Many combat sports are divided into separate weight classes to keep fights fair, as a size deficit between two skilled athletes can make a huge difference in terms of power and reach. However, many athletes choose to drop weight to reach a lower weight class, then put on more weight after the weigh-in to gain a weight advantage over an opponent.
Most combat sports have a system of weight classes to ensure that fighters are matched against similar-size fighters. From wrestling to boxing, from kickboxing to mixed martial arts, weight classes are supposed to minimize weight and size advantages, as the additional size and power can give heavier fighters an advantage. Fighters are normally required to weigh in before a fight, either on the same day or, in some instances, a full day in advance.
Benefits of Cutting Weight
While some sports only allow for a small deviation in weight in each class, in others, such as mixed martial arts, there can be as much as 20 pounds difference between the top and bottom of a weight class. Consequently, being at the bottom end of a weight class has disadvantages. However, by losing weight, a fighter can go from being in the bottom end of a weight class to being at the top end of a lower weight division, putting him at an advantage.
Fighters lose weight in two main ways. The first method is to lose weight through diet and exercise, eating smaller portions and exercising more during the pre-fight training camp to lose weight over an extended period of time by shedding fat, or even muscle. The second method involves dehydrating yourself before the weigh-in, a process that can last anywhere from a day to a week depending on the severity of the weight cut. While dehydration can be dangerous and can affect your physical performance, many athletes who are used to cutting weight can cut and regain as much as 10 or 15 pounds of water weight after a weigh-in.
Putting on Weight
After a weigh-in, fighters will normally rehydrate by drinking a sports drink, as they need to replace electrolytes as well as the water they have lost. After extreme dehydration, small sips of fluid are better than large gulps, which can make you ill. Fluid replacement solutions such as those designed for diarrhea sufferers are also effective. Fighters can also begin eating to replace weight lost through dieting, focusing on carbohydrates to fuel the body for the upcoming fight.