On Cutting Weight

Before waxing all poetic on you, let me say it point blank:

CUTTING WEIGHT IS THE MOST RIDICULOUS CONCEPT IN ALL OF SPORT

Now, let’s begin…

Although the sauna is generally viewed as a tool for ultimate relaxation, conjuring images of a good sweat and feeling loose…

This is what cutting weight is like. Except instead of the naked European woman, you’re surrounded by a bunch of MMA fighters. Some of whom probably have active ringworm and/or cellulitis.

I’ve been involved in a few weight cuts in my years as a strength and conditioning coach and can tell you that the mere thought of one can make some of the toughest guys start sweating.

If you’ve ever been through a tough cut in the sauna, you’re probably sweating right now!

But there have definitely been some funny ones in there, though.

The funniest stories involve guys who are cutting weight for the first time.

I remember flying out to Vancouver with a fighter I was training named Joe Khamou. He was cutting to 170 lbs. It was his first MMA fight.

He was following my weight cutting  guidelines and he was close, but it’d been about 24 hours since he last weighed in.

When we landed in Vancouver, we went for a walk to find supplies for the re-hydration phase. And hopefully a scale to check where he was at.

The whole time we were walking around, he was trying to spit, but nothing was coming out.

He kept doing it and I was like, “What the fuck man, stop already.”

“Sorry. It’s just so weird spitting and having no spit.”

Hahaha Khamou.

It was like walking around with a dog that you just fed a box of crackers to.

“I drink Bud Light cuz Coors Light won’t pay me nothin’!”

We did end up finding a scale. Joe weighed in at 168.7 lbs, so I had him start drinking again to maintain as close to 170 lbs as possible until the weigh-in a few hours later. The good thing for him was that he didn’t need the sauna.

There was another cut I was a part of  in Vancouver. I was with Claude at UFC 115 for his UFC debut. Him, myself and Kru Alin were all hanging out in the sauna. Well Kru and I were hanging out, Claude was doing his best to shed every last bit of H2O out of his body.

I like saunas, but like I said, I don’t like cutting weight.

So I was sitting near the bottom. Heat rises, so it was a heck of a lot cooler down there.

Claude started making fun of me.

He snickered to Kru Alin, “Notice where E’s sitting??”

I didn’t care. What I did care about was keeping my organs as far from failure as possible.

And that’s just one reason why cutting weight is such a ridiculous concept. The risk of organ failure.

But because of what it brings in, it may never go away… However, I think I may have a solution.

Now, some argue that cutting is a skill and show of toughness.

I don’t argue about the skill or mental toughness involved at all.

To be able to lose 15-30 lbs in a short period of time and put it all back on within 24 hours…

… THEN have to go out and fight some beast like Junior Dos Santos or Cain Velasquez is undoubtedly one of the most impressive skills known to mankind. I kneel before you.

But wouldn’t it be more impressive if a fighter knew he had to be at a certain weight. And, he knew he didn’t have the ability to cut more than 5 lbs because he had to be that weight 6 hours before his fight?

I think so.

I think once everyone got used to the idea, we’d all realize the madness of doing it any other way.

There’s just this resistance to change. And it’s this resistance and insistence on traditionalism that blocks true progress.

And one of the driving forces behind this resistance is obviously the almighty dollar.

Have you ever been to a UFC weigh-in before?

It’s insane. Thousands of people packed in a loud stadium. Drinking beer. Snapping pictures. Soaking it all up.

It’s a huge spectacle and I’ll admit, gets you hyped up.

But my argument is to leave all of an athlete’s skill

All of an athlete’s mental toughness

And all of an athlete’s abundant amounts of energy, energy that he’s worked so damn hard for…

To leave it for him to use in his fight.

It’s a shame for this energy to be wasted on making weight. A real shame. That’s why I say that cutting weight is the most ridiculous concept in sport.

Yes, out of concern for the health risks to athletes, fighters and friends.

