Weight cutting has become as much a fixture in MMA and the UFC as tattoos and TapouT shirts.
Because weight cutting is such a large part of the sport, it's worth it for all fans to have a better understanding of the process and what fighters and commentators are talking about when they mention things like walking-weight, Pedialite, and dehydration.
Also, we'll take a look at the weight cuts of Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva, two people frequently mentioned in the weight cutting debate.
What I'm about to write is information about the weight cuts of professional fighters. Do not use this article as a guide for cutting weight yourself, but instead think of it as some insight into what professional fighters are doing to make weight. Weight cutting can be dangerous, especially for people who are attempting it without proper medical consultation and supervision.
Weight cutting attempts can lead to many different health problems and even death, especially when attempted by someone who doesn't fully understand the details of the process.
Do not attempt to cut weight on the basis of this article.
Weight Cutting Has Become Common Practice
While it seems like many fighters in Japan still do not cut very much weight, weight cutting has become a fact of life in the UFC, and in North American MMA in general.
For example, Sam Stout, who isn't considered to be a particularly large lightweight, has been quoted as saying that he cut down to 155 pounds from a walking weight of 180 pounds, and by the time he fights, he's back up to 175 pounds.
That means Stout is adding an extra 13% in mass on top of the weight limit by the time he steps into the Octagon. Judging alone by how average Stout looks in size compared to the division, and it should be obvious that most fighters are cutting and re-hydrating to a similar extent.
The Process Of Weight Cutting
When a fighter cuts weight, he does so in different ways, and the process is far more complicated than just sitting in the sauna wearing a garbage bag.
Weight cutting can be roughly divided into four stages: dieting, equilibrium changing, sweating, and finally, the rebound following a successful weigh-in.
Dieting occurs in the months and weeks leading up to a fight where a fighter burns excessive body fat and possibly even muscle that can hinder a fighter's ability to make weight.
Each fighter is different, but from what I've seen, most fighters tend to try to diet down to within about 10% of their weight class. As such, many lightweights will diet down to about 170.5 pounds, while some light heavyweights may only need to get down to around 225.5 pounds.
A fighter loses this extra mass by controlling his/her diet, while also engaging in exercise in order to burn fat. Ideally a fighter's goal will be to burn mostly fat during this phase, as opposed to muscle.
Equilibrium changing occurs in roughly the final week before the fight. During this phase, a fighter will be cutting his/her carbohydrate and sodium intake, and will start drinking a lot of distilled water continuously.
The goal of this phase is to change the body's equilibrium so that it is naturally retaining as little water as possible.
The more carbohydrates and sodium a person has in his/her body, the more water he/she will retain naturally.
By eliminating most of the body's stores of carbohydrates and sodium, the body will naturally begin to expel water. Drinking large amounts of distilled water will help "flush out the system" and speed up this process.
In a general health fact, the more water a person drinks, the less he/she retains, and this is part of the basic science of weight cutting.
Sweating occurs in the final days and hours before a weigh in.
In order to lose the maximum amount of water, a person must dehydrate within a relatively short amount of time, before the body realizes what is happening and starts to defend itself against the loss of water.
To lose water in such short order, fighters will do things like exercising wearing garbage bags, and spending time in a sauna.
Emptying the bowels is also usually an important part of this phase, though a simple laxative might be more reasonable than a colonic procedure as popularized by Gabe Ruediger on The Ultimate Fighter 5 .
Rebounding properly after the weigh in is just as important as cutting weight.
Rebounding roughly occurs in the 24 hour period between the weigh-ins and the fights.
The goal of rebounding isn't to get back to the weight before dieting, but rather, to get as close to a fighter's weight before equilibrium changing as possible.
A fighter does this by replenishing his stores of carbohydrates, sodium, and water.
Carbohydrates are replenished by continuously eating foods like pasta that are high in carbohydrates.
Sodium is replenished in the same way, though fighters who want to get a bit more scientific about it may choose to intake fluids such as Pedialite in order to regain sodium.
Gaining back water must be done at a steady pace to avoid the potential negative side effects.
Because of possible negative side effects of just chugging water, fighters may choose to regain fluids using an IV, or may otherwise drink a few gallons of water one bottle cap at a time.
The Difference Between Georges St. Pierre's Weight Cut And Anderson Silva's
Both St. Pierre and Anderson Silva are fairly large for their respective weight classes, but when people speak about Silva's weight, they talk about him as though he should be a natural 205-pounder. But somehow squeezes more water out of his body than should be humanly possible.
This is not the case, and the truth is that when they step into the Octagon, the percentage differences between their fighting weights and actual weight classes are nearly the same.
What people don't understand is what the difference in their walking weights actually means.
St. Pierre supposedly walks around in somewhere between 190 and 195 pounds, while Silva is reported to walk around in the neighborhood of 230 pounds.
That weight difference is huge, but is, in fact, far larger than the differences come fight night.
When Silva isn't training for a fight, he'll allow himself to balloon up a bit. He might be retaining a bit more fat, and he might be retaining a bit more water, if he's eating salty foods.
St. Pierre, on the other hand, is in nearly peak physical condition almost all the time, and doesn't allow himself to balloon up in weight.
Before a fight, Silva needs to diet down and lose the excess fat before he begins equilibrium changing. St. Pierre has almost no diet phase in his weight cut, and even his equilibrium changing phase may be shorter than the average, because he probably doesn't retain as much salt.
What Silva does isn't particularly abnormal. It's just more well-documented because of how far he stands above the rest of the division.
Patrick Cote got up to a fat 220 pounds before dieting down to about 200 pounds for his most recent fight.
Joe Stephenson supposedly can arrive at training camp at nearly 200 pounds before eventually dieting down within striking range of the 155-pound weight limit.
There are, however, extreme examples.
Anthony Johnson apparently still weighs around 200 pounds after dieting, and attempts to lose a massive 30 pounds (or 17.6% on top of the 170 pound limit) during the equilibrium changing and sweating phases.
In any case, the key weight to keep in mind when making fighter size comparisons is the fighter's weight right before the equilibrium changing phase, not his weight before dieting.
Divide that weight by his weight by his weight class, and you'll get a neat little standardized number that is actually useful for comparing how big a fighter is in comparison to other UFC fighters.
For Example, Anthony Johnson's is around 1.1765, while St. Pierre's is around 1.1294, and Sam Stout's is around 1.0968.
When considering it this way, you'll find that Anderson Silva isn't actually the giant middleweight he's made out to be, and that all the fuss over him being a light heavyweight masquerading as middleweight is a simple matter of people complaining about him being too good for his division.
Let us punish him for his excellence and make him go up in weight to fight against guys who can walk around at 250 pounds or more. (Not than Silva can't handle it.)