The Final Hours
Fighting; as a sport, as a passion comes with its own unique price tags. There are hours and hours training to go through. Then for the gluttony in me, there's also the clean eating that's always a struggle. But the worst of them all, to me at least, the weight cut.
You know, it may be abit logical to be writing about the experience, the sights and sounds of the event, or the sexy bits from the fight. But truthfully, the biggest obstacle, and the most memorable of all, for me, and I know for some of my other fellow fighters as well, is the weight cut. The fight, mostly, is the easier bit.
In perhaps a stressed up and confused state of mind, I asked Jack (@soonkueh) a question that I knew the answer all too well,
"What happens when a fighter doesn't make weight?"
I already knew the answer, but I needed to hear. Jack answered in a matter-of-fact manner that if the fighter didn't make weight at the first time he/she stands on the scale, normally there is a stipulated time frame to cut the remainder, else there will either be no fight, or a compromise.
I asked again,
"Have you ever had fighters that didn't make weight?"
Jack answered, "No. Onyx fighters always make weight. Always."
At this point in time, I was relatively juvenile to the concept of the weight cut, and honestly, for all my fights, I left it totally to Jack to manage and tell me what to do. Jack doesn't say much, but I knew I had to make weight one way or another.
10 December 2015, Thursday - 8:30pm (20 hours to weigh in)
I've been awake since 5am, and met Jack at the airport at 5:30am. We took 2 flights, and finally reached Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia in the late evening. All I had, was 2 Vicks candy during the flights, and my water allowance of the day was dictated to be 500ml. The flights didn't make it better.
We unpacked into our allocated rooms, and Jack brought out the gym's digital scale that flew on the trip with us.
52.8kg, with 20 hours more to the weigh-in and to make weight at 50.0kg.
I wasn't really starving, but I was really thirsty. There was still some time till the end of the night, and I thought I should probably start cutting earlier on. Jack and I sat in our small room, I told him I wanted to start cutting a little. Jack asked if I wanted the easy way or the hard way. I chose the easy way.
We were in a foreign country, in a room without a tub, and definitely no sauna. The tools we had for cutting weight were the sweat suit and a balcony. The easier way out, to Jack, was to sit for longer hours with the sweat suit. Conversely, the harder way out is to accelerate the sweating process but at a shorter duration.
Sweat suit on.
The "easy way" - sweat and wait.
I started doing light warm ups in the room (Arab's dynamic warm ups), and switched off the fan in the room. I'd break into a light sweat and sat down to watch shows on Jack's laptop. Every once in a while, I'd get up and prance around to keep the sweat going. Moving around originally was meant to keep the sweat going, but within an hour, moving around was a necessity to keep me awake. I'd often doze off, and Jack had to tell me to stand up and move around.
After 2 hours, the room became really hot and uncomfortable. Truthfully, the room didn't change one bit, but I felt that the room became hot. Beneath the sweat suit, I could hear my heart beat; clearly, loudly, and quickly. Jack decided that we're done for the night. I removed my sweat suit and stood on the weighing scale;
52.1kg. All that for just 700gm.
I didn't believe it, so I rested, showered, and changed into some dry clothes and weighed again. Still 52.1kg. I felt like shit, and I was stressed. I was worried, and I felt like crying. The fear of me not meeting weight was taking a toll on me. I looked at Jack for some answers and consolation, but he offered none. In fact, he looked satisfied, and nonchalantly told me, "good, now sleep.".
11 December 2015, Friday - 8:00am (8 hours to weigh in)
I woke up early, pee-ed out whatever water left in me, and stood on the scale again. 51.9kg.
Okay, 1.9kg more to go and I had 8 hours to the official weigh-in. I met Jack, and he asked if I was ready. I answered yes, but I'm not too sure. The Sandakan sun was out, and it scorched the skin. Jack thinks that it's a great weather to be cutting weight.
The "balcony" that was right in front of my room.
Sweat suit on.
In the first 20 mins or so, I could still shadow box and moved without inhibitions. It wasn't long before the evil thoughts started seeping into my mind. I remembered that I hadn't ate since the day before, and I barely drank any water at all. I felt like crap again. The heat reflected off the sweat suit, and I felt that I could see the heat. The discomfort was overwhelming, the negative thoughts were drowning me:
"How is this even possible? Is it possible? How can I not eat and drink for so long? How long more can I endure this?"
Another 30 mins passed in my non-compliant negativity. I pulled up a chair, and sat down in the sun, seemingly as a first sign of defeat. I was feeling really tired, and I can feel my heart pounding. My hands started to feel numb. I couldn't breathe. I wanted to escape to the shade, I can't do it anymore.
The "balcony" that became my sauna room.
I got up, walked to the shade and told Jack that I cannot. I needed to remove the sweat suit, I was going to hyperventilate. My legs started to go numb, and I couldn't stand properly. It didn't help that we had a sweat suit that the zippers were spoilt and we had to tape it up. My fingers were not listening to me. I was starting to freak out. Jack steadied me, and removed the tape and sweat suit. In my confusion, I asked Jack whether I was having fits. I knew the answer, how can I be having fits and still be asking the question. I told myself to get a grip. Jack ushered me to lie down under the fan for a bit.
