The case against cutting weight

In any weight based sport, people will try to game the system.  This can be something as simple as sweating out as much water as you can before weigh ins, to something a lot more complicated and grueling.  They say that most UFC welterweights walk around at or a bit above  200 pounds, and middle or light heavyweights can be enormous.  In BJJ, we sometimes see a similar phenomenon.  People cut weight in order to be bigger than their opponents, in order to have a size, weight and strength advantage when they actually step on the mat.  Is this healthy for the sport, and is this healthy for the competitor?

I am going to present my views and perspectives on this subject, there are plenty of arguments FOR cutting weight, and if you do cut weight I am absolutely not trying to insult you… But…

The most I’ve ever lost/cut was when I dropped from about 217 pounds to 185.  Six months of a healthy diet got me to a walk around weight of 195, but this wasn’t a comfortable weight for me, my most comfortable weight is around 200.  What’s 5 pounds?  5 pounds is the ability to eat what I want when I want.  When I was 217, I ate too much of what I wanted and wasn’t physically active enough, but at 200-205 I am healthy and can roll for hours at a time without getting tired.  But on the same token, if I were a UFC fighter, chance are I’d have to cut down to 170 to even stand a chance.  Plus I am sponsored by Amy Joy Donuts a local donut chain and quite frankly I really like eating their products…

When I cut down to 185, I didn’t feel good.  Everything was sore, my gas tank always felt only half full, and honestly I just wasn’t comfortable at that weight.  At 200, I move faster and more fluidly, I feel more stable.  There are plenty of people who would rather be bigger than their opponents, but for me, at least to a certain degree, being bigger isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Jiu Jitsu is all about enabling people with a physical deficit to level the playing field with technique.  If I’m 5-10 pounds lighter than my opponents, and they are stronger than I am, but I have superior technique, I’ll win regardless.  Look at Andre Galvao who competes relatively light, but still sometimes enters the heavier brackets; he doesn’t lose because he’s smaller than the other guy…

Ultimately, cutting weight is all about enhancing your body relative to your opponents’.  That is to say: you are making yourself bigger than your opponents by decreasing your weight with the intention of entering a lower weight class.  That’s what you’re doing.  Is that on a philosophical level different from using performance enhancing drugs?  If the rules allow it, and it gives you an advantage, go for it, but there’s a reason the IBJJF makes competitors weigh in mat-side.

The next time you cut weight think about it like this: would you rather be bigger/stronger than your opponents?  Or would you rather perform up to your maximum potential by not partially dehydrating yourself prior to competing?  Very often, in an absolute division, the guy who wins isn’t the biggest/strongest guy in the room… Why do you think that is?


  1. The weight cutting issue is a sore in the mma world, remember Anthony Johnson shenenigans cutting to 170lbs? Of course I see the advantage of cutting weight and then rehidrating like a balloon, so you can ragdol someone. But is it fair? Nope, not in my book.


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