Combat sports have weight categories for very good reason. Fairness. Yes, skill, speed, mobility, timing, fitness etc are all tools that can be used to level the playing field, it is the whole point of having a skill set, but the bigger the weight difference, the more of these attributes are needed to equal the balance and make a fair contest. Being outgunned by an opponent with more weight and power behind their attacks is a very real, and significant obstacle to overcome, and requires your skills and abilities to be substantially superior to theirs. It is by no means impossible to beat somebody bigger, heavier and more durable than yourself, but it does make it that much harder, and even more so in sports such as MMA, which include grappling. Obviously, like the other factors listed, weight can never be an exact match between opponents, but it can be within boundaries of proximity. I have first hand experience of getting this wrong, being almost 10kg lighter than an opponent, leaving no margin for error at all. As it was, I did make one hell of an error, leaving myself open for a well timed shin across the face, and ended up unconscious and lying through the ropes, half out of the ring. Lesson learned!

 

From then on, I did not intend to lose weight, but over about 8 months I lost 9kg, which meant dropping from middleweight to welterweight. It was over a long period of time, and one thing I have managed to do is settle at that weight.

 

I was at a fight show last weekend (thankfully my own performance does not need to be mentioned in this article) and one of my team mates, after completing 3 x 3 minute rounds of full contact K1 kickboxing, suffered from dizziness, and couldn’t stop shaking. It took a lot of sugary drinks and a bit of time to get him to settle again. This was due to more than one factor, but arguably the biggest, was rapid weight cut within a short space of time.

 

In an ideal world, weigh ins would always be 1-2 days before an event to give time for the competitors to rehydrate, raise sugar levels etc. The tragic death of a kickboxer in the US last year brought that exact issue to the headlines. However, most of us aren’t at a level of competition where we have the luxury of making it to the venue 1-2 days prior to the event. Only the very top competitors don’t need to have another job, and for competitors such as myself, competing is not going to pay the bills, and we therefore work full time. So we have no option but to weigh in on the day. If all shows insisted on weighing in the day before, at best, only local fighters would compete on local shows, as not enough people would be able to travel. It could potentially be the death of fight shows below top professional level. This however, leaves the issues around competitors needing to continue whatever dieting routine they have needed to follow, right up until the last minute, give or take a matter of hours.

 

I am sometimes staggered by the amount of weight some fighters have to lose in order to compete at their target weight. It can really reach the extreme in some cases, and I sometimes wonder at the long term health risks involved with continually losing and gaining weight, in some cases by 10kg or more. I have seen fighters enter the ring looking dangerously gaunt, and seen them lose their energy very rapidly in what is a highly stressful environment for the human body to be in. This is supposed to be beneficial to our health, but I cannot see treating ourselves in this way as being the least bit conducive to long term wellbeing.

 

In order to compete, especially in full contact combat sports, the body needs enough fuel to keep going, to be sufficiently hydrated to process the energy and keep the brain focussed, and have enough fat, not only to act as back up energy, but to help absorb impact and blunt trauma.

 

I promised myself a long time ago, taking the advice of an experienced kickboxing instructor, that I would not do this to myself. Yes I made the error I mentioned above, when I should have walked away from an unequal contest, but I have never had to cut more than 1-2kg to make weight. I have always settled near to my fighting weight and tried to maintain that as a constant. Don’t get me wrong, I do not live and eat like a monk, far from it. My partner thinks my diet is terrible, but I would argue that I eat all of my food groups, and include foods that are conducive to my training. I believe that if I were to join dieting groups, then I would be consistently rebuked about my intake of carbohydrates, but I do not follow such a regime. I just work on the theory that if you include a variety of fruit and vegetables, limit the amount of animal fat and red meat, and neither starve, nor bloat yourself, added to training hard and regularly, then the body should be able use what you give it in a constructive way. I’m not claiming that what I do is perfect, nor would I say that I am either a leading authority, or an expert, but I like to think I have a good level of energy compared to a lot of younger men and women, and I would also mention that I am rarely ill.

 

The day of a fight show or competition can be stressful enough, without having to worry about being light or heavy enough, and the knock on effect of not being able to eat or drink enough until very close to the event is added and unnecessary pressure. Some competitors may feel that in order to be in this world, that they have to endure sizable adjustments to their body weight. I am of the mind that we can make things a lot easier on ourselves by not giving ourselves too much to do, in too short a space of time. This avoids risking a detrimental effect on our long term health, and our ability to be as good as we can at what we do.