Cutting weight is a common practice among MMA fighters. Today we take a look at the weight cuts that pushed the limits of what was safe, or should have been allowed.
One of the most common, yet controversial practices in all of combat sports is that of weight cutting. Oftentimes, fighters will employ a method of dieting and dropping a ton of water weight, in order to step on the scale at weigh ins, and meet the limit of a weight class. This allows for a perceived size advantage on fight night, as athletes are given the opportunity to rehydrate, and come into the Octagon at a much heavier weight than whatever they weighed the day prior.
That being said, some fighters have a tendency to push the limits on how many pounds they can drop. This has led to some serious weight cuts that cause concern to those watching by. Today we take a look at some particular instances, where fighters took things to the next level, nearly taking things too far.
These are the Top 15 Worst Weight Cuts in UFC History.
15. Mackenzie Dern – UFC 224
When transitioning from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to MMA, there was a ton of hype surrounding Mackenzie Dern. This excitement would turn to feelings of concern, as she would miss the strawweight mark of 115lb in two of her three professional fights. This even led her to moving up in weight, competing at flyweight.
Unfortunately this would not do enough to end Dern’s problem with weight cuts. After moving back down to strawweight and signing with the UFC, her second fight in the promotion would see her most egregious error to date, when she weighed in a whopping 7lb over the 115lb mark. This was one of the worst weigh in attempts in UFC history, but seemed to serve as wake up call, as she has been without error since, at the time of writing.
14. Jessica Eye – UFC on ESPN: Eye vs Calvillo
Heading into her main even bout in June of 2020, Jessica Eye was expected to be something of a sacrificial lamb, to rising star Cynthia Calvillo. She had just one victory since fighting for the flyweight title, and she missed weight by a massive 6lb for the fight. However this was not a one-time issue for “Evil” Eye.
Taking to the scales, Eye weighed in at 126.25, just a quarter of a pound over the one-pound allowance for non-title fight. Although this was not as bad of a miss as her previous outing, what makes this one of the worst weight cuts in UFC history, is her demeanor on the scale. Despite the ability to take some time to cut the last bit of weight, Jessica, who was struggling to stand, said that she was done and could not cut anymore. It is not often to see a fighter quit so close to the mark, so that shows how hard this was for her to do.
13. Renan Barao – UFC 177
Even while sitting atop the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings, and reigning as bantamweight champion, Renan Barao notoriously had a tough time with the weight cuts to 135lb. Yet these troubles did not truly catch up to the Brazilian until after he lost his title that things began to really catch up to him.
The most notorious example of this came prior to his scheduled rematch with TJ Dillashaw, at UFC 177, where he passed out while trying to cut the weight, hitting his head on a bathtub and being forced out of the contest. Yet this only marked the beginning of his weight issues, as he would miss the mark two more times, even coming in as heavy as 5.75lb over.
12. Yoel Romero – UFC 221, UFC 225
The legacy of Yoel Romero would be much different, had it not been for his issues with weight cuts. The Cuban was granted four opportunities to fight for an interim or undisputed title, but missed weight for two of them in a row, making him ineligible for the title. This led to him not winning the interim belt, despite knocking out Luke Rockhold.
The most Romero came in heavy, was 2.7lb over the 185lb title fight limit. Nevertheless, even when he made weight, he would look absolutely drained in the process. Considering how much of a powerhouse he is physically, it is more surprising that he has been able to make it to 185lb, more than it is that he missed weight.
11. Chris Weidman – UFC On Fox 2
Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman never missed weight in his career. Being an NCAA wreslter, he grew up about the process of weight cuts, and as such was ultra professional. That being said, this does not mean it was not a hard task.
By far, the worst Weidman ever looked on the scales was prior to his bout with Demian Maia at UFC on Fox 2. Prior to the fight, Chris was super heavy, and needed to drop 32lb in 10 days. He would somehow make the 185lb mark, cutting 17lb of water weight in 24 hours, and looked horrendous along the way.
10. Daniel Cormier – UFC 214
Another fighter who is ever-professional, Daniel Cormier never missed weight, even when there have been some controversies. However it was clearly much more challenging for him to make weight when he dropped from heavyweight to light heavyweight. Even though be has a bit of a rounded physique, he still tends to have pretty big weight cuts for his fights at 205lb.
The true extent of the difficulties he had making weight were seen at UFC 214. Prior to his rematch with Jon Jones, DC stepped on scales, looking sickly. With his face sunken in, and him clearly dehydrated, this was one of the worst situations he had put himself in before a fight. He would go on to lose the contest via TKO, before it was overturned to a No Contest.
9. Craig White – UFC Fight Night 130
When he got the call to fight Neil Magny in a welterweight bout on two week’s notice, Craig White was more than willing to step up. The only problem was that he weighed 216lb, meaning he needed to lose 46lb in 14 days. What ensued was one of the most dangerous weight cuts to ever occur in the UFC.
Surviving on a 600 calorie diet, and utilizing a lot of hot baths to drop the weight, White somehow make the 171lb limit. However this did not come without cost, as he was left only getting about two hours of sleep a night in order to have enough time to lose all of the weight. In the end, he would lost the bout by TKO in the first, so there are questions as to how worth it this dangerous action was for him.
