How Do Fighters Cut Weight? (The Truth about Fight Preperation)

The life of a fighter can be exhausting, they’re constantly training trying to get to the next level whilst trying to avoid injuries that can occur in their matches, it’s a dangerous sport.

The danger takes a step to the next level when weight cutting is introduced. 

How Do Fighters Cut Weight?

Cutting weight is often seen in a lot of sports, but it becomes extreme when MMA fighters and boxers do it.

This is because they need to be a certain weight so that they can qualify for the division that they’re competing in, and to fit into this weight category they will cut their weight for weeks before the big fight.

In this article we will be discussing how and why fighters cut their weight and what it actually is. 

What Is Weight Cutting?

Usually around 24-36 hours before the fight a weigh-in will occur. This is done to check that the fighter is the correct weight for the division they are competing in, if they’re the incorrect weight then they won’t be able to compete.

They only need to be the correct weight for the time they are on those scales, any time after it they can be whatever weight possible. This is where weight cutting comes in. 

The ultimate goal is to dehydrate the body and regain the weight by the time the fight happens to have a size advantage.

If this isn’t done correctly it can be very dangerous, fighters may have a poor performance on the night of the fight and in extreme cases the fighter could die.

Since most fighters will now cut their weight before fighting, it’s now less about having an advantage and more about making sure that they’re not at a disadvantage. 

Weight cutting usually comes in two stages for the fighters, chronic weight loss and rapid weight loss. Chronic weight loss is where the fighter will eat less and train a lot more than usual in the weeks that run up to the fight.

Rapid weight loss usually happens right before the weigh-in, the fighters will take extreme measures to lose even more weight, such as fasting and becoming dehydrated. 

Once the weigh-in has happened the fighters now need to put on as much weight as they can in the run up to the fight.

The fighters will usually eat energy dense food that are high in carbohydrates and will also drink a lot of fluids that contain sodium, electrolytes and glucose to rapidly hydrate.

As we mentioned before, weight cutting is common in other sports, but MMA fighters have been found to cut weight the most out of any athletes.

They will often dehydrate themselves using saunas and often miss up to two meals a day. 

How To Cut Weight

Now this should only be attempted with proper professional medical advice and a well calculated nutritional meal plan, but this is how professional fighters will cut their weight before a big fight (it’s worth noting that a lot of the weight cutting consists of severely cutting water and sodium intake): 

How To Cut Weight

Step 1

The final push to lose weight usually begins around 5 days before the weigh-in, in this period the fighter will load their body with water, often drinking between 6-8 liters a day. 

Step 2

Carbohydrate and water consumption is severely limited, often being cut in half every following day.

Step 3

This is probably the hardest step for the fighters, they need to sweat out as much fluid as possible.

This is often done by using a treadmill or bike and wearing a plastic suit which will make them sweat even more, fighters will also spend long sessions in a sauna and no water is to be consumed on the day before and the day of the weigh-in.

The only water intake allowed is a few drops of water to dampen the mouth. 

Step 4

Once the fighter has made the weigh-in and is the correct weight, the next step is to rapidly gain as much weight as possible and to rapidly rehydrate.

Many fighters will eat energy dense foods with easy to digest carbohydrates and gorge on these to become as big as they can before the fight. 

How Much Weight Do Fighters Typically Cut?

It can vary and will depend on the fighter and how extensively they have followed the weight cutting regime.

MMA fighters will usually cut more weight than boxers because extra weight matters more in MMA than boxing.

There’s not really a strict number of kilograms a fighter will lose before a fight, which is why it is usually measured in percentage of the body weight.

MMA fighters can lose around 15% of their body weight before the weigh-in and then gain most of it back the following day once they’ve rehydrated and ate a lot of food.

For boxing, it’s a little bit different. Some governing bodies have rules and regulations against letting fighters regain more weight than was initially agreed upon, this is to stop the tactic of dehydration boxers will use as it can be detrimental to their health.

Because of this, boxers will most likely cut around 5% of their body weight before a fight and this can go up to the 8% mark, this will most likely not have any lasting repercussions on their body.

Final Thoughts

After reading this article you should have a better understanding about how and why fighters will cut their weight.

The process of cutting weight can be extremely dangerous, even for professionals, it can have a lasting effect upon the body and performance and can even result in death due to the extreme dehydration the fighters go through.

It’s best not to cut weight by yourself without any professional medical advice, if you are wanting to cut weight make sure that you enlist the help of a professional who can talk you through what your body will need for the process and how much you can ideally expect to cut. 

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy our article on ‘How To Throw A Jab‘.

Christopher Anderson
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