Study: 25% of fighters do extreme weight cutting

Rapid Extreme Weight Cutting is a prevalent occurrence in mixed martial arts with many injuries and even deaths tied to the practice.

The practice is employed with fighters either hoping to gain a size advantage over their opponent, or given how common the practice has become, to prevent having a size disadvantage. A recent study was published this month in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism shedding light on just how common the practice is and how much weight athletes gain following their weigh ins.

In the study, titled Rapid Weight Gain Following Weight Cutting in Male and Female Professional Mixed Martial Artists, the authors reviewed official data from the California State Athletic Commission from 2015-2018. During this period weigh in data and fight day weight data were collected from a total of 512 athletes. The data revealed that on average 8% of total body weight was gained by competition time. Over 25% of men and over 33% of women gained over 10% of body mass by competition time revealing the prevalence of extreme dehydration for making weight. The data also revealed that 98% of athletes gained weight by competition time with only a few heavyweights presumably not doing so. The key takeaway from this data is that an athlete is basically guaranteed to be at a size disadvantage if they don’t engage in rapid weight cut practices which are a documented danger in and of themselves.

The full abstract reads as follows:

Rapid weight loss or “weight cutting” is a common but potentially harmful practice used in mixed martial arts competition. Following the official weigh-in, competitors refeed and rehydrate themselves in a process known as rapid weight gain (RWG) to realize a potential competitive advantage. While data from surveys and small series have indicated the majority of mixed martial arts athletes engage in rapid weight loss, there is a lack of officially collected data from sanctioning organizations describing its prevalence. The present investigation represents a summary of the data collected between December 2015 and January 2018 by the California State Athletic Commission. In total, 512 professional mixed martial artists (455 males and 57 females) were included. Of these, 503 (98%) athletes gained body mass between weigh-in and their bouts. Total RWG between weigh-in and competition was 5.5 ± 2.5 kg, corresponding to an 8.1% ± 3.6% body mass increase. Total RWG was 5.6 ± 2.5 kg (8.1% ± 3.6%) for males and 4.5 ± 2.3 kg (8.0% ± 3.8%) for females. More than one quarter of men and one third of women gained >10% body mass between weigh-in and competition. Athletes from leading international promotions gained more absolute, but not relative, body mass than those from regional promotions. Our findings indicate RWG is nearly ubiquitous in professional , with a similar prevalence in male and female athletes. Trends based on promotion suggest a larger magnitude of RWG in presumably more experienced and/or successful mixed martial artists from leading international promotions.

Via the Combat Sports Law Blog

1 Like

I think they need to start having day of the fight weigh ins and that a fighter cannot weigh in more than the weigh above the weight of the fight.

So if you are fighting at 170, you cannot weigh more than 185 fight night.

Captain Canuck -

I think they need to start having day of the fight weigh ins and that a fighter cannot weigh in more than the weigh above the weight of the fight.

So if you are fighting at 170, you cannot weigh more than 185 fight night.

Day of the fight weigh-ins would mean you weigh the same as the weight not the one above it.

You mean a 2nd weigh-in? 

Fern 10th Planet -
Captain Canuck -

I think they need to start having day of the fight weigh ins and that a fighter cannot weigh in more than the weigh above the weight of the fight.

So if you are fighting at 170, you cannot weigh more than 185 fight night.

Day of the fight weigh-ins would mean you weigh the same as the weight not the one above it.

You mean a 2nd weigh-in? 

Yes, I believe he means a 2nd weigh in to make sure people aren't gaining excessive weight. I think someone shouldn't be allowed to weigh more than the non-championship weight of the next above. So if you fight at 155lbs you can't weight more than 171lbs on fight night. If you fight 170lbs you can't weight more than 186lbs on fight night. If you weight 145lbs you can't weight more than 156lbs fight night.

the answer is fewer weight classes. At least for titles. You could always have catchweight fights.

The way weight classes are now, guys will always think “if i could just lose 10 more lbs, I could be champ!.”

If there were 30 lbs between weight classes, that wouldn’t be a real probability except for maybe HW’s.

And I know some of you will say it will put some fighters at a disadvantage, but we have seen too many fighters win in multiple divisions now. Putting on weight and adding strength is clearly possible, and in a real world sense makes you a better fighter.

I say there is nothing wrong with 140, 170, 200, HW. That gives us little guys, average guys, big guys, and heavies. Every fighter could be comfortable at any of those weights.

cyberc92 - 
Fern 10th Planet -
Captain Canuck -

I think they need to start having day of the fight weigh ins and that a fighter cannot weigh in more than the weigh above the weight of the fight.

So if you are fighting at 170, you cannot weigh more than 185 fight night.

Day of the fight weigh-ins would mean you weigh the same as the weight not the one above it.

You mean a 2nd weigh-in? 

Yes, I believe he means a 2nd weigh in to make sure people aren't gaining excessive weight. I think someone shouldn't be allowed to weigh more than the non-championship weight of the next above. So if you fight at 155lbs you can't weight more than 171lbs on fight night. If you fight 170lbs you can't weight more than 186lbs on fight night. If you weight 145lbs you can't weight more than 156lbs fight night.

Yes.

Original weigh in 24 hours prior.

Then fight night weigh in where you cannot weigh above the next higher weight class of the fight.

If you haven't checked out the first article linked in OP's post above, it's worth a look: https://combatsportslaw.com/2014/09/03/yes-athletes-have-been-hurt-from-weight-cutting-in-mma/

It's kind of shocking, the list of medical problems that fighters have encountered from weight cutting. There are probably many more instances that haven't been reported. Truly scary stuff.

One example:

March 3, 2017 – Khabib Nurmagomedov was pulled from UFC 209 after being hospitalized from a rapid extreme weight cut.  In a subsequent interview Khabib went on to note that he “almost died” from the weight cut.  Despite the severity the UFC criticized Khabib for going to hospital instead of calling their in house doctor.

DFW was apparently pissed:

“Basically, his team had decided to take him to just some random hospital here in Las Vegas instead of picking up the phone and calling our doctor and calling Brianna [Mattison], who runs all the medicals,” White said. “They went rogue and went out and did their own thing. Had they done this thing the right way, the fight probably could have been saved.”

MMAFighting story here.

1 Like
Universally -

If you haven't checked out the first article linked in OP's post above, it's worth a look: https://combatsportslaw.com/2014/09/03/yes-athletes-have-been-hurt-from-weight-cutting-in-mma/

It's kind of shocking, the list of medical problems that fighters have encountered from weight cutting. There are probably many more instances that haven't been reported. Truly scary stuff.

One example:

March 3, 2017 – Khabib Nurmagomedov was pulled from UFC 209 after being hospitalized from a rapid extreme weight cut.  In a subsequent interview Khabib went on to note that he “almost died” from the weight cut.  Despite the severity the UFC criticized Khabib for going to hospital instead of calling their in house doctor.

DFW was apparently pissed:

“Basically, his team had decided to take him to just some random hospital here in Las Vegas instead of picking up the phone and calling our doctor and calling Brianna [Mattison], who runs all the medicals,” White said. “They went rogue and went out and did their own thing. Had they done this thing the right way, the fight probably could have been saved.”

MMAFighting story here.

Thanks.  I've kept that list for years.  Some ugly stories in there.  I actually read that list aloud to the ABC when giving them a presenbtation a few years back at their annual conference.  With that step no regulator can pretend they are not informed of the dangers from rapid extreme weight cuts.