Last Updated on September 27, 2022
Mixed Martial Arts has evolved over the last few decades into a highly regulated competition that is hard to cheat. For instance, competitors in the UFC are prevented from using steroids and the like.
Extreme weight cutting is one of the few things that have plagued this sport. Players have been cutting weight for several years to compete in a category lower than their natural weight. So if you want to know how do UFC fighters cut weight, please read on…
What Does Weight Cutting Mean?
Cutting weight is a complicated procedure carried out by martial artists in UFC that includes dehydration while preparing for their next bout. The main goal of weight cutting is to make it possible for them to participate in a lower weight division than they normally would.
The fighters usually try the weight-cutting process a week before the weigh-in stage; therefore, they dehydrate themselves to fight in a lower weight category.
After qualifying for a certain weight class, the fighters can gain weight by rehydrating their bodies to their usual weight, giving them a certain advantage over the other fighters in that weight class.
UFC fighters use weight-cutting techniques ranging from dehydrating and extreme dieting to extreme sweating by wearing sweat suits and sitting in the sauna and hot baths. Some even change their diet to reduce weight and consume more protein and fat. They also eat salt-free, starch, and sugar-free foods, but most importantly, they keep their carb consumption as low as possible.
The weight lost varies with the fighter, with some losing a few pounds to compete in a weight class close to their normal weight. Others undergo extreme weight loss and may lose up to 30 pounds. Rapid weight loss is quite dangerous, and it can result in fighters putting their health at risk.
Why Do They Cut Weight?
Generally, this martial art is divided into several weight classes. Therefore, the fighters are weighed 24 hours before the match and placed in the right weight class.
All fighters try and reduce their weight during the weigh-ins to fit a low weight class; after all, strong, tall individuals who can take part in lower weight classes have an advantage over smaller, weaker, and shorter fighters in the same weight range.
Therefore, it is advantageous to feature in a lower weight division than your own.
This forces most fighters to drop weight rapidly before the weigh-in day; fortunately, they can put the body weight back after the fight.
How Do UFC Fighters Cut Weight?
The advancement in medical care and nutrition over the last few decades has helped many pro-UFC fighters with weight cutting. This has helped them lose up to 30 pounds within a week before the match and then helped them regain the weight afterward. As aforementioned, there are several ways athletes can do this within the shortest time possible, and these include:
1. Fluid Restrictions
Regarding weight cuts, athletes can easily reduce their daily water intake and then dehydrate themselves to lose weight within the shortest time possible. Most martial artists will start their weight-cutting process by lowering their water intake for about 5 days before the bout weigh-in. They will begin with 2 gallons of water on day one and then reduce it to a gallon on the second day.
Fluid restriction forces their bodies into flush mode and starts filtering out water quickly.
Weight cuts force them to divide their water intake by 2 as the day approaches, and they don’t drink water on the last day. And all this time, their bodies will be in flush mode even if they are not drinking water, resulting in rapid weight loss. Fortunately, they can easily regain the water weight after the weigh-ins.
2. Calorie Restriction
The other part of rapid weight cuts the MMA fighters go through before their bouts are dieting or calorie restriction. Generally, they adhere to a strict diet for those 5 days to help themselves lose weight. During this time, they will cut out all types of sugar, starch, and carbohydrates while consuming foods high in fat and protein.
They also avoid salt or any food containing sodium, as salt can help their bodies retain water. Some even use natural diuretics to help the kidney function properly and help with water loss.
3. Excessive Sweating
The third and most effective method fighters use before the weigh-in day is excessive sweating. Fighters achieve this by running on their treadmills, taking hot baths, sleeping in thick duvets, and sitting in the saunas for several hours. These methods are very dangerous and can sometimes leave the fighter weak during the weigh-in day.
How Long Do Fighters Take To Cut Weight?
The time it takes to reduce their weight will depend on the fighter’s physical conditions, body shape, weight, and height. It will also depend on the exact weight they plan on losing to get their desired weight class.
A huge percentage of the UFC fighters can try and reduce about 15 pounds, but some will do everything possible to lose 30 pounds and gain an advantage over their opponents. Unfortunately, this can be very dangerous, and most folks tend to dismiss these side effects.
