The Brutal Weight Cutting In Mixed Martial Arts

Today we discuss the secret sauce, the hidden gem, the scariest hurdle of all fight sports.

The weight cut, cue the horror music theme. 

Weight Cut of Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC

There is no part of the game, shrouded in more mystery and awe than the weight cut. Almost every single current fighter engages in some form of the weight cut. From the weeks prior to the event, fighters and athletes begin changing their diets, habits and routines to weigh in the day before the fight. But what is cut must also heal. Hence until the fight, the following day, fighters regain every gram they lost. As an insane strategy to manipulate the weight classes and the human condition to enhance performance.

Dangers and Misconceptions

Weight cutting can cause extreme body dysmorphication especially if done without proper supervision. This is NOT the healthy diet, fitness goal, perfect physique regime that you’re looking for. No, this is the most extreme of extremes, medically supervised, coached and perfectly planned strategies to improve your chances in an official bout.

Conor McGregor in two very different weight classes

There are serious downsides of doing this. Fighters who have misused or underprepared for the weight cut have had up to fatal consequences for their hubris. 2015 bears witness to a ONE Championship fighter, Yang Jian Bing, who tragically passed away during her extreme weight cut. Though the tragedies haven’t stopped there, both 2016 and 2017 have had fighters who miscalculated their weight cut. Don’t make the mistake of attempting these as an amatuer without any medical supervision.

The Advantages

Fighters use this as a strategy to alternate between their weigh-in weight and their match day weight. Giving them a chance to fight at possibly 20 to 30 lb above their weight category. That edge from being bigger ends up greatly affecting the fight itself. Any fighter who maintains, for example; 170lb (77.1kg) for the middleweight will have serious difficulty fighting someone who is 190lb (86.1826) or possibly more. And that is the advantage of cutting weight for the day of weigh-ins and rehydrating and gaining it all back for the fight the next day. Your overall performance peaks may reduce from doing this, but not by much, in fact the difference is negligible.

Many fighters champions included have used the stratagem of weight cutting to their advantage. Ranging from Khabib Nurmagomedov to George St Pierre. Even the top 15 ranked have put this method to good use under the careful guidance of coaches, medical professionals and nutritionists.

How To Cut Weight Like An MMA Pro

The Camp Cut

The weight cut involves a lot of different factors, from the day fight camp starts to the grueling week before the weigh in, to the explosively filling day after the weigh in before the fight.

As soon as the fight is expected or announced, the camp begins. In this period the fighter or athlete will slowly cut fats for muscle mass and slowly reduce their offseason weight into lean muscle. They attempt to reach a weight that will be easy to cut down for when they need to weigh-in. This amount is usually around 20 to 30 pounds over their weight class. Around 10 to 13.5kg for the rest of the world. But this is your chance to meet the weight goal you wish to fight at. 

The Seven Day Weight Cut


After that begins the real trial. Seven days before the weigh in. Professionals analyze every detail of your diet, fitness and fluid balance. Every gram of energy you eat clinically recommended and studied. If water levels are cut down the body stops functioning as normal. Thats why during this entire process your body must be carefully monitored to prevent any damage or injury.

Water retention is completely removed from the realm of possibility. As salts and salty foods are completely denied from your diet. Furthermore start by drinking 2 full gallons of water on day 1 but as the days progress drinking water is cut by half per day till the event. 


Proteins and fats are your friend this time. With Vegetables being the main dietary option especially greens like lettuce, spinach and other cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cauliflower. Sugars, starches and fruits will drastically regress this process hence avoid them. 


Then another addition to the diet are natural diuretics, to help rid your body of any remaining salts. For example celery, asparagus, onions, garlic and bell peppers. These foods will help your body drop its water level faster.



All followed up with hot baths and minor fitness exercises in a sauna suit for that extra mile. By this stage the blood sugar levels and sodium levels are so low that the heart can be heard thrumming across every vein in the body. 


While on the treadmill, skipping rope or just a basic routine, a sauna suit can make the world of a difference for how much you’re sweating out and how fast. The enclosed sauna suits are designed to trap the air around your body and create an internal temperature around you.

These dietary habits and routines are spread out over the course of 7/5 days. In the start it feels very possible. But by the third day of cutting down on meals, every droplet of sweat becomes precious. Breathing deeply and thinking clearly become very difficult. By the very last day the individual is a walking zombie with barely enough energy to converse with their doctors and team.

Rehydrating, Regaining and Resurrection 

Right after the weigh-ins every fighter or athlete begins reversing this brutal process. In this time period retaining water with salt becomes supremely important. They slam through multiple litres of water, right after weigh-ins. Eating as many salts in their food and eating as much as they do can. All of this must be done within 13 or less hours because you can’t eat or drink 3 hours before the match and 8 full hours for complete sleep.

Protein, Carbs and Fats are the core of your next 13 hrs and you can eat as much as your stomach can take. Specifically four per day. This overabundance assists the body retain more water. This way it can hold more in the muscles while revitalizing other necessary functions and bodily fluids. 

Lots of fighters and doctors recommend protein shakes as well here but this is usually decided by the coach and doctor based on the individual.

During The Fight

On match day you should be around 20 kg above your weight class and possibly even your opponent. Most statistics also show how performance and ability is very minorly affected by this entire process after two days. In fact many fighters have showcased results that may conclude that one’s stamina and general dexterity is improved. Not to mention the added pounds giving you more strength in general.

Other fighters have shown how weight cuts gone wrong can make a conclusion of good people and amazing careers. It may be somewhat inhuman for us who cannot bear such trials, but for most mma fighters it’s a part and parcel of the whole package.


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