Should I Cut Weight For A Jiu-Jitsu Tournament?

Cutting weight is one of the most frequently discussed topics before a jiu-jitsu tournament, and while there are times when it’s a good idea to drop a few pounds to give yourself an advantage in a lower weight class, there are many more times when it’s a bad idea.

Many high-level athletes cut weight to make sure that they can squeeze into a lower division, often eating and rehydrating shortly thereafter to return to their “walking” weight. This can give some competitors a boost. Others, however, may find themselves weaker or even straight-up unwell after a weight cut.

Unless your coach or dietician has told you otherwise, you probably shouldn’t cut weight if:

1. You’re a lower belt.
At the white belt and blue belt level (and some would argue even the purple belt level as well), there simply isn’t enough at stake to warrant a weight cut that would leave you dehydrated, hungry, and weak before a tournament. At the lower levels of BJJ, you’re more likely to go up against competitors who make dumb and dangerous mistakes, and you will likely make similar mistakes as well. You need to be as healthy and strong as possible to defend yourself and keep a clear head in the middle of a match. When you’re giving your all in a competition, your goal at this level should be to test your jiu-jitsu and walk off the mats safely to train another day. While having big titles to your name as a white or blue belt will be cool to mention when you achieve bigger things later in your jiu-jitsu career, you won’t get that far if you’re risking your health for the sake of a gold medal that, no offense, won’t mean that much in the grand scheme of your BJJ career.

2. It’s a small tournament.
Local tournaments are great for, again, testing your skills in a competitive environment. They can also open up the door for bigger opportunities such as superfights and sponsorships as time goes on. Generally speaking, though, unless there are significant prizes or opportunities on the line at that particular competition, stay within a weight class where you feel your best unless you know for certain that you can cut weight and quickly bounce back.

3. You have a very small number of people in your division.
This mainly applies to local tournaments in which divisions often get combined if there are only one or two people in a weight class. If you’re worried about being a pound or two too heavy to compete in a division, email the event coordinator and ask if weight classes are likely to be combined if there’s a lack of opponents. There’s no point in putting additional stress on yourself before a competition if you’ll end up competing against people who aren’t in your chosen weight class anyway.

4. You have existing health issues or must take drastic measures to lose the “extra” weight.
Significant weight cuts should always be done under the supervision of someone who knows what they’re doing. The internet doesn’t count as “someone who knows what they’re doing.” Even professional athletes who have a whole team of coaches and dietitians to help them cut weight safely often experience health issues, and there are plenty of stories about MMA fighters and jiu-jitsu competitors fainting or getting sick because of weight cuts gone wrong. Competitors with pre-existing health issues should exercise even more caution when losing weight for a tournament. Chances are if a weight-cutting method seems a bit drastic, it is too drastic, especially if you’re trying to do it alone.

5. You’re worried about making weight even with a weight cut.
There are few things more frustrating in a BJJ competition than cutting weight, only to still not make weight when it’s time to step on the scale. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try at all to get down to a lower weight class — it just means that if you know you struggle to lose weight as it is, are having trouble shedding those final few pounds, or are in the middle or upper end of your walking weight division, ask yourself if the risk of not making weight is worth the effort you’re putting in to drop a weight class. Being disqualified for being over the weight limit is far worse than having to compete in a heavier weight class.


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