How Much Weight Can Fighters Cut?
The weight some athletes can cut before their matches will depend on their goals. Some guys will go for a small weight cut; therefore, they can fight in a category near their natural body weight and prevent the painful rehydration and dehydration process.
The weight reduced will also vary with division. Smaller and lighter individuals in the bantamweight and flyweight divisions tend to cut less before their bout, while the heavier ones will have to do more to cut more weight.
Some athletes have been known to the extreme just to lose some weight. Some of these fighters are:
- In 2018, Till Darren dropped 5.5 pounds in a night to qualify for the welterweight limit; unfortunately, he collapsed and became blind.
- In 2020, Masvidal Jorge dropped 20 pounds in a week for a match with Usman Kamaru.
- Cris Cyborg lost 26 pounds while preparing for one of her initial fights.
- Anthony Johnson, a light heavyweight champion, cut over 50 pounds to participate in a welterweight class match.
- Renan Barao reduced dropped 40 pounds before his match with Dillashaw in 2014.
What Are The Dangers Of Losing Weight Rapidly?
Reducing weight is part of this beautiful sport; if done correctly, it can give a fighter a huge advantage. But some fighters are known for going to the extreme, which can hugely affect their health, such as:
1. Severe Dehydration
Reducing your water intake to drop your water weight can result in several health issues. After all, water helps blood flow all over the body and delivers crucial nutrients and oxygen while removing waste. Unfortunately, severe dehydration can result in stroke, heat illnesses, or decreased kidney function.
Remember, the kidney helps filter your blood while maintaining a perfect balance of sodium and potassium, which are essential for your cells to function.
Therefore, excessive dehydration can result in kidney failure and, in some cases, death.
It can also result in heatstroke as no sweating means your body can’t regulate its temperature. Therefore, your body can collapse while working out, thanks to overheating, resulting in death, heatstroke, and heat illnesses.
2. Excessive Dieting
While carbs restriction is not that bad, extreme dieting can damage your metabolism resulting in several health complications. Extreme dieting can cause gallbladder disease, seizure, dehydration, constipation, acidosis, and muscle atrophy. Mentally, it can cause depression and several eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
What Are The Weight Rules In This Sport?
The rules for weigh-in vary with state, but the UFC has a standard rule that each fighter must follow, but the state’s rules supersede the standard UFC rules in some cases. For instance, In California, the CSAC added another weigh-in on the match day to help curb excessive weight loss.
If a fighter has gained over 15% between the weigh-ins, the match will be canceled by the CSAC. Therefore, if the fighter misses the weight requirements for a certain weight category, they are placed in an upper or lower weight division, or the match is canceled.
For non-title matches, you cannot weigh over a pound of the set limit. For the actual fight, you cannot weigh over half a pound of the set weight limit during the weigh-ins.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens When A Fighter Misses Weight?
Many sanctioning steps exist for MMA athletes who miss weight for their bout. Your opponent can refuse to participate in the fight and take the show-up cash while you get nothing. Unfortunately, this rarely happens; instead, when you miss your weight, you can pay up to 30% of your purse to your opponent.
This fight is considered a catchweight and rarely affects your overall ranking. In other instances, you can be forced to move to a higher division and compete with fighters within your weight division.
What Happens After The UFC Weigh-In?
After qualifying for their desired weight class by cutting weight, the rehydration phase starts with athletes replacing the lost water and electrolytes while building up the needed strength for their next bout.
They can rehydrate by taking electrolyte-based drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte, normally given to folks with diarrhea. Doing this will help the UFC fighter regain their natural weight within the shortest time possible.
What Do These Athletes Eat To Cut Weight?
Even though they’re trying to cut weight, they must eat something, so most professionals recommend consuming high-quality protein like eggs and meat. They can also consume lots of veggies like cruciferous veggies and leafy veggies like spinach.
Weight cutting in UFC is a grueling process that all fighters undertake to gain an advantage over other fighters by qualifying for lower-weight divisions. During this process, they go through dieting, excessive sweating, and relentless dehydration to cut weight.
Doing this can harm their health! Some fighters have even passed out during the match. However, weight cutting is beneficial to them if done correctly and monitored properly by a professional dietician.