• Laura Bianchi

Hitting the Dance Floor for the National Kidney Foundation


Two Worlds Collide: When MMA Meets Ballroom, Hilarity Ensues

For the past few months, I’ve been training hard, perfecting my moves, and logging long hours of partner work. No, I’m not referring to my efforts in mixed martial arts. I’m taking to the dance floor 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 pro partner Kristijan Burazer of NRG Ballroom, but there’s a serious reason I’m taking part in the fundraiser. While training in mixed martial arts, I’ve witnessed the debilitating impact of performance-related kidney disease and kidney failure, mostly from extreme weight cutting.


Cutting your weight to reach a predetermined weight class is a common part of mixed martial arts, wrestling and various 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. Some have even paid the ultimate price.


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.


As combat sports continues to evolve and the level of sophistication, knowledge and expertise increases, athletic commissions, regulatory agencies and fight promotions have begun to consider and implement rules and regulations with the purpose of protecting fighters. Coaches and athletes have begun to focus their attention on ways to utilize science, medicine, and nutrition to better regulate athletes’ weight and enhance performance. The innovative Scottsdale-based training company NeuroForce1, for example, is utilizing medical-grade diagnostic testing and cutting-edge therapies to help athletes train and recover without resorting to harmful practices or substances.


But while we are making headway on improving weight control and training regimens, it is vitally important to ensure those already struggling with kidney disease, fighters or otherwise, are given the support they need. That’s why we all need to support organizations like the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona.


When I step onto the dance floor on February 22, I’ll be doing so to bring attention to and raise money for this largely overlooked aspect of combat sports. I’ve already committed to the training hours to ensure I blow everyone’s socks off with my dance routine. (As everyone who knows me will attest, I don’t do ANYTHING halfway.) But I need your help and participation to make certain that I reach my fundraising goals. No donation is too small -- or too large, for that matter. Dancing With the Stars offers creative sponsorship opportunities, too.


Are you ready to help me dance my way to a healthier future? To find out more and support Kristijan and me, click here.

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