And because of the waste of energy that could be used to give us fight of the night after fight of the night.

Instead of a week dedicated to a low-calorie, low-carb diet, he could be nourishing his body properly, with delicious, nutritious food. He would stay well hydrated on pure and clean water. The good food and water would give him clarity of thought to mentally prepare for the task at hand. His body would have the building blocks to heal from the beating it took during a grueling training camp.

And because of these things, he would generate a store of energy that could accomplish amazing things inside the Octagon. Things that would make people accuse him of taking drugs.

Things that would make everyone watching <gasp> and SCREAM  in excitement!

The UFC could still hold the weigh-in event… They’d still make their few hundred thousand or million doing so. People would still attend and enjoy Joe Rogan screaming at them.

All the UFC would have to do is have another weigh-in 5 or 6 hours before the fight. 

Then, the fighters wouldn’t be able to cut much weight, because they’d have to enter the fight soon. It wouldn’t be worth it.

Athletes would then have to choose what weight they wanted to fight at and optimize their bodies and keep it that way.

There would be no more fights where it looked like a Grade 10 kid was beating up a Grade 4.

That would be a real show of skill.

Having the right amount of muscle mass for your frame and being able to scientifically manipulate it to such a precise degree and KEEP it long term is a greater show of skill than simply going on a no-carb, low-calorie, salt-free diet for a week.

Being able to gain or lose muscle mass strategically and keep it that way is no simple task.

What do you think?

Am I way off base here?

Or does this make sense to you too?

Let’s have a discussion in the Comments section. I want to hear your thoughts on this controversial topic!

[NOTE: This post is dedicated to Claude Patrick, who I hope one day will finally believe in the power of JC! And I’m not talking the man on the cross]

[sharebox4]BTW – this is a new share thingie – thanks for using it! :)[/sharebox4]

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Ross
Ross
6 years ago

In light of the recent comments by Big John, I would have to say most fighters do know the risks. Several come from wrestling, known for its weight cuts, and also other martial arts and sports where weight classes matter. The recent Barao disaster does shed a certain light on this as well, however, I am currently not aware of any MMA fighters dying from weight cutting. Im not trying to say there should be a “quota” of dead weight cutting fighters, but possibly this is much ado about something not as urgent as folks make it out to be. Being able to cut significant weight and compete again is pretty impressive. If the other fighter doesnt do it as well, whose fault is that? The whole weight cutting process may not be health adding per se, but then again neither are contact/combat sports as a whole. I think we… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
8 years ago

I totally agree Eric. Every BJJ and boxing event I’ve fought in have a weigh in the same day as the fight so you have to show up on your weight and be able to fight. There’s no BS 20 pound water drop, which I think is much better. No sand baggin’ allowed, that’s the way the UFC should do it.

Patrick
Patrick
8 years ago

Spot on, mate. I was astounded when I first got to know how much weight the athletes cut. And at the same time it made a lot of sense considering the size of some of the fighters. However, I’d much more appreciate if the sport would allow for the athletes to train and fight at the same level, without the intense cutting. I hope you reach out to some important people with this train of thought.

Manuel
Manuel
8 years ago

i agree weight cutting is dumb. why do these guys want to cut 20, 30, even 40 pounds to fight at a lower weight class and be bigger than their opponent come fight time? they should only be allowed to cut 10 lbs max. that’s why i admire fighters like Frankie Edgar and Rashad Evans, who fight at their natural weight.

