Weight Cutting FAQs

Posted on 25 March, 2022

Courtesy of the UFC
Courtesy of the UFC

Cutting Weight FAQs

What does cutting weight mean?

Cutting weight means temporarily losing weight so that you weigh in lighter than you actually are, then rehydrating to get back to your natural weight before the fight. This isn't the same as dieting where you lower your fat percentage over a long period of time by eating fewer calories than you consume. Most of the weight that you cut is through water weight. This is usually done by sweating, water loading (drinking a lot of water the week before the fight so your body gets used peeing a lot, then severely cutting down on your water intake), avoiding salt and carbs (carbs make you retain water).

Is it dangerous?

Yes. A few fighters and college college wrestlers famously died during a bad weight cut none in the UFC. Darren Till once went temporarily blind from a weight cut.

How much weight do fighters cut?

It depends a lot on the fighter but generally over 10% of their bodyweight.

Big weight cutters

Conor McGregor Weight Cut, Courtesy of Sqaf.club and the UFC
Conor McGregor Weight Cut, Courtesy of Sqaf.club and the UFC
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov

  • Conor McGregor (when he was a featherweight)

  • Dustin Poirier

  • Paulo Costa

Small weight cutters

  • Almost all heavyweights (they naturally weigh below the 265lb limit)

  • Nate Diaz

  • Israel Adesanya

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) publishes fighters' weights on fight night . Here's a Google Sheet someone made if you want to see some of the numbers.

Why do fighters do this?

The bigger you are relative to your opponent the more of an advantage you have. Because you rehydrate, you could hypothetically be a couple of weight classes above your opponent if they didn't cut weight. Since most fighters want to be bigger or at least equal in size to their opponent, they cut weight.

Is there anything that can be done to stop fighters from cutting weight?

Some suggested"solutions" and the issues with them.

Weighing them right before they step into the cage

The idea is that fighters won't have time to cut weight and recover and thus will fight at their natural weight class :

  1. If the fighter misses weight, they'll have to scrap the bout. With the current weigh in structure, if they're overweight they can keep cutting until they make weight. Scrapping the bout (especially a main event) would anger the fans who bought tickets, the TV deals, and the promotion.

  2. If a fighter decides to cut weight anyway, the lack of fluid surrounding (and protecting) their brain will cause higher likelihoods of brain damage.

Hydrating Tests:

This is when you test how hydrated they are via urine sample and only allow them to fight weigh in if they're hydrated. This is done in


(an MMA promotion in Asia) supposedly does this but because they do it behind closed doors and the hydration test results aren't announced, its legitimacy (i.e. if they really do it properly for every fighter equally) has been called into question.

Collegiate wrestling

Does a hydration test and a relatively inaccurate fat % estimation at the beginning of the season (not before every weigh-in) to calculate how much weight you're allowed to lose.

There are probably other attempts at solving weight cutting that either wouldn't work or are imperfect solutions (help, but don't solve it completely)

Are there any downsides to cutting weight, aside from the health issues it causes?

Yes, a large weight cut can compromise your performance in the cage if your body can't recover from it. The more time you have to recover, the more you can cut without hurting your in-cage performance. For example if your weigh ins are 24 hours before the fight, you can cut more than if your weigh in is the same day.

Why do MMA fighter cut more weight than other combat sports athletes?


MMA fights are almost always day before weigh ins, which means that they have more time to recover. Since wrestlers have less time to recover before their first bout since most weigh-ins are the day of, they cut less


Weight advantages matter less in boxing compared to grappling arts. With grappling, you can impose your weight on your opponent (by making them move a heavier mass around, putting more weight when they're on bottom, etc). In boxing, you can also be lighter and therefore faster which helps a lot. There's also less of a culture of weight-cutting.

What happens if a fighter misses weight?

If there is still time before the weigh ins are done (fighters are given a time range of a few hours that they can weigh in during) they can continue cutting weight until they make it. If they still miss weight and by a large margin, the MMA commission in charge can cancel the fight. If they miss weight by a small margin, the commission will give a percentage of the fight purse (how much the fighter earns for the fight) to their opponent. The more they miss by, the bigger the percentage.

Can a fighter decline to fight an opponent who missed weight?

Yes, but it rarely happens since

  1. They spent a lot of time and money training for the camp and can't pay for the expenses without the money they earn from the fight (they won't get paid unless they accept)

  2. Their promotion (e.g. UFC) won't like it if they don't help make sure the fight goes through.

Israel Adesanya has complained because some fighters will knowingly miss weight (by cutting less than they need to or starting from a higher weight) to be larger and more recovered than their opponent. They do this because the % they lose via fine is worth the advantage they get from not cutting weight.

How was Royce Gracie able to beat his opponents when he was significantly smaller?

Royce Gracie was the UFC 1 tournament winner, where there were no weight classes. He was around 170lbs and was beating heavyweights.

He was also significantly better than his opposition in MMA. His opponents were very bad at grappling, so as soon a Royce took them down they lost. Being bigger than your opponent doesn't guarantee a win, but it helps.

What is cutting weight like?

The first few pounds are not bad, but every subsequent bit of water you squeeze out gets harder and harder. It makes you extremely thirsty (obviously), irritable, and you're consumed by the thought of devouring ice cold water.

Future Topics

  • Rehydration process

  • Impact on performance

  • Resources for how to do it safely

  • Anecdotes