How Do UFC Fighters Cut Weight?

MMA has developed into a combat sport that’s strictly regulated and in which cheating is nearly impossible. Particularly in the Ultimate Fighting Champtionship (UFC), where all fighters are checked on a regular basis and are not allowed to use steroids, performance-improving drugs, or other similar substances. Extreme weight loss has, however, been a problem in the MMA world (specifically the UFC).

Extreme weight cutting, according to Joe Rogan, a UFC commentator, is “cheating on a way bigger scale than PEDs” since the fighters cut a lot of weight to compete in categories much lesser than their normal walking weight. What are the methods used by UFC fighters to lose weight?

UFC fighters follow three steps to lose weight in the days leading up to their fight. For the first five days, they progressively dehydrate, eventually leaving them with zero water on the day of weigh-in. Secondly, they stay away from salt and carbs, and finally, they intentionally sweat greatly.

Yes, we know that we oversimplified the process here, but the core aspect of the extreme weight loss is dehydrating themselves and their bodies, not burning fat. I haven’t even stated that the combatants quickly rehydrate and regain their muscle mass and energy 24 hours prior to their fights. Let’s look at how extreme weight cuts give UFC fighters a significant advantage.

How Do UFC Fighters Cut Weight?

The weight-cutting trend is fueled by the improved diet and therapeutic care available to professional fighters. A fighter may shed up to 30 pounds in the 5-7 days leading up to a bout in order to clear low weight restrictions and compete in the weight category that isn’t even near to their actual weight.

I’ve always wondered how someone can lose 30 to 40 pounds within 5-7 days and then recover a significant portion of weight in the 24 hours leading up to a fight. I discovered the essential stages that UFC fighters like Jorge Masvidal, Darren Till, and Conor McGregor follow to reach their desired weight class limitations after doing some study on the topic.

It’s critical to realize that the severe weight loss they’re undergoing isn’t something they should undertake on a regular basis. It’s very hazardous, and if it’s not done correctly, it may result in organ damage and even death. This is something you shouldn’t ever attempt on your own.

It’s preferable to begin dieting and reducing weight earlier in the training camp instead of shedding massive quantities of your weight in four or five days. If you’re going to perform the severe rehydration and dehydration cycle before a fight, make sure you’re surrounded by medical care and expert nutritionists.

Fighters control bodily hydration, utilize saunas, plastic jumpsuits, and hot baths to sweat off extra fluids and stick to a stringent no-salt, no-carbs diet. Consequently, you’ll see competitors that are naturally 195 pounds fighting in welterweight divisions (170lbs limit).

The fighters rehydrate and return to 185 or 190 pounds after finishing the scale, leading to them getting a significant size advantage against their competitor. Khabib Nurmagomedov, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, Darren Till, and others are among the most popular competitors to “cheat” the weigh-in system in this way.

1. Fluid Restriction

In the week leading up to the bout, UFC competitors would manage their water consumption and dehydrate themselves to drop as much weight as they can. Fighters will start the dehydration procedure by consuming two gallons of water on day one, followed by a gallon of water on each of the following days, for a total of five days before the fight weigh-in. This leads the body to go into “flush mode,” allowing water to be filtered out quickly.

The following day, water consumption is decreased to half a gallon, then a quarter gallon, and ultimately no water on a weigh-in day. Even when no water is consumed, the body remains in “flush mode,” drying the body and producing weight loss.

According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 39% of MMA fighters would opt to go without water for the whole day in order to lose weight.

2. Calorie Restriction

Dieting or calorie restriction is the second phase of fighters’ fast weight loss before a bout. To help in weight reduction, UFC competitors often follow a strict diet for the four or five days leading up to the weigh-in.

Athletes will avoid all carbs, flour, and sugar, opting instead for high-protein, high-fat meals. They will also avoid all kinds of salt and salt-containing meals since the sodium in salt cause the body to keep water. They may also use some natural diuretics in the days leading up to the weigh-in to promote water loss and renal function.

3. Sweating Excessively

The third method used by UFC fighters to reduce weight quickly before a match is to sweat profusely in order to lose water. They do this by sprinting in sweatsuits on treadmills, sitting in saunas for hours, sleeping under heavy duvets, or having extremely hot baths. These techniques may be hazardous, as they often leave fighters weakened at the weigh-in.