Marios
Marios
8 years ago

I absolutely agree with you Eric. It is a very good suggestion to weigh fighters a few hours before the fight.
I hope some day things will change

Aaron Cook
Aaron Cook
8 years ago

I agree with you. Staying at weight is a true skill. I have been following your program for a while now. Especially the Nutrtionitsu. Its a great tool to live by. Im workin pretty hard on my black belt! 😉 Anyways, I used to fight in Ohio, where there is an athletic commission, and we weighed in 7 hrs before the fight. I’m used to that kind of fight. I recently started fighting in michigan, where there is no athletic commission, and I’ve never seen such disrespect for the sport. Weigh ins are the day before and I’ve seen title fighters weighing in at 13-18lbs over weight!! It really pisses me off, so I take it out on their face haha. Anyways, everybody up here always wonders why I always weigh in at or under weight. That’s just what I’m used to doing when i had to fight in ohio.… Read more »

Mark
8 years ago

i agree with you 100%… i also agree with you with a weigh in before the fight, this is one easy fix.. that way fighters would be fighting more close to their true weight and reduce the chance of organ failure. doing the 2 weigh in system is a good way to protect the fighters doing weight cuts from fighting in a less than optimal state. let say for arguement sake giving fighters 8 pounds to work with from original weigh in to the second weigh in.

Phill
Phill
8 years ago

I agree with you 100% man. In my academy the belief on weight and competition is, “live, training, and fight in the same weight.”

ronald parra
ronald parra
8 years ago

Hey, im in the process of cutting wait i weigh 208 and must be 185 the day before my 1st mma fight. iam trying my best to diet and train but find it diffucult to lose any weight. i take protein at night,wth fat free milk.i take n.o pills and fat burners,my fight is january 21st.what do you recomend i do to lose the weight properly and then maintain it after .thanks,ron

Bill
Bill
8 years ago

A very interesting idea to say the least. Good point about tradition, it can be quite stoopid! I think they should open up anouther heavy weight class. lite heavy(205), heavy(240), and super heavy(no limit). you can’t tell me that a guy weighting 220 is really in the same class as a guy at 255. That’s my two cents.

Ivan Cottrell
Ivan Cottrell
8 years ago

First I wanna thank you Eric. Your really putting together some great material. I’ve been following you for a year now and especiallly that stuff on EPE – its fantastic! That being said; I agree with you 100%. The weight cut is retarded plus it’s discouraging for new fighters. After all the healthy living for 90% of the year why throw away the long term health benifits for a few pounds? The logic is obvious, but it’s definately a dangerous practice the commission has in their power to put a stop to. I’m going out on a limb here but all this talk about the long term effects of concussions, although more dramatic, I hardly think would compare to the long term health issues associated with weight cuts. We can’t eliminate concussions or we wouldn’t have much of a sport, but I see no reason we can’t eliminate the weight… Read more »

scotty
scotty
8 years ago

I live in Massachusetts, and when the state started regulating MMA through the Athletic Comission, we had a trial period where there were two weigh-ins specifically to address the issue of fighters fighting at substantially different weights than when they weighed in. What they found was that the competitors were still cutting all the weight they previously were, but they were not rehydrating sufficiently. Going into a fight dehydrated from a typical weight cut is extremely dangerous for head impacts and kidney failure. There was a public outcry from fighters and medical professionals alike on the rule as it was stated, and it was retracted after its trial. Dr. Johnny Benjamin had a couple of good articles on the concept of weighing-in closer to fight time:
http://mmajunkie.com/news/17543/ask-the-fight-doc-did-nate-diaz-raise-legitimate-concerns-about-rapid-weight-cutting.mma
http://mmajunkie.com/news/18312/ask-the-fight-doc-is-the-massachusetts-commissions-double-weigh-in-rule-enough.mma

Ivan Cottrell
Ivan Cottrell
8 years ago
Reply to  scotty

I can respect that sort of thing, but like Eric pointed out in his article….1 weigh in 6 hrs before the fight. Fighters wanna dehydrate, go right ahead. They will stop in hurry when they get beat all over the cage a few times by inferior fighters cus they were too drained to contend.