8. Johny Hendricks – UFC Fight Night 112, UFC 200, UFC 207
Unfortunately the career of former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks is known more for it’s lows, rather than it’s highs. He has had a career of two parts: the first part that saw him nearly defeat Georges St. Pierre, before winning the title GSP left vacant, and the part after he lost the title, that saw an extreme decline in his results in the cage. Of course, the biggest hurdle that was seen, came in the form of his difficult weight cuts.
The first of these weight cutting issues began at the titular UFC 200 card, when he was slated to face Kelvin Gastelum, but came in a quarter of a pound over the limit. With his trademarked beard shaved, the drained look on his face was clear. His very next fight would see him miss weight by an even bigger amount, causing the UFC to force him to make the move to middleweight. However this would not serve as the end of his weight misses, as he hit the scales two pounds heavy in just his second fight at the new weight class. This, combined with the fact that he went 2-5 since losing his title, led to his retirement from MMA in 2017.
7. Kenny Florian – UFC 136
When Kenny Florian competed on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, he did so at middleweight. Despite making it to the finals, it was clear that he was far undersized for the division. He would immediately compete in the welterweight division for his next two fights, before moving to what was his natural weight class of 155lb.
For the most part, Florian found a ton of success in this division, earning multiple cracks at gold. However when it was clear that he would not be able to beat the best at lightweight, he opted to try his hand at one more weight class: featherweight. Although he made weight in both of his two fights at 145lb, his second bout in the division, for the title against Jose Aldo, would see Ken-Flo embark on one of the most horrifying weight cuts ever. After looking like death incarnate at the weigh ins, he would lose by decision, and retire shortly thereafter.
6. Max Holloway – UFC 218
Although we have come to discover that Max Holloway is a bit small for lightweight at the moment, that does not mean his weight cuts to 145lb are easy. The former featherweight champion is known for his love of sweets, and that has led to him putting on a few more pounds than what he would normally prefer. As a result, he has looked pretty scary when weighing in.
The most brutal example of this came when Holloway was when he was looking for his second title defense, in an immediate rematch against Jose Aldo. When he took to the scales, the normally jovial and light-hearted Holloway was silent and solemn, with his face severely sucked in. It was one of the worst things we have ever seen him go through, even compared to some of his fights inside the cage.
5. Mizuto Hirota – UFC Fight Night Japan
Taking on Rani Yahya in 2013, Mizuto Hirota almost could not make it to the contest. Before the featherweight debut, the UFC veteran tried to take the scale to meet the 146lb limit. However he nearly passed out on the scale, due to him having one of the scariest weight cuts ever seen.
Needing assistance to make it to the scale, Hirota stood while the measurements were taken. After successfully weighing in, he began to sway backwards, looking like he was going to pass out. Luckily he was assisted off the platform, ultimately making to fight night, and losing a unanimous decision.
4. James Irvin – UFC On Versus 1
By far, James Irvin is one of the worst examples of how bad weight cuts can go for a UFC fighter. The longtime veteran traditionally fought at light heavyweight, but after getting battered by Anderson Silva in the Brazilian’s 205lb debut, he decided it was time to make a change. Therefore he opted to drop down to 185lb.
Irvin’s one and only fight at middleweight saw him push his body to the limits. Prior to his fight against Alessio Sakara, the California native drained every bit of his water weight to reach 185lb, looking completely unrecognizable at the weigh ins. This dangerous decision led to criticism from Dana White, and after he lost that fight, he would return to a more healthy position at light heavyweight.
3. Kevin Lee – UFC 216
Kevin Lee was not going to let anything stop him from making it to his interim lightweight title fight against Tony Ferguson. As it turned out, the Motown Phenom was actually bold enough to hide the fact that he had staph infection from the athletic commission. That being said, it was pretty clear to see the spot on his chest, especially during the weigh ins.
As a result of this battle with staph, Lee had one of the hardest weight cuts of his entire career. Saying that it almost killed him, he missed weight at first, but managed to cut the rest of the weight, to make the championship limit. In the end however, these factors would lead to him gassing out in the bout, losing via submission.
2. Conor McGregor – UFC Fight Night Boston
When UFC superstar Conor McGregor was first rocketing through the promotion, he was doing so by competing at featherweight. However these weight cuts to 145lb were always extremely challenging. Frankly, all of his featherweight fights could end up on this list, for how poorly he looked on the scale.
That being said, there is one particular event that really stood out with it’s brutality. When McGregor was set to fight Dennis Siver, he weighed in at his required weight limit. Yet his gaunt and sunken appearance garnered a ton of negative press afterwards, leaving fans concerned to see him like that. Nevertheless he won that fight, as well as the rest of his fights at featherweight, before moving up and understably never looking back.
1. Anthony Johnson – UFC 106, UFC 142
By far the biggest poster child for unbelievable weight cuts is Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Before he was a gigantic bodybuilder, and even before he was sending light heavyweights into the ether, Johnson somehow used to fight at welterweight. Although there were times he missed weight, his most disturbing appearance was when he made weight before fighting against Josh Koscheck.
This issue was still evident when Johnson was forced up to middleweight by the UFC. He was set to face Vitor Belfort but missed weight by an insane 12lb, leading to his release from the UFC. After this, he found his true place at light heavyweight, making his way back to the UFC, and fighting for the title on two separate occasions.
What did you think of our list? Were there any brutal weight cuts that we missed?