was born with, a body designed to fight but too big to match up with any of the other great fighters of her generation, Cyborg is the living embodiment of the devil’s bargain all fighters make on a much smaller scale: Greatness can be yours for the price of your body.

On Monday, five days out from her fight with Lina Lansberg this Saturday in Brasilia, Brazil, Cyborg told The MMA Hour that she was still an astonishing 24 pounds over weight. Even at a catchweight of 140 pounds—five pounds over the limit of the women’s marquee bantamweight division, where all the great, legacy-defining fighters like Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, and champion Amanda Nunes Cyborg should be fighting if the world had any justice in it reside—Cyborg is once again mauling her body just to be able to make it into the Octagon. And all to fight a woman none of us had ever heard of before this fight was announced.

To make matters worse, Cyborg said, in the five days since she had arrived in Brazil from the United States, she had only managed to drop three pounds, meaning there’s no trend line in her favor. Plenty of MMA fighters come into fight week with large amounts of weight to cut but rarely do they find their bodies so resistant to the task. Forget 140 pounds, Cyborg said: In this camp she’s come nowhere near 150.

"This camp I don't touch 150," she said. "It's really scary, I look in the mirror, I trained double and I don't know why I don't touch 50. Just something different in this camp is I take birth control. Last fight, I make 140, it was successful."

In a video blog released yesterday Cyborg is seen arguing with her diet coach, famed MMA nutritionist George Lockhart, over his decision to put her on birth control in the run-up to her fight with Lansberg, something he didn’t have her do during her last agonizing but ultimately successful weight-cut, before her UFC debut in May. Cyborg says she feels like the birth control is making her retain water. She also claims the drug was banned in the United State in 2012 because it causes blot clots, and worries that it will cause her to lose strength and aggression. She wonders why birth control is even necessary when it wasn’t last time, a reasonable question for a woman putting her body through hell for a paycheck.

“You want to improve your weight cut each time,“ Lockhart responds, before turning his attention to Cyborg’s menstrual cycle. “When you hit your period you go up 13 pounds. Your period is insane, and your mood can go through the roof. That’s something we had to address.”

“The whole purpose behind [putting her on birth control] was the periods, make sure they’re not out of control, her moods aren’t out of control and her weight doesn’t shoot up,” Lockhart says. “That’s the biggest thing.”

Lockhart tells the film’s producers that the birth control Cyborg is taking is actually inhibiting one of the hormones preventing her from losing water weight, not enhancing it. According to an article published on Bloody Elbow yesterday (written by Iain Kidd, who is currently writing a book with George Lockhart), Cyborg’s nutritionist is right. One of the effects of drospirenone, the birth control Cyborg is likely on, is weight loss.

“Studies show both overall weight decrease and specific effects on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system which Lockhart alluded to in the video,” Kidd writes. “Another study touted its benefits as a well-tolerated, effective birth control method which also aids in weight loss, especially where water retention is involved.” Kidd also points out that drospirenone was never banned in the United States or even restricted, only given a warning label after it was determined that it could slightly raise the incidence of blood clotting in non-pregnant women.

All of which may prove Lockhart right on the science but it also shows just how far beyond reasonable limits Cyborg is consistently dragging her body to make weight: that she’s forced to not only alter her diet but distort her menstrual cycle and her entire hormonal system. Most fighters don’t do half as much because they’re never more than 15 pounds from a more reasonable weight division. Every mixed martial artist puts his or her body through the ringer but Cyborg is the only truly great champion fighter, maybe the only truly great athlete, who has to consistently distort herself and deny the messages of her own body to ply her trade. But what else can a born fighter do when the world, her fellow fighters, and her own body are conspiring against her?


Check out these related stories:

A Brutally Honest Look at Cyborg vs Rousey

Stop Talking About Cyborg's One Positive Steroid Test

Even in the UFC, Cyborg Remains the Defiant Champion of a Nonexistent Weight-Class