JonnyTsunami
JonnyTsunami
8 years ago

Hey Eric, I fight muay thai and I’m trying to get into mma. I’ve had 5 fights and cut weight for all my amateur fights. I’m usually in great cardio shape and have been able to fight at a good fast pace for the whole fight, I’m currently undefeated. Anyways, I fight at 155 or 160, my weight cuts have been a little more lately because I’ve done a lot more strength training during camps, I was walking around at 165 to cut down, now I am about 173, but over the course of a 6 week camp I drop to about 165 or 163 even when I’m eating 3500 to 4000 calories a day. Then I eat normal all the way up to the fight, I just over hyrdrate (2 gallons of water a day) the 3 days before weigh-ins, then I can sweat out 8 to 10 lbs… Read more »

JonnyTsunami
JonnyTsunami
8 years ago
Reply to  JonnyTsunami

Let me add that my natural weight is about 160-165, I have to strength train like crazy to get up to 173 and its something I can’t maintain while training muay thai and cardio at an intense level in a 6 week camp. So I don’t cut any calories at all and my body naturally drops weight to about 165 and have even had it at 163 weeks before I weigh-in.

Jonathan
Jonathan
8 years ago

Hello Eric,I have been fighting at 155lbs for two years now and I always walk around at about 160 – 165 lbs.Just about everyone of my opponents has dropped at least 20-30 lbs for the fight and they come in huge and I have a hard time sometimes when trying for takedowns and absorbing punishment.I am considering dropping to 145lbs, and like I said before I walk around at 160 lbs and have a very low body fat % like maybe 5-8%. My question is should I try this cut or should I increase strength and body mass? Keep in mind I am a very hard gainer and can’t afford a high calorie diet.

Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

If you’re going to fight at 155, I recommend walking around at 170.

But if you’re walking at 160, I’d definitely recommend fighting at 145. A 15 pound cut isn’t too bad. You should be able to pull that off with my No Sweat Weight Cutting guide. You get that as part of the package with the Ultimate MMA S&C program.

Rob
Rob
8 years ago

I couldn’t agree more. I remember watching friends cutting weight for wrestling with rubber suits……..WTF why not weigh what you’re supposed to weigh, all the time. My weight is pretty easy to maintain within 5 lbs year round. Granted, I could use a little more LMM…..another story. Fighters would be in much better condition to perform. And, who wants Renal failure.
OK I might cut weight for an El Capitan free climb……maybe it’ll hurt less when I hit the ground. GRF baby…….lol

Smurf
Smurf
8 years ago

Hey Eric, maybe you should put up an article on how to shed unwanted water weight over an extensive and short period of time.

Smurf
Smurf
8 years ago

Overall i’d fight at my natural weight any day. If you follow proper strength training principles you can gain a ton of strength with out putting on a whole leap of mass.

Craig
Craig
8 years ago

Hi Eric. Great article man. I’ve got a fight next Saturday, on my third opponent because the previous 2 both pulled out because they couldn’t make weight. Now I’m having to fight at a catch weight of 81kg which is my opponents walking around weight. I’m having to cut from 89 to 81 just to get in the cage. I’m a bit worried that I’m going to end up drained and lethargic where as he will be full of energy and ready for a war. Weight cutting is a Pain in the ass, but unfortunately the way things are, if you don’t do it your at a disadvantage. Same day weigh ins would be a big step in the right direction.

Smurf
Smurf
8 years ago

Oh man i agree with you Eric, if i knew i was gonna compete in MMA or any other combat sport like boxing, i’d personally maintain my weight around the division im fighting in all year round. If there is any type of weight gain i’d prefer it to be lean muscle mass and not bulky mass. Bulky mass i’d think would be no good because of the excess body fat and water weight that can be put on during bulking. i’d rather focus on training instead of weight cutting any day. I mean i think alot of it is mental, think about it water weight does not necessarily make you stronger, it may keep you a bit hydrated but even too much water weight is no good for the human body. I mean the fighter may be a little harder to move around but thats all i’d think but… Read more »

D
D
8 years ago

To me if you cut more than 10-15 pounds to get to your “fight weight” you should just move up a weight class. if you truly want to prove you are better than your opponent fight at your natural weight. I have always looked at this as a form of cheating. the whole idea of yeah i’ll drop weight, weigh in, and then step into the cage 15-20 pounds heavier is crazy. If your opponent doesn’t cut as much as you do you really want to fight a smaller guy? Cutting weight seems like cheating to me. You should be spending your energy in training, not on cutting weight just to try to get one up on your opponent.

Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  D

I wouldn’t go so far as saying it’s cheating, because right now, the system promotes it and penalizes those who don’t. It’s the system’s fault, not the fighters.

Cork-boi
Cork-boi
8 years ago

That Sauna pic reminded me of my time living in Finland: unisex sauna’s with compulsory nudity, happy days, oh happy days…

Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  Cork-boi

Depends who you’re in the sauna with!

cork_boi
cork_boi
8 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Bubba didn’t seem to mind 😮

DYLAN
8 years ago

I totally agree with the points on the fact that cutting is not good for your health or performance within the cage but it adds just another element to the fight. There are a few fighters who have show that fighting at your optimal weight and not cutting is good. Main example is Frank Edgar, who has shown that fighting at his natural weight benefits him. Sure he may be the smaller man on the night but he has gas for days and the ability to recover quickly which probably has alot to do with the fact that he does not cut. So either way it seems good for the sport, the fighters who want the size advantage have to starve and dehydrate themselves to achieve this but other fighters will chose to recover well on fight week and eat well and be fully hydrated for fight night. its really… Read more »

risto
risto
8 years ago

Oh man the weight cut… i agree with you totally. from personal experience weight cut can be deadly and it is true what you said about the diet. i cut 20 pounds in 24 hours for a mt fight( i know fucking stupid) and got my ass handed to me. first loss in a few years. the thing was i didnt know how close to organ failure i was. my gf said i looked like a corpse the morning of my weigh in. but long and short, next fight i stayed relatively close to my competition weight just about 8 pounds and ate healthy. end result i got one hell of a k.o. so kids listen to uncle eric and eat your veggies so you can grow up to be big and strong and not get your asses kicked!

Wesley
Wesley
8 years ago

great points. someone needs to forward these comments to DANA WHITE.

ross
ross
8 years ago

I couldn’t agree more! As you put so eloquently, organ failure is no fun, trust me , I know how it feels to be in less than an hour of complete organ failure…only it was due to sepsis. But, I can’t imagine walking around that way let alone fighting anything but maybe a pillow, so absolutely props to all who have the questionable sanity to go to such lengths and still be able to fight…wow!
However, the more I read the less the old “bulking and cutting” cycle thing makes less and less sense, and is very dangerous, so , in my humble opinion , you are correct sir….doing it your way would lead to a longer,better fight and a longer, healthier life for the brave souls who stalk the octagon/cage!!!

Justin
Justin
8 years ago

Man, I’m 100% in agreement with this. I try to stay within 15 pounds, 170 to cut to 155, then I skip a couple days of food and do ten pounds of sweat. It sucks. I can’t believe guys do even more than that in the sauna. The reason I do it-
EVERYBODY ELSE DOES. If you don’t, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. If we could all just skip this idiocy, it would be like when the cold war ended.

Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  Justin

Haha good point on the cold war…

Ken Gack
8 years ago

I’ve commented on your weight cutting suggestions before – to put it bluntly, they work. At the USA Powerlifting (USAPL) Nationals last year, I thought I was managing my weight properly, a simple pound or two to drop the night before the national championships. When I showed up early to check my weight an hour before weigh in, I was still two pounds over – the scale at the gym I had been using was two pounds off! Quickly off to the sauna I go, but ended up losing four pounds instead of just the two I needed. In USAPL weigh ins are two hours before competition, there is not enough time to rehydrate. My total for the meet was down over 100lbs, and I just barely squeaked out a win. At nationals this year I was managing my weight much more effectively following your program. While my competitors were… Read more »

pete
pete
8 years ago

hey Im all ears, cut 18lbs 186lbs my last fight, got to hotel day before weigh in heavy from the travel, cut the weight in the hotel sauna, my next fight in Feb is at 175 lbs and I walk around at 198 these days, Eric I am all ears. Hey I also used your EPM method tonight training some of my clients, I def have some questions not sure it came off right. thanks for all the great info (fighter and personal trainer in Atlanta Ga

Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  pete

Hey Pete, what is my EPM method?

