How Do UFC Weigh-ins Work? (Fully Explained)

Are you wondering how UFC weigh-ins work and any changes they’ve gone through?

In this article, we’ll look at why UFC weigh-ins exist, how UFC weigh-ins work, UFC weigh-in rules, UFC weigh-in tickets, the different weigh-ins, and how and why they’ve changed over time.

What Is the Point of Weigh-ins in the UFC?

Before understanding how UFC weigh-ins work, it’s important to know why UFC weigh-ins exist.

The point of UFC weigh-ins is to make sure fighters weigh no more than the upper weight limit of their contracted weight class division the day before their fight, as agreed to in their pre-fight negotiations.

There are a total of 12 weight class divisions in the UFC, 8 divisions for men, and 4 divisions for women. 

Here’s a table showing the UFC weight classes (divisions) for both men and women:

Weight DivisionMinimum and Maximum Weight Limit
Strawweight (women only)105 to 115 lbs (47.6 to 52.16 kg)
Flyweight (men and women)115 to 125 lbs (52.16 to 56.7 kg)
Bantamweight (men and women)125 to 135 lbs (56.7 to 61.2 kg)
Featherweight (men and women)135 to 145 lbs (61.2 to 65.77 kg)
Lightweight (men only)145 to 155 lbs (65.77 to 70.3 kg)
Welterweight (men only)155 to 170 lbs (70.3 to 77.1 kg)
Middleweight (men only)170 to 185 lbs (77.1 to 83.91 kg)
Light Heavyweight (men only)185 to 205 lbs (83.91 to 93 kg)
Heavyweight (men only)205 to 265 lbs (93 to 120.2 kg)
UFC weight class divisions

How Do UFC Weigh-ins Work?

In the week before weigh-ins take place, the majority of fighters cut weight so they can meet the upper limit of their weight class.

In short, cutting weight is a weight manipulation process in which fighters flush water out of their body in order to weigh 15-25 lbs lighter than their normal weight.

Why do UFC fighters weigh in twice?

UFC fighters weigh in twice because the UFC weigh-in procedure changed in 2016, from one weigh-in to two.

The procedure changed at UFC 199 on June 4, 2016, and was as follows:

Early official weigh-in on Friday morning between 9 am-11 am

Fighters are accommodated in a hotel as paid for by the UFC, where they’re taken to the official weigh-in which starts at 9 am. The weigh-ins normally take place at the arena hosting the fights the next evening but sometimes take place in another building nearby.

When it was first changed, the official weigh-ins were conducted in a function room at the hotel the fighters were staying.

However, fighters now have two practice weigh-ins in front of a state commissioner, once at the hotel and once backstage, before entering the official weigh-in at the host event.

The official weigh-in takes place in front of commissioners and media – no fans are allowed. If a fighter misses weight the first time, they’re given up to 2 hours to make weight a second time.

If they again miss weight, there are various penalties a fighter will face, such as losing up to 30% of their total earnings from the upcoming fight, the inability to retain any bonuses they win, and the inability to progress in their weight class rankings.

Ceremonial weigh-in on Friday afternoon at 4 pm local time

After the official weigh-in, fighters have time to rehydrate before the ceremonial weigh-in, which is a promotion in front of fans and media.

Fighters are presented to the stage to weigh in, although when stepping on the scales their weight from the morning is read aloud, rather than a second weigh-in being recorded.

Prior to 2016, UFC weigh-ins worked as follows:

Official weigh-in on Friday afternoon at 4 pm local time

There was only one weigh-in, which took place live in the afternoon in front of fans and media, in what is now called the ceremonial weigh-in.

As it was a live weigh-in, fans would often see:

  • Fighters take off as much clothing as possible, even their underwear, in order to make weight.
  • Commissioners at the weight machine taking the live reading.
  • Fighters looking miserable and depleted as they hadn’t yet started to eat or rehydrate.

Why Were UFC Weigh-Ins Changed in 2016?

UFC weigh-ins were changed in 2016 because State Athletic Commissions knew weight cutting to be an issue and wanted to mitigate the negative effects. Weight cutting is well known as being dangerous and has caused many MMA fatalities.

Having fighters weigh in early the day before the fight gives them around 34 to 36 hours to rehydrate before their fight. This is an extra 5 to 7 hours more than the afternoon weigh-ins previously used.

Why is rehydrating important for UFC fighters and how does the extra time help?

  • It can take up to 72 hours for the brain to fully rehydrate, depending on how extreme the weight cut was, so weighing in early the day before gives them more time to rehydrate but still not fully rehydrate.
  • Cutting weight makes fighters weak, so a longer time to rehydrate and restore glycogen, calories, electrolytes, and sleep better, increases fight performance.
  • Dehydrated fighters are more susceptible to concussions, brain damage, and many injuries, so rehydration helps avoid these.

