[EXPLAINED] 9 UFC Weight Cutting Facts You Need To Know

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Cutting weight is what fighters do to compete in weight classes that are below their regular, walking around weight.

It’s a controversial topic, with unfortunate consequences for fighters.

Weight-cutting is done in two phases:

  1. Most of a fighter’s weight is lost slowly during their training camp
  2. The last of their water-weight is cut in the final days before weigh-ins

The second phase is the most dangerous because a fighter can sweat away up to 20% of their body’s weight in water.

To almost complete dehydration.

Since your body consists mostly of water, dropping water weight is the easiest way to temporarily get your weight down enough to compete at a lower weight class.

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BJJ - The Gentle Art
UFC Weight Classes

Here are the weight classes fighters are trying to fit into before weigh-ins:

UFC Men’s Weight Classes

Weight ClassMax. Weight
Flyweight 125lb / 56.7kg
Bantamweight135lb / 61.2kg
Featherweight145lb / 65.8kg
Lightweight155lb / 70.3kg
Welterweight170lb / 77.1kg
Middleweight185lb / 83.9kg
Light Heavyweight205lb / 93.0kg
Heavyweight265lb / 120.2kg

UFC Women’s Weight Classes

Weight ClassMax. Weight
Strawweight115lb / 52.2kg
Flyweight 125lb / 56.7kg
Bantamweight135lb / 61.2kg
Featherweight145lb / 65.8kg

How Do UFC Fighters Cut Weight?

UFC fighters cut weight slowly during their camp through careful dieting, maintaining a calorie deficit. They cut their final water weight by limiting salt intake while sweating out excess water over a period of 4-6 days. They accelerate this process by frequently using a sauna or hot bath and training in a sweatsuit.

Weight-cutting has been a highly debated part of the fight game as far back its origin in boxing.

It’s extremely harsh on the body and only necessary because promotions aren’t willing to add more divisions to their events.

Weight-cutting for UFC fighters has become a science, most making weight just hours before the weigh-in.

Some fighters manage to lose between 10% – 16% of their own body weight in water in just 4 – 6 days by:

  1. Avoiding salt which absorbs water
  2. Flushing excess salt by drinking loads of water BEFORE cutting
  3. Avoiding all carbs to reduce any unnecessary weight gains
  4. Some use a diuretic (laxative) to accelerate weight-cutting
  5. Having hot baths or sauna to sweat out water
  6. Exercise in a sweatsuit or sauna to cut the final weight

Unfortunately, weight cuts are a necessary evil if we want to achieve an even playing field for all competitors.

We can’t expect a 115 lb Strawweight to fight a 265 lb, Heavyweight.

Not to say that it couldn’t be done, with a lot of difficulty and skill.

But with the level of fighters currently in the UFC, it just wouldn’t be fair.

Why Do UFC Fighters Cut Weight?

Fighters will cut weight to gain an advantage over opponents in a lower weight class where they’re too heavy to compete, rather than competing against heavier opponents in their natural division. Fighters regain on average 8% of their body weight in water between weigh-ins and the fight.

Research has actually shown that being heavier than an opponent within your weight division doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win, in fact, it shows no real benefits at all.

A California study looking at weight-cutting in Bellator found that the practice of dangerous weight cuts had little-to-no effect on win/loss rates.

Some well-known figures in the MMA world, like Joe Rogan, have spoken out against extreme weight-cutting.

He suggested that increasing the number of divisions in the UFC would reduce the strain on fighters to fight in a lighter weight class and remove the incentive of significant weight advantage altogether.

Unfortunately, this won’t happen any time soon because the UFC doesn’t want to dilute its list of champions.

The fewer champions you have, the more exclusive they are, the more effectively you can promote them.

How Much Weight Do UFC Fighters Usually Cut?

On average, UFC fighters cut 19.5 lbs throughout their training camp leading up to weigh-ins. Fighters lose the bulk of their weight relatively slowly while training with a proper diet. The last few days before their weigh-in is when they’ll drastically drop their remaining water weight using more extreme methods.

Here’s a round-up of some well know UFC fighters, with some drastic weight-cutting numbers.

FighterUsualWeigh-inWeight Cut
Khabib Nurmagomedov187 lbs155 lbs32 lbs
Joanna Jedrzejczyk125 lbs115 lbs10 lbs
Jon Jones230 lbs205 lbs25 lbs
Kamaru Usman190 lbs170 lbs20 lbs
Alexander Volkanovski166 lbs145 lbs21lbs
Holly Holm155 lbs135 lbs20 lbs
Amanda Nunes162 lbs145 lbs17 lbs
Dustin Poirier185 lbs155 lbs30 lbs
Conor McGregor175 lbs155 lbs20 lbs
Zhang Weili125 lbs115 lbs10 lbs
Joanna Jedrzejczyk125 lbs115 lbs10 lbs

The amount of weight a fighter will cut depends on the division they’re fighting in and how much their true, walking-around weight is.

If a fighter is closer to the top-end limit for the weight class, they’re more likely to stay in their natural division.

Fighters will typically regain the lost water weight between weigh-ins and when they walk into the octagon.