Don Davis
8 years ago

I have to agree. Its a horrible process. I currently weigh around 210 and fight at 85. The cut is the most miserable thing I have put myself thru. Its horrible on your body. It gets harder all the time. But the problem is and always has been fighters, wrestlers and boxers seem to think this just a normal part of the process. Even when weighins are on the same day I have seen guys cut 20 lbs in a couple of days. The question is how do you fix it. Weigh ins the same day almost make things even more dangerous. Guys will still cut the weight. The european fighters seem to have a better view on the process, with more fighters fighting closer to their natural weights. I have question sticking with your Low T posts over the last few days. What does cutting weight do to test… Read more »

Justin
Justin
8 years ago
Reply to  Don Davis

I’m willing to bet money the answer is that short term it increases cortisol and thus decreases test due to the physiological strain of essentially fasting and dehydration. It’s pretty damn hard to stay relaxed in that state of mind.

Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  Don Davis

Justin is right on the money – cortisol/testosterone are in opposition to each other and the last thing the body is thinking about when it’s under such stress from a low calorie diet and dehydration is make babies!

Long-term it’s difficult to say, if relatively infrequent (3-5 times per year) that you’re cutting, I’d guess it wouldn’t do too much to T levels long-term.

Tony
Tony
8 years ago

Eric:
We were just having that very discussion. The whole weight class deal in professional MMA is a sham indeed. Almost no one, save Frankie Edgar, fights at their true hydrated weight. When someone like Rumble shows up to fight at 200lbs for a 170lb match, that’s a farce. I truly wish the regulatory bodies would make weigh-ins a must within a few hours of the match as with wrestling or amateur grappling contests. It’s not only fairer to all, it is far safer. Moreover, fighters might increase their longevity (meaning health of their organs, esp kidneys and muscles–I’m thinking mild rhabdomyolysis here from high heat sweating and dehydration) if they remained at a true fighting weight.

Kyle Sheldon
Kyle Sheldon
8 years ago

I couldn’t agree more! I had a pretty rough experience in my first fight trying to cut down to 135 about a year ago and it left me tired, weak, and in a fog. Ever since that experience I’ve been an a mission to do exactly what you talk about in trying to maintain a healthy, optimal weight and BMI so as not to have to worry about trying to cut more than 5-7 pounds. As a trainer I understand the difficulties in this, especially when your body fat gets down to the single digits. Love the article and look forward to seeing more on this topic. Thanks

Josh
Josh
8 years ago

I agree with what you are saying here. When I was wrestling in high school we had to weigh in minutes before the first rounds would start so if you tried to cut to much your gas was blown after 2 minutes. It shows who has more skill and who has the ability to make the same weight week after week and be able to compete.

Trevor
Trevor
8 years ago

I agree completely. It seems a bit insane when you think about a fighter spending weeks or months training so hard to attain the high performing energy systems needed to bang it out in a 3-5 round fight, then right before the fight, completely dehydrate and starve themselves to the point where they look like zombies at weigh ins. Proper nutrition and hydration is a principle of preperation for pregame for nearly all other sports, yet we do the opposite in mma and a few other sports. Very counter-productive, proper lean body mass management and maintaining single digit body fat (for some weight classes) should be the focus, and along with proper nutrition and water intake during fight week, the cut should be easy and therefore, they will be performing at the level that they have been working so hard to reach when they step in the cage