Throughout the history of The Ultimate Fighter, only one weight cut of epic proportions has ever been overcome and Bobby Southworth’s battle to make weight in season one was so great that we won’t see it ever happen again.
TUF fans everywhere were on the edge of their seat when they found out that episode three of the world’s newest reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, would feature the first fight to eliminate a fighter.
Team Couture and Team Liddell’s light heavyweights squared off in a canoe paddling game in the middle of the Nevada desert to determine which fighter’s fate would be decided in the Octagon. When Bobby Southworth’s awful performance landed him in a distant last place, he chose Lodune Sincaid to square off against in the elimination fight.
Although his fate was in his hands the following day, Southworth’s real fight began immediately.
In 24 hours, he had to cut 22 pounds.
“When they told us that we were going to be fighting in a week I was actually at 237 pounds so in five days I dieted and ran off ten pounds and then I had the 22 pounds to cut to make the weight that day,” Southworth explained. “It was sheer panic going through my head. ‘How am I going to make this weight cut? I’ve never cut more than six or seven pounds.’ I had literally never cut that much weight.”
The 20 minutes the episode devoted to Southworth cutting weight did little to show the excruciating series of events Southworth put himself through.
The cameras showed a man slowing down more and more as coach Chuck Liddell commented about how mentally weak Southworth appeared. With teammate Josh Koscheck literally dragging him back into the sauna by his ankles, the audience was led to the conclusion that Southworth was at the end of his rope.
“At no point was I quitting,” Southworth said. “They don’t show you the parts where I’m riding the bike in the sauna and I pass out, falling off the bike and Josh and Chuck are catching me and taking me out of the sauna for a quick cooldown. There’s a part where Josh tells me to get back in the sauna. ‘If I have to carry you, I’ll carry you in there.’ And I was like, ‘you have to.’ The way they edited it was like, ‘You have to carry me in because I’m not going in.’”
With promises of an IV for rehydration, Southworth pushed his body all the way to the limit, and when it was time for the weigh in, he still found himself two pounds over the light heavyweight limit.
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Back in the sauna he went and squeezed the last bit of moisture from his body before he made the weight. As his body began protesting his efforts, Southworth found out he wasn’t allowed to use IVs to rehydrate.
“I was so dehydrated that when I was sitting down if I would just move the wrong way my body would cramp into the fetal position, like literally pull me in,” Southworth recalled. “Guys on my team would have to grab my legs and shoulders to pull me straight and massage the cramps out of my stomach. It looked like there was an alien inside, that’s how crazy my stomach was cramping and moving around inside.”
Unable to keep food and water down for the majority of the night, Southworth had set himself up for failure when he stepped in the Octagon with Sincaid.
“Now knowing more about weight cutting, I was probably pretty close to dying and I don’t think people really realize how close I was,” Southworth explained. “There’s a full 48-72 hours that I don’t really have a coherent timeline for.”
Heart defied science, logic and health that day as not only did Southworth win but he mustered the power to knock Sincaid out 12 seconds into the second round.
The nightmare was over.
For those with no frame of reference, in TUF 18, Cody Bollinger and Anthony Gutierrez were both eliminated from the show for not making weight, with both men needing to cut around 20 pounds in a similar timeframe combined.
The lifelong basketball player turned BJJ practitioner still remains the only man to win the fight against the weight cut despite having the hardest cut to make. It’s a feat Southworth takes great pride in.
“Nobody else in 27 other seasons can do that. Not even a fraction of the weight I cut,” Southworth said. “There was another guy, Gabe Ruediger who had to lose, like, six pounds, Clay Guida’s brother had to lose, like, ten pounds or whatever it was and he didn’t make it and he’s a wrestler who has been cutting weight his whole life.”
Despite having his accomplishment minimized by other fighters who claim his fight against a man 20 pounds lighter than him was nothing to write home about, Southworth is the only man who pushed adversity to the side long enough to go into the Octagon and keep his chance at the first UFC six-figure contract alive. While there’s no hard feelings for his doubters, there’s also no apologies.
“Even the fighters that would say that I beat a fighter who was 20 pounds lighter than me,” Southworth said. “That happens every fight. Everybody cuts weight and rehydrates back up. That’s the game. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. I played by the rules, I made the weight and I went in there and won. You can’t hate on me for that.”
Southworth’s run at the contract ended in his next fight against Stephan Bonnar in a fight Southworth still isn’t sold on that he lost, but after seeing the progression of the UFC as a result of Bonnar’s sport-saving brawl with Forrest Griffin, he holds no bitterness or anger. There’s no “what ifs” in Bobby Southworth’s mind when he looks back at the original Ultimate Fighter, only pride. Pride that he did what no other man or woman has been able to do since.
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Photo via @therealbsouth on Instagram