Weight Cutting for BJJ Tournaments

pre-register-now-400x400With the Mind Body Soul growing in popularity every year we need to adapt.  It is a great thing to have more people coming out.  The more people we have the more divisions we can make to keep the competition fair.

This year we have several new divisions to accommodate the growing interest.

What weight should you be when you compete?

Many BJJ competitors struggle with challenge, beginners and advanced alike.

In the past, BJJ events locally would allow night before or early morning weigh ins.  This wasn’t to offer anyone a particular advantage but to help make the registration process be smoother.  This turned out to be not so useful once the tournament scene grew larger.

At major events competitors must weigh in right before their first match, failure to be in the registered weight class means disqualification.  It might even seem like most of the guys there are meticulously cutting weight.  This offers a difficult challenge, how much weight should you cut and still be able to compete at you best?

Short answer… DON’T CUT WEIGHT!

Cutting weight should be reserved for elite athletes and only for top level events.


Weight Cut or Weight Loss?

What’s the difference?  Weight cutting is shedding weight quickly, typically through expelling the water in your body.  This is usually done over a 4-6 day period and very common amongst MMA fighters (who weigh in the night before).  Weight loss is done over a much longer timeframe and is focused around reduced calorie intake and lowering body fat.

By cutting weight, and thus your water intake, you put your body under a greater stress even when not performing physical activities.  Many athletes believe it is better for them to shed a few pound of water to be the “Bigger/Stronger” in their division.  This is counter productive if cutting that weight makes you under perform.

Weigh-In Timing and Gi Versus No Gi

In an official IBJJF tournament, you step on the scale right before your first match.  The time between stepping on the scale and competition is too small for cutting weight and recovering properly.Some tournaments offer competitors the option to weigh in the day before. So, for a Saturday tournament, competitors are allowed to weigh in the day before.  This is something we have done in the past but are moving away from.

Why BJJ Athletes Should Not Cut Weight

The majority of BJJ competitors should not cut weight. This may be the opposite of what most people think, but from a performance standpoint, cutting weight for a tournament is not ideal.

The fact is that when two competitors meet in the later rounds of a tournament, they are both are skilled. If they were not, they would have lost before this point. Now imagine one competitor has cut weight, drinking little water and eating barely anything in the days before the tournament in order to make the cut. The second competitor chose not to cut. He ate a good breakfast and has been drinking plenty of water. The second competitor is going to be able to push harder than his opponent. With skill being equal, the competitor who is able to push harder is going to win. When the body is depleted of nutrients, performance is also depleted.


Cutting Weight is a Mistake for Beginners

A mistake new competitors make is trying to follow the training methods of more advanced competitors. Competitors in the white-belt level are cutting weight for a tournament. Even worse, they are cutting weight for a small local tournament. As a beginning competitor, the focus should be on BJJ itself. The stress of cutting weight is not necessary. Focus on your training. It does not matter if you cut twenty pounds for a tournament. If you do not know how to escape the mount, it will not make a difference.

The majority of BJJ competitors work full time and compete for fun. Competitors at the master and senior level have to balance the stress of work, family, and training. All that stress is going to negatively affect hormone levels. Adding in the stress of cutting weight on top of all that will further reduce performance instead of help it.

BJJ Athletes Who Should Cut Weight

The only people who should cut weight are high-level competitors competing in a tournament with day-before weigh-ins. Remember, cutting weight means a rapid loss of weight often involving fluid and/or food restriction. With day-before weigh-ins there is enough time to replenish fluid and nutrients that have been depleted. If done properly, 24 hours is enough time to replenish.

Additionally, the only guys who should be cutting weight are the brown and black belts. That does not mean the average brown belt should cut weight. It means brown or black belts who make their living or plan to make their living through BJJ can cut weight.

The first few times a competitor cuts weight are not going to be fun. Your first tournament as a brown belt is not the best time to try your first weight cut. Instead do a few practice cuts when you don’t have a competition coming up. Many academies have open mat on Saturday. Pick an open mat training session and pretend it’s a tournament. Follow your weight-cutting plan as you would for the real event. Weigh in on Friday. Then, on Saturday, head to your open mat and roll hard like in competition. Make note of how the whole process went and how your performance feels. Adjustments may need to be made, but it is better to find out ahead of time than at a real tournament.

Again, all this applies only to day-before weigh-ins. Same-day weigh-ins are a game changer even for the high-level brown and black belts. Weight cutting is never recommended in that scenario.

BJJ, weight cutting, competition, performance, weight class

Alternatives to Cutting Weight

Up to this point we have focused on the rapid reduction of weight that should be done by only a select few. On the other hand, everyone can benefit from improved body compensation. BJJ competition requires the participant to perform at a fast pace for at least five minutes. Depending on the tournament size, a competitor can expect multiple matches during each of which he or she must maintain a high performance level.

To get an edge over the competition, a competitor should carry a high strength-to-weight ratio. Improving this ratio requires the competitor to focus on nutrition and strength training for months, if not years, leading up to a competition. If your goal is to compete at the Pan Ams, then all your efforts should focus on that. Slow and steady strength gains and body fat reduction will add up. All the other tournaments leading up to the Pans are just warm-ups. Show up and compete at whatever weight you are.


Cutting weight is not for everyone. For newer competitors, time and effort should be spent on learning Brazilian jiu jitsu, increasing strength, and reducing body fat. The only competitors who should cut weight are those in the brown and black belt categories and for tournaments that allow day-before weigh-ins.


YAY!!! We are are good to go. If you have any questions please email me at mYackulic@ArashiDo.com

Register BEFORE May 15 to get early bird prices.  You can still register up until May 27 though.

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