The feeling of well-being returned very quickly, and without long I was actually chatting with Jack as per norm. Jack reminded me that a lot of the suffering, is in the mind, and don't let the mind play tricks on myself.
Once I felt much better, I stepped on the scale again. 51.0kg. My thoughts? Wtf. Only 900g after all those suffering. Total elapsed time for Round One, 1 hour plus.
Again, for reasons unknown to me, Jack seemed satisfied, and told me to take a break and lie down and rest for a bit. I was abit perturbed that we're not catching time to continue the cut, but I don't question Jack, I never do. And honestly, I enjoyed the sweat suit off time.
11 December 2015, Friday - 10:00am (6 hours to weigh in)
Like an unavoidable calamity, Jack told me to put on the sweat suit at 10:00am, and told me, "Round 2."
Sweat suit on.
The moment that the suit was on, the fear crept back into me. I anticipated the feeling, and shook it off. In the corner of the large sun-tanning balcony, there was some construction rubble and a spade. I played with it, kept me distracted, and was a good work out. Jack saw that I was getting abit restless, and starting talking to me, telling me stories of soil, rubble and spades. When he noticed that I was getting off focused, he'd sneak a pseudo Muay Thai attack on me. At one point, he took out a pair of focus mitts and told me to hold pads for him. He said, amusingly, "I might as well train.".
I did construction work to sweat.
I could see the huge McDonalds sign from the balcony. The sun began to torch us both. But as much as I wanted to make Round 2 into a melo-dramatic story, it wasn't. It was actually bearable, and it was much easier. Time passed quickly, and before I knew it, i had spent 1.5hours in Round 2.
McDonalds was just 5 minutes away, and I could always see this huge sign from the balcony.
11 December 2015, Friday - 12:00pm (4 hours to weigh in)
Jack ordered the sweat suit to be off, and I stepped on the weighing scale. 49.8kg. I made it! As though I won the lottery, I slapped a huge high five to Jack, revealing my satisfaction and relief. Jack, again, as though it was another day at the office, acknowledged the weight, and offered no additional elation. His words, "Good. Now rest."
No shower, I changed into dry clothes and laid down to rest. Tired, hungry and thirsty. Jack opened the laptop, I requested to watch Family Guy and we waited for the weigh-in.
11 December 2015, Friday - 3:30pm (30 minutes to weigh in)
We got changed into our fanciful weigh-in clothes which is the ever-pretty Onyx MMA t-shirt, and headed out to grab my indulgances after weigh-in. My choices were, 100-plus, Coke, a chocolate bun (because it's chocolate right), and a dodgy looking mocha chiffon cake.
11 December 2015, Friday - 4:00pm (official weigh in)
All the fighters gathered, had our medicals done quickly, and waited for our names to be announced. The promoter stood at the weighing scale, and called out "Sylvia Chocolate", it was my time. I stood on the scale, and looked forward.
"Sylvia Chocolate Onyx, fifty point zero kilo!"
Done, and right on the dot. I gave my award winning smile and walked back to Jack and he passed me the 100-plus first. I massacred the items we bought earlier within 10 mins. A little too fast for Jack's liking, but he refrained from nagging. It felt so good to operate like a normal person again.
For the next 4 to 6 hours, it was a horrible tale of non-stop eating for me. I was a beast unleashed. I felt strong afterwards. Reflecting back now, the challenge this time was the unfamiliarity and the uncertainty. I remembered that previously, I had always been able to cut weight at home ground before flying off for the weight cut. I even had the luxury of a sauna.
In a lot of instances, my mind was clouded. I doubted myself in having the mental strength to go through the sweat suit and heat. But whenever I was in doubt, I looked at Jack. He was there, starving and dehydrating with me. Right from Changi Airport, when we met at 5:30am on Thursday, I didn't eat, nor drink from that point onwards. Neither did he. Jack starved as well. And because of that, I didn't feel like I was suffering alone. He kept talking to me, telling me stories and played and made fun of everything, and made sure my mind didn't wander off.
I asked Jack why, and told him that he could have been eating/drinking. He brushed it off, and asked me if it would have made me felt better. Admittedly I knew the answer, and the fact that someone else was there with me in similar circumstances mattered.
Jack's figure will always be looming over me, whether resting or cutting weight.
Later that night, Jack showed me an update that an ONE FC fighter had just passed away while cutting weight. I was shocked at the severity of it, having just cut weight several hours ago. I pondered upon it, and pressed Jack on the issue. He said that cutting weight is a balance, and has to be planned and executed carefully. It requires the coach to know what he's doing, and to know and realise to never cross the line of safety. He shared the planning of my cut with me while I was eating like a savage. And to my surprise, he actually had it all planned, and executed to pin point accuracy. And despite all the sufferances that I went through, it was all within Jack's considerations.
The weight cutting struggle is real, and unimaginable. The truth is, the fight was much more enjoyable than the sweatsuit. A lot of it, was in the mind. I quote words from Jack, "there's a difference between 'I cannot', and 'I don't want'." The caveat, however, is a team that knows exactly what they are doing.