What is this weight cutting that fighters do?

Weight Cutting

Christian Bale is king at weight cuts

During the last EFC event a friend of mine asked me to write an article about weight cutting and get some tips to help him lose some weight. The thing is, this shows the general mis understanding of what a weight cut is all about, so I am going to try anb explain how this whole thing came to be.

First off, this is not unique to MMA, but common to pretty much any and all combat sports as well as some others like horse racing. Remember those small guys have to be below a certain weight depending on the class of the race. So why a weight cut, if it is such a difficult thing to do? Well, at the beggining of most conbat sports, there were no weight classes. Not too sure on ancient wrestling & boxing, but definitely with ancient Muaythai &  not so ancient MMA. Back when MMA started, in the commercial TV UFC sense, there was simply a tournament bracket with no weight classes and minimal rules which you can see below. How ever, as time went on, they worked out that this open system was not sustainable/marketable/dangerous/unfair. So they created some weight classes to make things ‘fairer’. This way, theoretically you don’t get a David vs Goliath type bout.

Original UFC rules

However, that creates a bit of a loop hole. Seeing as the majority of weigh ins for combat sports are 24 hours prior to the event, an athlete only needs to make weight at weigh in and not on the night. This gives the athletes plenty of recovery time from their severe weight cuts and almost promotes the unhealthy idea. But still, one might ask why do this? Well the simple answer is more weight, means more strength and I am therefore bigger than my opponent. So I shed some water before the fight, make weight, pack it back on that night, rest and blammo I have the strength and size advantage. I bet the very first person to do this, thought they were a genius. The illogical part of all this is that everyone does it, so there goes any sense of an advantage. In fact in some cases it has come down to who is the better weight cutter than who is the better fighter.

don madge weigh in

Cape Townian Don Madge is pretty impressive

Okay, now that we have the ‘why’ out the way, time for the ‘what’. There are a few methods on how to do this and most are not very healthy and VERY TEMPORARY. So girls looking to lose weight, this wont work and you will bounce back worse. Starting from the the beginning of a fighters fight camp they will probably begin a diet. (FYI, fight camp is what we call the period of time spent training before a fight that is dedicated to the fight. Usually a fight is about 12 weeks.) Some guys swear by the Paleo/Nokes/Atkinson or other fad diets, but the general idea is to lose weight here and keep a high nutrition and protein intake to keep you healthy & strong. Use a nutritionist!!

John Hathaway Weight cut

UFC veteran John Hathaway is also super impressive with hw much he can lose

However, unless this is planned very well it won’t be enough. Now we get to the severe part of a weight cut. This is all about water loss. I warn you in advance that is is not healthy and if you do it too much can cause some really terrible damage to your liver & kidneys. So the simplest and most commonly seen is wearing a sauna suit and doing cardio. Essentially this is a plastic bag, think about the old school wearing cling wrap theory. By doing this, you are performing cardio which raises your heat rate and makes you sweat in a heated environment. Even if it is winter outside. The other obvious method is to sauna/steam room. While this does work, I have always found it very draining and leaving me without any energy. Another method is to take diuretics. This is any substance that makes you go to the toilet a lot, so you are literally peeing out the weight. The most common and legal diuretic is coffee. The problem with this method is you are emptying your kidneys and WILL lead to kidney stones if you do not re-hydrate properly.  The last common weight cutting method is to take super hot baths with epsom salts. The bath, same as other methods increases your core temperature and thus cause mass sweating. The epsom salts help to draw water out the skin and not the organs so much.  This is why guys look so Jarred Leto gaunt come weigh in day.

Last little method I have seen and its not for the queezy. Try constantly spitting. Its absolutely gross, but I have seen guys lose about  1kg/1 litre of spit a day. Every gram counts I guess,

I am going to reiterate a few points here as I feel this important. This is not healthy. Don’t do it, lose the weight the correct way with a healthy diet over a period of time. Ever heard the term ‘the higher you go, the lower you drop’? This doesn’t only apply to drug usage. Most people tend to bounce back on their rapid weight lose with some massive rapid weight gain. Usually ending up heavier than their original weight.


About Guy Lazarus

I am a South African Nak Mauy with a keen interest in MMA and combat sports in general. I run Mauyguy.com to give the world of fighting a South African Nak Muay's perspective. I have been competing in Martial Arts since the age of 7 with some success having come 3rd at IFMA World Championships and have my provincial colours for Judo. One day I will grow up and relinquish my dream of being world champion, but not yet...

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