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The research is clear—extreme weight cutting can (1) cause kidney damage, (2) increase a fighter’s risk for concussions, (3) make current concussion symptoms worse, and (4) cost a fighter their life. But can it also help fighters win their bouts in the Octagon? Unfortunately, the answer to the last question appears to be “yes”.
Researchers estimate that as many as 90% of combat athletes engage in extreme weight cutting. I personally have traumatic memories from sitting in a sauna wearing a plastic garbage bag, spitting into a paper cup while taking notes in class, and staring at family with hunger-induced rage as they got to eat Thanksgiving dinner. I always figured there must be a pretty big advantage to cutting weight because no sane person would put themselves through this amount of suffering. Right? Right?
Rapid weight gain predicts fight success in mixed martial arts – evidence from 1,400 weigh-ins (2021)
Faro et al. (2021) reported on the relationship between rapid weight-gain following an official weigh-in and the outcomes of MMA competitions. Their analysis included a massive sample of 700 professional MMA fights involving 1,400 weigh-ins from 21 MMA promotions.
What did they find? For the first time researchers were able to show that the % of rapid weight-gain significantly predicted the outcome of MMA bouts. Specifically, for each percentage of additional rapid weight-gain relative to a fighter’s opponent, their chance of winning increased by 4.5%. As a man named Nate once asked, “so it works?” Yes, yes it does.
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