Also read: MMA vs UFC – 5 Key Differences

How Much Weight Do UFC Fighters Cut?

It differs from one fighter to the next. Some fighters choose to compete in a weight class that is close to their normal weight, avoiding the need for drastic weight reduction. During their weight loss, they’ll lose 10 to 20 pounds while avoiding rehydration or dehydration.

In the five days leading up to the weigh-in, the rate of weight loss for UFC competitors is approximately 15-20 pounds. They do it by utilizing the dehydration method I mentioned earlier, which enables them to recover a significant amount of weight before entering the octagon.

Such average weight reductions differ by category. Smaller competitors in the bantamweight or flyweight categories usually lose less weight. Weight cuts get more severe as you proceed to heavier courses.

The reason for this is simple and reasonable. If a man weighing 200-pounds drops 30 pounds to reach the 170-pound welterweight limit, he has dropped 15 percent of his total body weight. It’s a lot, but it’s doable in just two weeks – dieting for a week and dehydrating for the next.

If your typical weight is 155 pounds and you wish to reduce it to 125 pounds, you’ll have to lose almost ⅕th of your entire body weight. Dehydration-induced weight loss may lead to severe health issues, such as organ damage and, in some cases, death.

Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw are two fighters who have lost that much weight, although they started fasting far earlier to limit how much weight they lose during the dehydration phase. Even then, they often struggle to make weight.

To summarize, the typical fighter loses 15-20 pounds, but more competitors are losing up to 30 pounds. Some heavyweight MMA fighters, like Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis, have reduced weight to meet the limit for the heavyweight category.

However, some fighters continue to compete at or around their actual weight. The majority of these fighters are heavyweights, although some competitors in other categories, like Gunnar Nelson, only lose 10-15 pounds before fights.

Also read: Best Wrestlers in UFC of All-Time

How Long Does It Take For UFC Fighters To Cut Weight?

The weight cutting process’s duration is determined by each fighter separately. It varies on how they arrive at training camp in condition and the amount of weight they need to cut to reach their goal weight.

Some fighters lose 15 to 20 pounds to reach their target weight so that they don’t have to lose carbs too early in training. Dehydration is used to make the ultimate weight reduction five to six days before the day of weigh-in, and it may help the combatants drop 25 to 30 pounds in that period. The less weight you have to lose, the easier it will be to lose weight.

Although the procedure begins five days ahead of weigh-ins, the majority of the fighter’s weight is lost in the last 48 hours. Dehydration sets in at this point.

You don’t suddenly quit drinking water a week before a match. Instead, most fighters drink 4 liters of water during days 1-3 and two on day 1. This guarantees that your body enters “flush mode,” indicating that it begins quickly filtering out water.

The following day, you reduce your water consumption to ½ gallon, then a 1⁄4 gallon, and ultimately zero water on the day of weigh-in before you go on the scales. When you suddenly decrease water intake when your body has “flush mode” activated, you’ll begin to lose more water compared to how much you consume, drying your body.

The procedure, however, does not stop on the day of weigh-ins. The rehydration period begins right after you step off the weight scales. You’ll have to drink a liter of water every hour for the following 24 hours leading up to the match. Fighters may recover up to 15-20 pounds in a single day, providing them with a significant weight advantage in the ring.

Also read: Bloodiest UFC Fights of All Time

What Is A UFC Fighter’s Diet During The Weight Cutting Process?

The manipulation of water intake is simply one aspect of the weight-loss process. To make the process as effective as possible, UFC fighters must also follow a stringent diet for the final five to six days.

Firstly, they refrain from all carbohydrates. Carbohydrates draw water inside your body, while your goal is to do the reverse – force out the water. During this time, eating over 30 to 50 grams of carbs each day is not advised. This includes starch, fruit, and other sugars or carbohydrates.

Instead, fighters often eat a lot of protein to make up for the calories they’ve lost. Always choose good protein foods like eggs, white meat, or greens like broccoli, spinach, and other vegetables. Protein will not bind your body’s cells with water, allowing the process of dehydration to proceed more quickly. Eat all you want across three meals each day.

