Making weight is part and parcel of competing in a combat sport. It goes with the territory. I’m not going to get into a discussion here about the rights or wrongs of fighters dropping large amounts of weight prior to the weigh-in; I’m also not going to talk about the practical aspects of the weight cut. I’ve written about all that elsewhere, and I’ll review some of it in another article.
In the past, I’ve said some pretty scathing things about fighters failing to make weight. Recently, though, I’ve seen it happening to quite a few fighters I know who appear to be doing things right, and who have every intention of coming in on weight. Perhaps I’m mellowing as I get older, or perhaps, like most people, I just tend to be more understanding when it’s someone I know.
I’ve always believed that fighters should do a test weight cut when making a new weight class for the first time. Signing the contract and then just hoping for the best is a recipe for trouble – realistically, for a big weight cut it can take a few tries to really get the hang of it.
That’s not the only problem though. Even if you’ve made the weight class without any trouble before, the human body isn’t totally predictable. This seems to be especially true for female fighters. It’s possible to make weight perfectly for one fight, and then do everything exactly the same way the next time, and come in several pounds heavier. Throw in a few extra variables and you can end up way off.
So, what’s the answer? Just accept that fighters are going to miss weight on occasion? I’m not a fan of that approach – coming in overweight looks unprofessional, whatever the reason. With possible financial penalties for missing weight, not to mention potentially costing you a title shot, it can be an expensive mistake.
I think a large part of the problem is that fighters are increasingly leaving themselves too little margin for error.
There are any number of things that can mess up a weight cut, from hormones, to issues with travel, to differences between your scales and the official ones, or the sauna breaking down. If I’m fighting at 115 lbs, and I can just about make 115 on a good day, then sooner or later it’s inevitable that something will go wrong. If I’m serious about always making weight, then I’d want to be able – at a push – to make 112, most of the time. I want to know that I could have made 112, right up to the point where I step on the scales at 115. Of course, everyone’s margin for error will be slightly different – it depends on knowing your body, and what you’re comfortable with. But if you rely on everything going to plan, it’ll probably backfire sooner or later.