Why Were the New UFC Weigh-ins Causing More Fighters To Miss Weight?

When they initially changed to early weigh-ins, it worked well and fighters were making weight. However, over time it became apparent that more fighters were missing weight.

This was proven by a study that examined all UFC weigh-ins 2 years prior to the change at UFC 199, and the 2 years after.

They found fighters missing weight increased from 5.7% (prior) to 8.4% (after), and the average amount of weight they missed by increased from 2.9 lbs to 3.9 lbs.

Overall, fighters were missing weight with the earlier 9-11 am weigh-ins because it was a new system and they needed time to adapt. They’d been weighing in at 4 pm for more than a decade.

New circumstances

Fighters had new circumstances and weren’t prepared; they either had to cut overnight, be on weight and sleep early, or wake early and cut in the morning. 

Cutting weight overnight or early morning meant sacrificing sleep in order to use saunas and continue sweating, which many were not prepared to do.

For the fighters prepared to sacrifice sleep, they’d have a higher chance of making weight the next morning but were now at risk of potentially messing up their sleep schedule just one day out before a fight.

This is because they’re likely to sleep before the afternoon ceremonial weigh-in, and this further causes issues as they’re no longer rehydrating throughout the day; the problem the early weigh-ins were meant to solve in the first place.

For a UFC fighter to rehydrate, they drink 1 liter (2.2 lbs) of water per hour as this is the most the body can absorb.

The body will lose 25% of this water as urine, so over 16 hours (8 hours of sleep) a UFC fighter can replenish 12 liters of water or roughly 26.4 lbs – the majority of a fighter’s weight.

Although they can replenish most if not all of their body weight, the brain and body are still not fully rehydrated, which is why a regular sleep schedule and consistent rehydration leading up to the fight are so important.

International fighters were disadvantaged

Although the weigh-ins were now earlier, the UFC wasn’t flying international fighters to the event destination any earlier than before.

This meant less time for them to cut weight in their home country and more chance for long flights to disrupt the weight-cutting process before the now earlier weigh-ins.

Problem solved

Fast forward to 2022, fighters have adapted to the early weigh-ins by sleeping early the night before at their weigh-in weight. International fighters are now flown in earlier to make sure the flights aren’t interrupting weight cuts so close to the early morning weigh-in.

Why the UFC Preferred Weigh-ins Pre 2016

In 2018 the UFC was very open about preferring the previous weigh-in schedule. They wanted to change back and were communicating with athletic commissions to find a solution.

Dana White went as far as to say, “We’re getting rid of it… We’re looking at taking the weigh-ins back to the way they used to be. So when the guys weigh in there [in the afternoon], that will be it. That’ll be the real weigh-in.”

The UFC preferred weigh-ins pre-2016 because:

  • Fewer fighters missed weight, avoiding problems such as canceled fights, catchweights having to be negotiated in a short time, and title fights becoming nontitle fights.
  • The one and only afternoon weigh-in was a huge promotion for the upcoming event. They’d hype up fans who were excited to see UFC fighters weigh in, face off, and potentially shove each other – all as a way to draw attention to the UFC and sell more PPVs and subscriptions.
  • Afternoon weigh-ins had been used for over a decade and were very successful for the UFC.
  • In the new system, afternoon weigh-ins lost a big part of their attraction as fans could no longer watch fighters weigh in for real, and the already-known weight was now read aloud as fighters stepped on the scales.
  • Creating two separate weigh-in events caused more hassle and more work.

Despite their preference, after criticism from fighters who preferred the early weigh-ins and the athletic commissions not budging, early weigh-ins were kept.

Are There Any UFC Weigh-in Rules?

Yes, there are UFC weigh-in rules, and they are:

  • For title fights, fighters can’t be over the upper limit of the weight class division, and no lower than the lower limit of the division.
  • For nontitle fights, fighters can be up to 1lb heavier than the upper limit of their weight class division, but no lower than the lower limit of their division.
  • A catchweight can only be negotiated if the fighter missing weight is under 5 lbs heavier than the lower-weight fighter. As an example, if a fighter made weight at 170 lbs, the heavier fighter cannot weigh above 175 lbs.