However, no salt should be included in any of your meals. If you’re trying to lose a lot of weight, stay away from salt completely. Salt includes sodium, but sodium binds to water, giving you poor weight-loss outcomes. Yes, the food is going to be boring and strange, but if you can survive some days of agony, it will all be worth all the effort.

If you want to lose more weight than the typical 15-20 pounds throughout the procedure, a diuretic may be used two days before the weigh-in. Because a diuretic stimulates renal function, you’ll lose much more water. To avoid going overboard, only use the natural diuretic on the fifth or sixth day of the weight cutting process.

I’d like to emphasize the importance of using a natural diuretic like dandelion root. Some fighters prefer to choose the route that’s easy and utilize prescription diuretics, which are often ineffective and even hazardous. If at all possible, avoid taking any medicines during this time to prevent any potential problems or side effects.

When you combine this diet along with adjusting your water consumption, the final thing you need to do to optimize your results is sweat. Fighters seldom engage in high-intensity exercises since their energy reserves are exhausted.

Instead, they engage in low-intensity exercises like mild treadmill jogging or cycling while dressed in a tracksuit of plastic material. It will significantly increase sweating. After your exercise, take a hot bath with just enough coolness to keep you from burning. Immerse your body in the hot water as much as you can to increase sweating.

Fighters often stay inside a sauna prior to weigh-ins as the last finish to try losing those last couple of pounds. Consider every method you can think of to sweat excessively in those final few hours. Most UFC fighters even wear tracksuits to the sauna and lie beneath twenty to thirty layers of thermo-insulating fabric, among other things. That’s all: the ultimate guide to UFC athletes’ severe weight-loss techniques.

Also read: Why Do UFC Fighters Have Weird Ears?

Weight Cut Rules Of UFC

When it comes to weight-cutting for its fighters, the UFC has certain rules. However, based on the area of the fight and the ruling body overseeing it, those rules may differ. Nearly every single state in the United States has its Athletic Commission (Nevada – NSAC, California – CSAC), and their regulations for weight cutting may vary.

The fighters should first adhere to their desired weight category’s weight limit. In the UFC, there are 9 weight classes, and the heavyweight category is the last one. The opponent has the option to reject to fight if a UFC fighter fails to meet the agreed-upon weight restriction. Fighters often consent to a catchweight match, thus this seldom happens.

For non-title fights, you can’t be >1 pound overweight, and championship fights can only be ½ pound overweight. You’ll have to transfer to higher weight classes if you consistently miss the weight.

The UFC has adopted measures to avoid extreme weight reduction, but they are not yet unified in all states. On the day of the fight, for example, CSAC requires an extra weigh-in. If a fighter has increased more than 10 percent of their previous weight on the day of the weigh-in, they may be penalized and potentially disqualified from fighting in that specific weight division again.

Fighters are urged to compete in divisions that are as nearly equal to their current weight as possible in the future, in order to bring a stop to the benefits that extreme weight-cutting provides to individual fighters. For example, Kamaru Usman fights at the 170 pounds weight class, but his actual weight is somewhere around 195 pounds, so he would be better suited to the middleweight division.

Also read: What is Reach in UFC & How Is It Measured?

What Happens if UFC Fighters Fails To Make Weight?

In UFC, for the fighters who fail to make weight, there are a number of sanctioning options. If a UFC fighter fails to make weight during the first time, the other fighter has the option to decline to match and take prize money, whereas the fighter who missed the weight receives nothing.

That, however, is extremely rare. Rather, the fighter who missed weight must pay the other combatant 20 to 30%. The amount is determined by the amount of weight they are unable to lose. After that, the fight is classified catchweight, and it has no bearing on the rankings.

If a fighter continues to be underweight, they will be forcibly moved up to a higher weight division. After being unsuccessful in reaching the 170-pound limit multiple times, Kelvin Gastelum was told to move to middleweight from welterweight.

What Happens if a UFC Champion Fails To Make Weight?

The weight restrictions are essentially the same in championship bouts in UFC, although there are some extra rules surrounding the title.

If a fighter fails to make weight for a title bout, the champion has the right to decline to continue the fight. If they fight nonetheless, the bout is considered catchweight, while the championship is taken out of the game.

