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How Do MMA Fighters Gain Weight So Quickly?

Robert Green
Published: September 19, 2021
Updated: July 11, 2023

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Weight is an important aspect of MMA and will determine which weight division you fight in. While most fighters aim to lose weight to enter a lower weight division, they try to put on more weight between the weigh-in and the actual fight. This may lead you to ask, “how do MMA fighters gain weight so quickly?”.

Gaining weight in MMA is a tricky aspect and it will require a balancing act between exercise and diet, to successfully reach the targeted weight. This is fairly simple to do over a few months, but will become significantly harder in the 24 to 36 hours before the match.

When Does A MMA Weigh-In Happen?

Fighters attend a weigh-in anywhere between 24 and 36 hours before the fight. This is done to prevent the fighters from gaining too much weight before the fight. Since this would render the weight divisions useless. 

Before the weigh-in, many fighters put their bodies under extreme pressure to lose enough to make weight in the division they would like to fight in. Weighing close to the maximum of a weight division will give fighters an advantage over their opponent.

Within the short time frame between the weigh-in and the fight, it is physically possible to only put on a certain amount of weight, which won’t affect the fight too much, but fighters would prefer to have the subtle edge over their opponent. 

Fighters aim to capitalize on this short time frame by implementing smart techniques to gain weight without affecting their ability to perform in the ring. Fighters do not simply eat as much food as possible after the weigh-in, instead, they implement a few smart tactics with the help of trainers and dietitians.

How Do MMA Fighters Meet Weight Requirements?

Many professional fighters in a weight division usually weigh quite a few pounds over the weight limit. To be successful in the sport, fighters need to use any advantages they possibly can, no matter how small the advantage may seem. 

Fighting in a lower division at just over the maximum weight is better than fighting in a higher weight division where you weigh the least out of the group. Since weight has a huge impact on the fight, it is best to choose the former option. 

Since fighters usually weigh more, they need to cut down their weight quite drastically before the official weigh-in. While they have more time to lose weight, through long-term methods like conditioning training, they also need to think of how to gain weight back before the fight, so it needs to be a more drastic process.

Weight Cutting

Fighters lose a lot of weight by implementing a tactic known as weight cutting about five days before the fight, which can be quite dangerous if it is not done correctly and with the help of trained dieticians and professionals. 

Fighters lose this weight by almost starving themselves and consuming a severely low-calorie diet leading up to the weigh-in. The fighters also dehydrate themselves to lose more weight. Some professional fighters aim to lose up to 15 pounds, although the UFC has now put a 10% weight loss limitation on fighters.

After this extreme weight loss, the fighters need to put some of the weight back on to gain the advantage. The fighters also need to restore their body’s functioning to help them perform optimally during the fight. This is another tricky element and is done with strict supervision by their professional team. 

How Do MMA Fighters Gain Weight So Quickly?

As soon as the official weigh-in is over, fighters look to gain their weight back. This process has to be done carefully to not give the fighter adverse side effects during the fight. Simply overeating and consuming large quantities of water will lead to bloating and will disadvantage them in the fight.

Fighters undergo a strict program of consuming calories, drinking water, and ingesting electrolytes to repair their bodies. This is done during set intervals throughout the day and a half leading up to the fight.

Fighters will consume healthy foods with protein and nutrients to restore the nutrition they lost during weight cutting. These foods are usually consumed in small portions every 30 minutes throughout the day. 

The food consists of vegetables, carbs, and lean proteins to restore your body to optimal functioning. By eating small meals, they allow their bodies to easily digest the food without overburdening their system.

Since the fighters are quite dehydrated, they need to rehydrate before the fight, or else they will lose stamina and focus during the match. Fighters rehydrate themselves by consuming between three to five gallons of electrolytes and water at intervals before the fight. This will also help them gain back their weight.

The hydration process also improves their digestive system and restores their muscles functioning. While they rarely hydrate back to 100% before the fight, they get enough to fight safely without endangering themselves.

MMA Weight Gain FAQs

How much weight do MMA fighters gain after a weigh-in?

Fighters can gain anywhere between two and ten pounds after the weigh-in, but this will depend on how much the fighter lost from his natural weight. Fighters should only lose about 2% of their weight to be able to safely reach their natural weight before the fight.

Is weight gain after an MMA weigh-in legal?

Yes, it is legal to gain weight after the weigh-in as the fight is too soon to allow excessive weight gain. However, certain unsafe methods of this process have been banned, such as fighters severely dehydrating themselves before hooking up to an IV drip after weigh-in.

The Final Load

While weight cutting and restoring the weight after the official weigh-in is allowed, it is extremely important for fighters to be careful during this process. Professional fighters have the help and supervision of expert nutritionists and a team of doctors. Thus, you should never attempt these tactics without expert help.

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