Why Are MMA Fighters So Skinny?

By Logan •  Updated: 01/07/22 •  4 min read

MMA fighters are skinny because lean muscle is better for endurance fighting, larger muscles require more oxygen, they may be in a lower weight class, and because fighters cut water weight before fights.

MMA, also known as mixed martial arts, is an increasingly popular form of martial arts that is not only practiced in almost every large city but watched by millions of viewers on television. 

Before MMA, everyone was more familiar with bulky boxers and professional wrestlers, but when MMA rose in popularity, people began asking, why are MMA fighters so skinny?

Why Are MMA Fighters So Skinny?

Why Are Mma Fighters Not Ripped? 

There are a number of reasons why MMA fighters are not ripped like participants in other combat sports, but the most important reason is that heavy muscles can actually hinder an MMA fighter’s performance.

MMA fighters need lean muscle for endurance more than they need big muscles for strength. MMA fighters have to be able to fight for long periods of time, so lean muscle built through high repetition workouts is key. 

Large muscles are what give fighters a ‘ripped’ appearance, and these muscles are built through low repetition, high weight workouts. These types of muscles are good for strength, but they aren’t helpful for endurance. 

Simply put, a skinnier body packed with lean muscle will be able to last a lot longer in an endurance fight than a bulky body. 

Why Do UFC Fighters Weigh So Little?

Before a fight, UFC fighters must attend something called a weigh-in. During this weigh-in, the fighter’s weight is taken to make sure that they fit within the parameters of their weight class. 

In order to do this, while also keeping as much muscle as possible, the fighters will go through a process called cutting weight. In actuality, the fighters don’t lose any of their hard-earned lean muscle or fat when they cut weight. Instead, they’re shedding water weight, sometimes up to 30 pounds of it!

Once the weigh-in is over, the fighters can rehydrate their bodies for 24 hours before the fight.

Fighters cut their water weight by restricting both food and water, and in some cases, visiting saunas for extended periods of time. 

Strangely, water weight can be gained back swiftly. It can be recouped so quickly, in fact that fighters are often back up to their normal weight before their fight begins, after only 24 hours of rehydration!

Do MMA Fighters Gain Weight?

MMA fighters may gain weight to move up a weight class to potentially make more money, but moving up a weight class in a short amount of time can take a toll on a fighter’s body. 

Most of the time, MMA fighters want to have a tiny amount of body fat, between 6%-13%. As we mentioned earlier, lean muscle is the key to staying in fighting shape during long, drawn-out UFC matches.

Occasionally, though, a fighter will want to make a little more cash by moving up a weight class. The higher the weight class, the more money is earned by the fighter.

 If a fighter in a lower weight class is teetering on the edge of moving up a class, they may employ some tactics to gain some extra pounds quickly. 

MMA fighters may eat an excessive amount of carbohydrates, drink large amounts of fluid, and consume significant amounts of salt before a weigh in, to bump their weight up as much as possible. 

The downside to this rapid weight gain is that a fighter’s body will feel more sluggish and difficult to move, especially if they’ve spent a lot of time weighing significantly less. 

In Summary


Hi, I've been an avid MMA fan all my life. I've been training in martial arts for the last 5 years and wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way to help to aspiring martial artists get started.

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