Being an MMA fighter is one of the most difficult careers you could ever choose to be in. You must train at least four hours a day, six days a week in numerous disciplines and be able to face a crowd of thousands of people, booing or cheering for you. But what most people don’t know is that the worst part of training for many MMA fighters is cutting weight.
Cutting weight means losing weight in a certain amount of time in order to meet the weight category you want to fight in. For some fighters, they must lose as much as 20 pounds in two weeks. It is both physically and mentally draining, and for some fighters, it can even affect their performance during the fight itself. Thus, cutting weight should never be done just to lose a few extra pounds for aesthetic purposes.
1) Following a strict diet
Although following a strict diet sounds like a given, it means completely cutting out carbohydrates and salt from your diet – especially towards the end of your weight cut. According to Eddie, your diet should consist mainly of protein, healthy fats and leafy green vegetables.
This process usually starts with water loading, which is done a few days before the weigh-in. This is to trick the body into flushing out excess water weight. The last resort for many fighters is using a sauna or an Epsom salt bath.
A day before the fight, fighters take part in their official weigh-in. Most of the time, they weigh much lighter during the weigh-in and show up to the fight significantly heavier. Sometimes, they can even weigh up to several pounds heavier than their opponent. Many believe that this gives them a size and strength advantage.
UFC fighters such as Anthony Johnson and Josh Koscheck walk around at a much heavier weight and cut as much as 55 and 20 pounds respectively to get to their fighting weight. Although both fighters are considered to be the biggest in the welterweight division, they continue to cut weight for the strength advantage over their opponents.
For Evolve Fight Team member and UFC fighter Leandro “Brodinho” Issa, cutting weight is one of the most difficult aspects of fighting MMA. “I love eating chocolate,” Brodinho reveals. “So whenever I cut weight, I give up chocolate for almost 6 weeks!” It never gets any easier for Brodinho, who had to start cutting weight four years ago after dropping down two weight classes to fight at the bantamweight division.
Brodinho attributes his successful weight cuts to his wife’s cooking. Since his decision to drop in weight class, his wife has been preparing healthy meals. “I’m lucky because my wife helps me a lot with my diet. She cooks my breakfast and dinner and makes sure that they’re low-carb with lots of protein,” admits Brodinho.
Another helpful factor is Brodinho’s decision to completely cut alcohol out of his life. “I feel more energetic during training sessions and I feel like it also helps me lose a lot of weight without realizing it,” Brodinho says.
ONE FC Superstar Jake Butler has been cutting weight since his teens. As a competitive wrestler in high school, Jake would cut 10 pounds before his tournaments. Today, Jake cuts around the same weight, starting two weeks before his fights. Although Jake is used to it, cutting weight is still an unpleasant experience for him.
To ease himself into it, Jake believes in maintaining a healthy diet throughout the year. “Instead of eating processed foods, I eat a lot of complex carbs like brown rice or quinoa,” he explains. Today, Jake’s diet revolves around a lot of healthy fats and lean proteins. “In the past, I would just cut weight at the last minute, eat whatever I wanted and feel really weak. I feel a lot better now,” Jake says.
Before you decide to cut weight, think of your goals. Are you doing it to prepare for competition, or do you want to lose weight in general? If your answer is the latter, then think of the long-term effects of your decision. Doing anything drastic is definitely not sustainable. If you are planning on competing, make sure you do your research and consult your coach. Weight cutting should always be performed with caution, especially if you are trying to lose a lot of weight.