Late last year, a young Australian Muay Thai fighter lost her life while weight cutting before an amateur bout. Trying to rapidly drop to the 64kg limit for her class, Jessica Lindsay passed out while on a run and died in hospital four days later.
It was the second weight cutting-related death in Australia in 2017, and prompted King in the Ring promoter Jason Suttie to take action against the practice to ensure nothing similar would happen in New Zealand.
"Our show is the leading kickboxing show in the country, and it's a platform for our Kiwi fighters to fight overseas, so we just though why don't we lead the way and start a safe weight cutting regime," Suttie told the Herald.
"I just thought, man, this is the show to hopefully lead the way for other promoters anywhere in New Zealand to Australia to start doing it."
The event, which features a professional eight-man elimination tournament as well as a mix of other professional and amateur bouts, has been a launching pad for a number of Kiwi mixed martial artists, with past winners including UFC stars Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker. Friday's show will be the first eliminator with mandatory weight cutting restrictions.
The restrictions put in place allowed the fighter to be 10 per cent over the fight weight 30 days out from the weigh-in, six per cent 15 days out, and five per cent seven days out. Every fighter on the card successfully made weight.
Suttie introduced the restrictions at a show earlier this year, making them optional for fighters to follow, before enforcing them for this event. The restrictions were developed alongside a nutritionist to find a level that would be both safe and effective, and diet plans were available for fighters who needed to cut weight safely.
"I went from fighting from lightweight where I had to make weight and I remember one time I cut seven kilos in 36 hours. I fought and I didn't feel good," Suttie said. "We were uneducated 20 years ago. I thought I was so fit but I fought with probably half of my fitness because it all went out with the fluids that I lost.
"What we didn't know then was when you lose that much weight, you're losing fluids from your brain and it's easier to get knocked out and it's easier to get brain damage. We're smarter now, so we want to help other people lose their weight safely. That way it's safe for them, it's safe for their opponent because you're going to get a fair fight with two guys that are the same weight – not one guy who's cut whatever to make their weight."
Suttie admitted he expected some form of backlash to come from the move, but the fighters and the kickboxing community were all supportive of the decision.
"I did have one fighter ... he made the first weigh-in, and made the second one and goes 'oh by the way, why are we doing all these weight cuts?'
"I just said we want to be safe. Two people died in Australia and one was an 18-year-old girl and he said, oh that's good enough for me."
King in the Ring 62V
Barfoot & Thompson Stadium, Auckland, Friday November 9
Jordan Maroroa v Stefan Harrison
62kg Eight-Man eliminator
Joey Baylon - reigning King
TY Williams v Hayden Todd
Trans Tasman Super Fight
Fou Ah-Lam v Patrik Dittrich
WKBF K1 Rules South Pacific Featherweight Title Bout
Kelly Broerse v Lara Ahola