While not UFC rules, State Athletic Commissions also have rules concerning weigh-ins, and they are:

  • If a fighter weighs in more than 5 lbs heavier than their opponent, fights are moved up to the next weight division and are no longer a catchweight. In this case, commissions have the power to cancel bouts if they feel the weight disparity is large enough to make the fight unsafe.
  • In 2019 the California State Athletic Commission introduced a rule which meant a fight would be canceled if either fighter weighed more than 15% above the contracted division’s upper weight limit on the day of the event. This is to prevent extreme weight cutting.
  • Not a rule in print, but it’s generally accepted that a fighter only gets a second chance to make weight if they’re not overweight by more than 2 lbs.

Are There Any Problems With UFC Weigh-ins?

Yes, there are problems with UFC weigh-ins. The most notable problem is irregularities with the scales used at the hotel, backstage, and during the official weigh-in.

This was highlighted when the lightweight champion, Charlies Oliveira missed weight at UFC 274. It’s said he made the lightweight’s upper limit of 155 lbs for a title fight on the scales used at the hotel and backstage, in front of commissioners.

However, he missed weight three times at the official weigh-ins, after the commission allowed him to immediately re-weigh after the first failed attempt, only to fail again a third time 2 hours later.

Oliveira was stripped of the lightweight title, while Justin Gaethje was eligible to win the title as he made weight.

It was said by many fighters that the official scales were heavy by half a pound, potentially caused by fighters messing around with the scales the night before. 

Fighters often used the official weigh-in scales to check if they were on weight, especially European fighters and those from parts of the world who measure their weight in kilograms and therefore change the settings.

Since UFC 274, fighters aren’t allowed to use the official weigh-in scale and the UFC has a security guard watching over it.

Why Doesn’t the UFC Move to Same-day Weigh-ins?

Same-day UFC weigh-ins have long been proposed as a way to have fighters competing closer to their natural weight and to prevent the dangers of dehydration caused by weight cutting.

However, commissions fear fighters would still attempt to cut weight in order to get a size and strength advantage. Only this time they’d have just 10 hours at most to rehydrate – nowhere near enough time and making it more dangerous than it currently is.

The UFC doesn’t want same-day weigh-ins because if fighters were to still cut weight, they’d be dealing with many more serious injuries and possible fatalities on their hands caused by athletes fighting dehydrated.

They also don’t want same-day weigh-ins because it restricts fighters from being able to move down weight classes, meaning double champs and super fights between fighters from different divisions likely become nonexistent.

It also reduces their brand image, which for the last 15 years has revolved around having disciplined, ripped, and muscular fighters on stage representing the UFC.

Weight cutting is unhealthy but it definitely gets fighters ripped and looking amazing after they’ve rehydrated and refueled their muscles while having barely any body fat left.

Furthermore, same-day weigh-ins would cause too many questions surrounding weight cuts in terms of who has or hasn’t cut weight. 

Who now has more of an advantage, the fighter who has cut weight and has a big size advantage but is dehydrated and suboptimal, or the fighter who hasn’t cut and is full energy but has a 20 lb muscle mass disadvantage?

Overall, it might cause more fighters to miss weight as they’re desperately trying to rehydrate the same day before a fight. It’s also removing the fighter’s ability to have their mind free the day of the fight, which is essential for performance.

How Much Are UFC Weigh-in Tickets?

There aren’t any tickets for the official UFC weigh-in as only the media attend. Ceremonial UFC weigh-ins are free to attend and to some events, you’ll be given a ticket on the way in.

The tickets are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and the first tickets are reserved for fans holding VIP tickets, as ceremonial weigh-in tickets are included in all 6 VIP packages.

Ceremonial weigh-ins usually seat between 3000 to 5000 fans, but for the bigger UFC events, they’ll seat around 10,000 – which also depends on the size of the venue.

Because of this, it’s best to arrive an hour early for events held at smaller venues, especially PPVs. Ceremonial weigh-ins usually open their doors about an hour before the weigh-ins start, so if you get there an hour before this, you’ll likely get in and avoid the long queues.

Ceremonial weigh-ins are often held at the arena where the fights are hosted, and if not it’ll be somewhere close by. All information about the location is released online in advance.

If you can’t attend, ceremonial UFC weigh-ins can be watched live on, Twitch, Facebook, Youtube, and UFC Fight Pass.

The Bottom Line

So, how do UFC weigh-ins work?

They work by aiming to keep fighters in their agreed-upon weight class and by giving them enough time to rehydrate and keep their mind clear the day of the fight.

When the UFC changed to the new weigh-in procedure as introduced by the State Athletic Commissions, they weren’t too happy as it changed the way they’d done weigh-ins for over a decade.

Ultimately though, fighters are the bloody supply of the UFC and early weigh-ins give them more time to rehydrate and protect their health – which is the main reason why UFC same-day weigh-ins are unlikely to ever happen.

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