And yet, he has no reservations about cutting weight for his next fight — a middleweight contest against Paulo Costa at UFC 227 on July 6 in Las Vegas.
Hall (13-8) was hospitalized in January, when he passed out on his way to the scale for a UFC weigh-in. This sport is relatively desensitized to extreme weight cuts, as they are a common practice, but the severity of Hall’s condition stood out immediately.
“I was walking to the elevator and boom, just like that, I collapsed,” Hall told ESPN, in his first interview since the incident. “I was in the elevator holding on to my best friend — apparently I bit him, to hold on to him. I passed out again…woke up and there were EMTs, a guy was trying to get a needle in me, and I remember swinging. I wasn’t in control of my body.
“I woke up in the hospital and was screaming for water. ‘Give me water! Give me water!’ They said, ‘We can’t give you water yet,’ for whatever reason. I grabbed my sister and said, ‘Tell them to please give me a sip of water.’ I never felt so thirsty in my life. They finally gave me a sip, and I passed out.”
In a video on social media days later, Hall, who fights out of Las Vegas, said he’d suffered a ‘mini-seizure’ and ‘slight heart attack.’ He told ESPN he’s still not exactly sure what his official diagnosis was, however used the term ‘acute kidney failure’ — the result of dehydrating his body, to make the 186-pound limit.
Hall’s fight was obviously canceled, and UFC president Dana White told reporters that weekend he’d been told Hall ‘doesn’t take his training serious,’ and had been ‘hanging out in clubs’ the week before. White also suggested Hall needed to cut weight properly, or move to the 205-pound division.
Hall laughs at any mention of a nightclub, although he admits he went to Los Angeles prior to the bout for a personal matter. He said the failed cut was the result of a stomach issue he has dealt with in the past that was aggravated by stress.
“It’s hard for me to digest food,” Hall said. “Two weeks prior to the fight, my coach, Robert Follis, took his life. That really affected me. And one of my best friends, we had to stop talking. It just made me really stressed out.
“I’ve cut weight over 20 times. I’m used to it. That one margin of error, that’s what cost me. I neglected a health issue. I didn’t pay attention to my body. My will took over — I would say my ego took over. There’s a time you need to listen to your body.”
Extreme weight cutting is a major issue for the UFC, as well as other promotions. Just last week, a promising strawweight prospect missed weight by seven pounds for UFC 224. And a middleweight contender blamed his lack of cardio on a poorly managed cut.
According to Hall, the addition of more weight classes would help this issue. California has made efforts in recent years to curb extreme weight cutting, including the advocacy of more weight classes in MMA. And the UFC has encouraged athletes to arrive to fight week within 8 percent of their target weights, although there is no penalty for those that don’t.
But in listening to Hall discuss what happened to him, no one should probably expect the athletes themselves to address it.
“As close as I felt to death, I knew I was good,” Hall said. “It’s a psychological thing, training your body and mind. You got nothing left but there’s that little hope. For a lot of people who aren’t athletes, to step foot into that uncomfortable situation — you’re basically gonna kill yourself when you fight, anything can happen — it’s hard to understand that mentality.
“The realm of a fight’s existence is to step outside of your comfort zone for a split second — to be so ridiculously uncomfortable that it’s frightening and scary — and only a few people have accomplished that. I’m one of those trying to accept that. One reason I’m doing it is because I’m frightened by it and I’m trying to understand it.”