Ironically, most fighters will have exceeded their division’s weight limit by the time the fight actually starts.

Do All UFC Fighters Cut Weight?

Though most fighters indeed have to lose weight to fight in their preferred weight class, some fighters don’t have to lose much or any at all. For example, Israel Adesanya can gain weight when he competes at Light Heavyweight because he is lighter than the average Light Heavyweight.

Izzy’s usual division is Middleweight, for which he barely has to cut any weight.

There are many examples of fighters like Adesanya who are happy to fight at their natural weight.

In fact, for his fight against Blachowics at UFC 259, he decided not to gain any extra weight.

Deciding to focus the time he had before the fight on honing his skills rather than bulking up.

What Happens If A UFC Fighter Doesn’t Make Weight?

Missing weight is very controversial. A fighter who misses weight is still able to compete but will forfeit up to 30% of their purse to their opponent. If a fighter misses weight for a title fight they won’t be eligible for the belt, even if they win.

If a fighter repeatedly misses weight, they might be forced to move up a weight division.

On some occasions, fighters may even be cut from promotions for missing weight multiple times.

Many highly-anticipated championship bouts have been tainted by fighters not making weight.

If an infringing challenger beats a champ, it opens up a huge can of worms.

Having a champion who’s been beaten but keeps the belt due to a technicality is difficult to deal with for fans, and the promotion.

Fans will debate the legitimacy of the champ, some siding with the unofficial champion.

Fight promoters like Dana White are left with a tricky situation to unravel.

On one hand, they have another pay-per-view opportunity that will generate huge revenues.

On the other hand, matching the official champ against other fighters to defend their belt will seem almost empty.

A legitimate rematch is required to set the balance straight again.

However, if a champ does manage to defend their belt against an ineligible challenger, they’ll seem far more worthy of holding the title.

What Happens If Both Fighters Miss Weight?

Both fighters missing weight in the UFC is very rare and is mostly dealt with case-by-case. Fighters might be given more time to cut weight, they might be moved up a weight class, or the fight might be called off altogether. This is at the discretion of the promoter, like Dana White for the UFC.

In a recent case where Tim Means (172.5 lbs) and Laureano Staropoli (174.5 lbs) both missed weight for their fight at Welterweight, more time was provided for weight-cutting and Means was able to drop below the 171 lbs grace limit.

The fight was able to go ahead, but Staropoli had to give 20% of his purse to Means for not making weight.

This is an extremely frustrating situation for fight promotions to have to deal with.

Fighters may fall out of favor with promoters and will struggle to find matches in the future, resulting in them moving companies to find paying fights.

Can UFC Fighters Gain Weight After Weigh-In?

According to the California State Athletic Commission’s 10-point plan, after successfully weighing in, fighters may regain up to 10% of their body weight before the fight. So a fighter competing at 170 lbs will be allowed to regain 17 lbs while rehydrating after weigh-ins.

The 10-point plan was established in 2017 to curb excessive weight cutting, the summarised points are:

  1. The listed division must be cleared for their respective weight classes by a physician
  2. If weight is missed by a fighter they are fined 20% of their earnings (10% to the opponent and 10% to the commission)
  3. Proposed addition of more weight-classes: 165, 175, 195, and 205 lbs
  4. Changes to the policies used to approve matches focusing on appropriate weight classes
  5. Fighters who miss weight more than once are requested to move up in weight-classes
  6. Encourage early weigh-in procedures to allow fighters enough time to correctly rehydrate
  7. A 2nd weight check on the day of the fight to ensure fighters don’t exceed the 10% regain limit
  8. Checks for dehydration are required using urine gravity and/or a physical by CSAC physicians
  9. Recommended 30-day and 10-day weight checks for “high-level title fights”
  10. Educating matchmakers, promoters, trainers, and athletes on offering, accepting, and contracting fights

How Dangerous Is Weight Cutting?

If weight cutting is done slowly throughout the training camp with effective dieting, it can be done safely. Weight cuts are dangerous when fighters try to drop the last few pounds by severely dehydrating themselves, which can cause fainting and even organ failure.

Unfortunately, most fighters don’t have the correct nutritional coaches to help them with this process, so they often risk very serious bodily damage, like:

The main issue with weight classes is the unnecessary risk placed on fighters to meet these stringent weight requirements to fight.

Not only are they risking their lives in the octagon, but outside of it as well.

Has Anyone Died Cutting Weight?

There have been two deaths in recent MMA history as a direct result of weight-cutting. Leonardo Souza died in 2013 while cutting weight for his Shooto Brazil 43 fight, and Yang Jian Bing died in 2015 ahead of his fight against Geje Eustaquio at Flyweight in ONE Championship.

Since the unfortunate deaths of these fellow fighters, many have started taking weight cuts more seriously.

Cutting weight has become its own battle before the actual fight, with competitors bringing nutritional coaches on board to help cut the required weight before weigh-ins.

As long as fighters are allowed to drop down a weight class to improve their chances of winning, we’ll always have to deal with the dangers of weight cuts and the risks of invalidating match-ups with trivial rules.

READ MORE: [Explained] Is There An Age Limit In MMA?

Sources

Bloody Elbow

Healthline