In other words, even if a champion gets defeated, he or she will keep the title since the other fighter failed to make weight. In the UFC, this has occurred many times. The most noteworthy case is of Yoel Romero, who missed weight twice in championship bouts, the first over Luke Rockhold for the interim title, and the second against Robert Whittaker for the definitive title.

If a UFC champion struggles to fulfill the weight class limit, the penalties wouldn’t be the same. The fight will typically go on regardless of whether the combatant missed the weight by some large margin, however, the champion will be stripped of his title by the UFC. If the champion wins, the champion title becomes vacant; if the champion loses, the opponent becomes the champion.

However, UFC champions have never missed a weight cut. The closest instance was Anthony Pettis failing to make weight for the championship eliminator versus Max Holloway. Since both of them weren’t champions during the time, Pettis wasn’t given the opportunity to earn the championship title even if he won the bout, whereas Holloway was qualified to be titled champion if he won.

Also read: How Much Do UFC Ring Girls Make?

What are the Dangers of Cutting Weight? 

Cutting weight is an important aspect of UFC combat, and when done properly, it may provide fighters a significant edge on fight night. Some fighters, on the other hand, go to extremities with diets, sweating, and dehydration, all of which may be harmful to their health in the long run.

1. Severe Dehydration

Depriving a body of water – which is essential for life – may result in a variety of health issues. Water in the body stimulates blood flow to the muscles, delivering oxygen and nutrients while also removing waste from body cells.

Reduced renal function and the danger of heat sickness or stroke are two of the most serious risks of excessively dehydrating the body. Water is required by the kidneys to filter blood and maintain the proper balance of sodium and potassium, which are both necessary for the proper functioning of body cells. The kidneys won’t be able to filter blood if there is insufficient water, which may result in renal failure and death.

Because no perspiration is generated to cool down the body, severely dehydrated people are at danger of heatstroke. Any activity that raises your heart rate raises your body temperature, and if you don’t sweat enough, your body may overheat and collapse. Heat sickness, heatstroke, and, in some cases, death may result as a result of this.

Dehydration is also linked to an increased risk of migraines as well as other brain injuries, according to research.

2. Extreme Dieting

Although calorie restriction isn’t harmful in the short term, severe dieting disrupts the metabolism and may have life-threatening health consequences. Physical issues such as physical exhaustion, muscular atrophy, constipation, acidosis, dehydration, gallbladder disease, and seizures may all be caused by extreme dieting.

In terms of mental health, a shortage of calories may cause irritation, sadness, decreased sex desire, plus other eating diseases like bulimia and anorexia, which are unfortunately prevalent in combat sports.

3. Sweating Abnormally

Fighters frequently spend hours in saunas or hot baths to lose weight by sweating off as much water as possible. Excessive sweating may help you lose weight quickly, but it can also have negative effects.

Sweat includes electrolytes, which the nerves require to keep the heart pumping properly. Extreme sweating causes electrolyte loss, which may lead to heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmia, or even death. Dehydration of only 3% may result in a 30% drop in overall efficiency while also placing a lot of pressure on the body’s main organs.

Excessive sweating may cause chronic dehydration, which could also lead to renal failure, hypertension, kidney stones, intestinal failure, urinary tract failure, and dementia, among other hazards and concerns.

Also read: How Much Is a UFC Belt Worth?

Biggest Weight Cutters in the UFC

Although most boxers do not undergo drastic weight loss, others go to great measures to achieve their goals.

1. Daniel Cormier

Despite his height (5’11”), Cormier is a talented heavyweight who has spent the most of his career competing in the light heavyweight division. He was able to win 2 UFC championships in different divisions without ever missing a weigh-in. This isn’t to say that Cormier wasn’t trying to lose weight and suffering from severe cuts.

Cormier has claimed many times throughout his career that his walking weight was between 235 and 240 pounds. But there were moments when he became even larger, approaching 260 pounds. He had to lose almost 40 pounds throughout training camps to reach 205 pounds.

Cormier claims that the weight reduction immediately prior to Anthony Johnson’s bout at UFC 210 was the most difficult in his career. He failed the scale on his first try because he was 1.2 pounds above the limit at the formal weigh-ins.

