There’s been a lot of debate about whether fighters should or shouldn’t cut weight.
Cutting weight has, to this date, been part-and-parcel of a fighter’s life. Sometimes you weigh in on the same day as your fight, and sometimes you weigh in the night before if you’re fighting for a title.
After weighing in, particularly if it’s a ‘day before’ weigh in, you of course pile the weight back on through re-hydration and eating, making the whole weight cutting process somewhat redundant.
Cutting weight is a process ingrained in the lifestyle of fighters, but sometimes when extreme methods are used to get down to weight things can go very wrong. One too many fighters have suffered the effects of extreme weight cutting techniques, with some even meeting unfortunate death.
So if it’s such a seemingly pointless, and risky, pain in the a** why do it? Well, the act of weight cutting is still prevalent in combat sport. It’s also, at times, inescapable. I’ll get into some other reasons later on, but I mainly want to talk about the pros and cons of both cutting weight and not cutting weight. Please note this is based on my own experiences so feel free to agree or disagree.
I reckon that if I were a sadistic torturer I’d make my victims cut weight as a punishment. It’s pretty crap, and anyone who says otherwise is LYING!
I’m not talking about one or two kilos – that’s a piece of cake. I’m talking about cutting four, five, six (sometimes 10) kilos in one week or less through extreme weight cutting methods.
What do I mean by ‘extreme’? Well, fighters use a variety of techniques to strip their bodies of whatever weight they can to reach their goal. These techniques can involve dehydration, starvation, and ridding your body of any waste (faeces) in your bowels.
To achieve this, fighters may adopt a combination of the following
- Water manipulation (e.g. drinking a tonne of water then tapering off throughout the week so that you pee everything out).
- Salt baths.
- Diuretics (drugs that make you pee).
Ultimately, you have to make weight by any means necessary – even if that means getting naked for your weigh in!
Why fighters cut weight
There are a number of reasons why fighters cut weight. Some that I can think of include:
- Fighting for titles at a lighter weight.
- Broadening your weight category to stay competitive.
- Gaining a size advantage (i.e. if you’re taller, going down a weight class means you fight smaller opponents).
I’ve had to cut weight a lot through my fight career. I usually stay close to my preferred fight weight so that the cut goes well. However, there are times where opportunities present themselves and I can’t turn them down. Opportunities like fighting for a title at a lighter weight for example. When this happens, I have no choice but to cut more weight than what I’m used to because I don’t like letting opportunities slip through my fingers.
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of cutting huge amounts of weight in a short period of time. I think its risky and unhealthy. Only when I’m desperate, or can’t pass up an opportunity, will I go out of my way to do this.
The good thing about cutting weight
If you cut weight properly, and re-fuel properly, you’ll have the reward of taking on the opportunity that was presented to you whether that was fighting for a title, fighting a better opponent, or obtaining a size advantage.
Fighting at a lighter weight can also mean more opponents and a potentially successful fight career in a different weight division.
The downside of cutting weight
When the cut doesn’t go well the drop in energy levels are significant. I experienced this a few times. I dropped loads of weight, and the overall cut didn’t go so well. The drastic weight loss resulted in a massive decrease in energy, and when it came time to fight I couldn’t fire like I normally do.
However, there are times when I’ve cut loads of weight, refueled, and felt great come fight night. Although I fought well though, I certainly wasn’t as strong as I am when I’m fighting close to my normal weight.
Cutting weight can be advantageous if it’s done properly and carefully, but personally I don’t think it’s necessarily linked to a great fight performance or outcome – not all the time anyway.
The good thing about not cutting weight
When I don’t have to cut loads of weight, I can go into a fight eating well and feeling strong. It makes sense to enter a fight this way. When I haven’t had to cut much weight, or none at all, I feel so much more explosive and my energy levels are high.
What’s more, I seem to recover quickly between rounds and I can go each round at 110%. Not to mention I don’t have to put my body through the stress of cutting weight. I can just relax till the fight and unleash in the ring.
The downside of not cutting weight
If you don’t cut weight, there’s a chance you’ll fight bigger opponents. When I was at the IFMA Royal World Cup last year, I was one of the smallest people (by size and height) in my pool even though I’m 5’10” and I’m not exactly petite!
The women in my division were cutting from about 72 to 75 kilos to get down to the 67 kilo weight limit. You have to expect that if you want to fight at walking weight there’s a chance your opponents will be cutting down from heavier weight categories. As a result, their strikes will likely be heavier too so you have to be prepared for solid kicks and punches.
On the flip side of that, I don’t think size always makes a big difference in the fight. It’s not just about how big you are, it’s about your skill level, your fitness and your ability. I’ve fought taller and heavier opponents before and I’ve managed to walk away with the win. So yes, you may face bigger opponents, but size isn’t the be all and end all in a fight.
There are pros and cons to both cutting weight and not cutting weight. Although cutting weight still plays a part in combat sport, I think it’s important to understand the risks that are involved.
If you want to share your experiences, feel free to comment in the box below.