Weight cutting in mixed martial arts is a dangerous prospect. Fighters will oftentimes shed anywhere between 20 to 40 pounds of their body weight in the weeks leading up to a fight so that they can be the bigger combatant in the cage. However, doing so carries significant risks to one's overall health, and can even affect fighter performance.
So why do they do it?
"We do it because everybody does it. Everybody cuts weight," said UFC flyweight Paige "12 gauge" VanZant in an interview with MMAFighting.
VanZant used to compete in the UFC's strawweight division, which has a limit of 115 pounds. However, before beginning the process of cutting weight, PVZ would weigh about 138 pounds. She described her weight cutting routine, starting with the changes to her diet she would make in the weeks leading up to a fight, including cutting out all sodium. She'd drop about a half pound a day.
During one particularly difficult weight cut, VanZant weighed in 10 pounds over the limit the day before the fight. So it was off to the sauna, where she would don a plastic suit and work out, attempting to drain herself of water in the form of sweat. When she was too exhausted to do that, she went to her hotel room, ran the bath as hot as it would go, poured salt and alcohol into the water, turned on her faucets and a hair dryer, and would continue to sweat this way.
VanZant said a friend who had helped her set up her bathroom for the weight cut would return later to find her passed out.
"I was killing myself for this," said VanZant.
"12 gauge" has since moved up in weight to the newly created flyweight division, which has a 125 pound weight limit. She'll have a much easier cut, and is far less likely to hurt herself in the process. Her next fight goes down Jan. 14 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. She faces off against fellow UFC flyweight Jessica-Rose Clark.