Weight Cutting in Mixed Martial Arts

Martial arts competition, especially grappling based ones are very dependent on weight management. The reason for this is the fact that strategies drastically change depending on a person’s weight, as well as the weight of the other competitors.

Finding the right weight class is everything in combat sports.  Even a small gap in weight can make or break a practitioner’s performance, this is why it’s important to know when and when not to cut weight.

What is Weight Cutting?

Weight cutting is the process of removing as much water from the body as possible in order to make weight for a match. The goal of weight cutting is for the athlete to reach the lowest weight class possible and fight from there. Normally in competitions, the weigh-in and the actual fight day are a day apart, so this gives the athlete a full day to gain back a significant amount of weight that was lost, which gives them a big advantage come fight time. While it may be a conceptually easy process to do, there have been arguments that discourage weight cutting for a number of health reasons.

How is Weight Cutting Different from Traditional Weight Loss?

They are the same in the sense that both require a person to lose weight. But with weight cutting, the purpose is to lose as much weight as possible, this includes fat AND water. Traditional weight loss is more focused on aesthetic rather than performance, fat loss is its goal and that’s it. It is important to note that there might be overlaps in both methods, but we are talking about the literal difference here to make things simple.

Is Weight Cutting Safe?

It depends on the weight if I have to be honest. Cutting 5-10 pounds is more or less the standard these days, I’d say that cutting that much weight is fine. When we talk about 15 pounds and above, that’s when it gets dangerous in my opinion.  A lot of athletes are willing to go through a tough weight cut just to make the scale in a division that’s normally below their usual class, but they need to be careful as cutting weight definitely brings downsides as well

When is the best time to cut weight?

If you really have to cut weight, it’s best to do it gradually and with the proper guidance. Talk to your coach about your weight so he can also help you with managing it as best as possible. It’s never a good idea to cut a massive amount of weight a few days before fight day because it might hinder your performance once you are on the mats. The best case scenario is being mindful of your weight all year long so that everything is manageable.

Closing Remarks

Being a combat athlete is hard enough on its own. Let us not allow things like weight cutting to be an additional burden to our competitive careers. We must not lose sight of the fact that training to be better at our technique should be the primary focus every time.