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  • Writer's pictureLaura Bianchi

Hitting the Dance Floor for the National Kidney Foundation

Updated: Sep 26, 2018

Over the next few months, I will be training hard, perfecting my moves, and logging long hours of partner work. I’m not talking about my efforts in mixed martial arts. I’m taking to the dance floor with my partner Kristijan Burazer as part of the National Kidney Foundation’s 13th annual Dancing with the Stars Arizona fundraiser on February 22, 2019.

It’s just like the version you’ve seen on TV, with a local spin: Dancing with the Stars Arizona features dance performances by local dance-floor amateurs (like me) partnered with professional dance instructors. All funds raised during the event go to patient services and programs of the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona.

I’m excited about honing my dance moves with my partner, but there’s a serious reason I’m taking part in the fundraiser -- to raise awareness of a little-known area of kidney health: athletic performance-related kidney disease and kidney failure. While training in mixed martial arts, I’ve witnessed the debilitating impact of these conditions, mostly due to extreme weight cutting.

Cutting your weight to reach a pre-determined weight class is a common part of combat sports, and often such weight cutting involves deliberate dehydration. In fact, one study found that 39 percent of MMA fighters enter competition in a dehydrated state. While cutting back on liquids helps quickly reduce body weight, the process can have dire consequences. Along with diminished performance, increased risk of injury, and vision problems, dehydration can lead to decreased kidney function and serious kidney problems.

The list of fighters who’ve been laid low by kidney problems is growing by the day. Many have had to bow out of fights or retire from MMA due to kidney disease or kidney failure. Several have even died.

The number-one way to combat this disturbing trend is for fighters and trainers to embrace healthy year-round weight control and training, and avoid dehydration and other extreme weight-cutting measures. But it is also vitally important to ensure those already struggling with kidney disease, fighters or otherwise, are given the support they need thanks to organizations like the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona.

I’ll be thinking about those I know who’ve struggled with kidney disease when I step onto the dance floor on February 22. Of course, I also intend to blow everyone's socks off with my fundraising and dance routine!

To find out more and donate to my team, click here. Every dollar helps! Even if you can’t contribute to the cause right now, I’d love for you to attend the event and cheer me on. You won’t be disappointed. As with everything I do, I am in it to win it!

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