This meant Cormier had to go backstage and attempt to drop 1.2 pounds, which was a significant amount of weight. But, to everyone’s astonishment, he returned two minutes later, weighing 205 pounds. Cormier weighed an incredible 236 pounds on fight night!

2. Conor McGregor

Conor may be the greatest example of the difference in appearance between boxers before and after the weight reduction. Conor has always seemed to be fit, motivated, and competent in some manner. However, when trying to gain 145 pounds, he seemed to be the polar opposite.

Conor’s maximum walking weight is 180 pounds. When he competes at 170 or even 155 pounds, weight reduction is irrelevant to him. He was never unable to fulfill those targets.

However, as we all know, Conor began his UFC career in the 145-pound class. And McGregor would do everything to lose those ten pounds. It was a nightmare to see him stand on the scale.

If you’re searching for an example, go no further than his fight against Jose Aldo at UFC 194. He seemed exhausted, frail, and as if he was using his last stores of energy just to stay conscious. He reportedly weighed 174 pounds the next day, according to speculations.

Many people thought Conor would also look bad in a fight. Despite this, he went on to win the 145-pound title by TKOing the legendary Aldo in only 13 seconds. Because of the drastic weight reduction, this was his last bout in that category.

3. James Irvin

We just can’t go down with this list without James Irvin. The UFC fighter and former WEC heavyweight champion has a reputation for losing a lot of weight. And his weight loss before his 2008 bout with Alessio Sakara remains one of the most risky in the sport’s history.

Irvin weighed approximately 230 pounds throughout his WEC career. He chose to lose weight and fight at 205 lbs. when he entered the UFC line in 2005. This 25-pound weight loss was impressive enough, but Irving took it a step further.

Irvin cut a lot more weight to join the middleweight squad after he lost to Anderson Silva in a light heavyweight match. This indicated Irvin had to lose 45 pounds to reach 185 pounds, or 19.6% of his total weight.

Irvin came at the weigh-ins seeming ripped, exhausted, and with a body fat percentage of -2 percent. Dana White, the president of the UFC, did not want to see him compete in the middleweight class again.

4. TJ Dillashaw

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 04: TJ Dillashaw reacts during his UFC bantamweight championship bout against Cody Garbrandt during the UFC 217 event at Madison Square Garden on November 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Dillashaw is an ex UFC bantamweight champion who made one of the most dramatic weight cuts in the sport’s history.

Dillashaw dropped in weight to fight Henry Cejudo for the flyweight championship after defending his 135-pound title twice. But, since he was already dropping a lot of weight, shedding so much mass was .

Fans were skeptical at the time about TJ’s ability to pull it off. Dillashaw weighed 155 pounds and had 8% body fat when he signed the deal to face Cejudo. He didn’t have much chance to drop below 135 pounds, after all. The guy had already developed a ripped physique.

Dillashaw was able to gain weight, but he looked unwell as he stood on the scale. It was strange to see him appearing in an interview seeming like a zombie and claiming that this was one of his “easiest” weight losses.

This would subsequently be proven untrue when he failed two drug tests for EPO, which he had taken throughout the weight-loss procedure. As if it wasn’t bad enough, he was knocked out by Cejudo in the opening minute of the fight.

5. Gleison Tibau

Tibau was a great UFC fighter in his heyday and a complete maniac when it came to weight loss. A few of his cuts were famous, but we’re not certain how he managed to pull them off without endangering his health. Tibau has a large physical frame and a lot of muscular mass. In his peak, we think he might have won several bodybuilding competitions.

Tibau competed in the 155-pound weight class for the whole of his UFC career. His walking weight, on the other hand, was often above 220 pounds. The majority of 205-pound and 185-pound competitors maintain a similar offseason weight.

Tibau was 66 pounds above the 155-pound limit before his UFC 156 bout against Evan Dunham. Tibau still needed to drop approximately 17 pounds the day prior to the official weigh-ins, and he was able to do it! Furthermore, he fought all three rounds but lost to Dunham by a close split decision.

Final Thoughts

Weight cutting is a rigorous procedure that many fighters in the UFC go through to get an edge over their competitors. Fighters undergo grueling dehydration and starvation regimes in order to lose weight and compete in a lower weight division, sometimes at the expense of their health.

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