Perhaps you’ve recently started watching MMA, and have also started watching content in the lead up to fight night, such as interviews and press conferences. Then there’s the weigh-ins, which are a huge part of both boxing and MMA. But you may have noticed something interesting about the weigh-ins. There is the first weigh-in, which happens the morning before the fight, and then a second weigh-in, held in the afternoon. So why do the fighters weigh-in twice?
In short, there are two weigh-ins for UFC fighters because first there is the actual weigh-in, where the fighters cut down to make the weight limit. Then there is the ceremonial weigh-in, which is done for the fans, out of tradition. At the ceremonial weigh-in, the two fighters step on the scale, face off for the fans, and say a few words on their expectations of the fight.
That description may have been confusing, so in the rest of the post, I’m going to explain the difference between both weigh-ins, as well as where the tradition comes from.
What Happens At The Actual Weigh-In?
So first let’s talk about the actual weigh-ins. In MMA and most other combat sports, the competitors are required to meet a certain weight limit. This is why weight classes exist. For example, in the Lightweight division of MMA, competitors must weigh no more than 155 pounds on the day of actual weigh-ins.
Lightweight fighter Kevin Lee, seen here making 155 lbs for his Interim Championship fight against Tony Ferguson.
At the real weigh-ins, the fighter must actually step on the scales, and must weigh under the limit for that day only. In the days leading up to the real weigh-in, fighters will cut weight by eating less food, sweating out water weight, and limiting water intake.
The actual UFC weigh-in takes place the day before the fight in the morning, which oftentimes means fighters weigh-in on Friday, as fights are usually on Saturday night. Starting at 9:00am Friday, fighters are allowed to get on the scales to officially meet the weight limit for their fight.
The fighters have from 9:00am-11:00am to officially make weight, otherwise they will not be allowed to compete. As soon as the fighter steps off the scale, they can begin to rehydrate and start regaining the weight they lost. This is why fighters look significantly different during real weigh-ins vs ceremonial weigh-ins, as by the time the ceremonial weigh-ins start, the fighter has already gained a lot of weight.
Compare this picture of Kevin Lee at the ceremonial weigh-ins, to the image of him from earlier, both taken on the same day. Big difference after regaining the weight.
The real weigh-ins usually take place in the hotel that the UFC keeps the fighters in, otherwise known as the Fighters’ Hotel. The weigh-in typically uses a balance beam scale, although on occasion the UFC has used digital scales. The area where weigh-ins are held is only open to the press and UFC staff.
So to sum up the “real” weigh-ins, the fighters step on a real scale from 9am-11am, in an attempt to make their weight limit. They only have to be on weight while on the scale, as they can rehydrate and gain weight after their official attempt.
What Happens At The Ceremonial Weigh-In?
Now the ceremonial weigh-in is very different from the real weigh-ins. The UFC’s ceremonial weigh-ins usually start at 7:00 pm local time. The ceremonial weigh-ins end after all the fighters have walked across the stage, ending with the main event of the card. All the fighters on the card participate, same as the real weigh-ins.
The ceremonial weigh-ins take place at the arena where the actual fight card will take place. In contrast to the real weigh-ins, which is only open to staff and press, the ceremonial weigh-ins are open to the fans.
Usually present is UFC President Dana White or some other executive from the UFC. There is also an announcer (usually Joe Rogan), who announces the fighters’ names and weight as they step onto the ceremonial scale. And lastly, there is the UFC ring girls, waving and looking pretty.
This sums up the ceremonial weigh-ins. Joe Rogan on the right, ring girls on the left, the two fighters (Ferguson and Cerrone) facing off, and Dana White standing in between.
Let’s talk about what actually happens.
First, Joe Rogan announces fighter one, as the fighter walks out from behind a curtain. The fighter makes their way to the stage, where they usually take off their shirt, as per tradition. They step on the scale (which is only there for show) and step off after Joe announces their official weight. The same sequence happens for fighter two, and then the two fighters face off.
It usually goes as seen in the image above, where the two fighters are separated by Dana White in case there is an issue between them. After facing off, the fighters exit stage left, and the process repeats for each fighter.
It is a bit different for the main and co-main events however, as these fighters say a few words to the crowd before exiting the stage. Usually, Joe asks a simple question, something like, “what are your thoughts for tomorrow night?”
Now as mentioned already, this process is only for show, as the scale does not take the fighter’s weight, and the fighters’ have probably gained about 10 pounds at this point. Let’s talk about why they have the ceremonial weigh-ins, instead of just doing both weigh-ins at the same time.
When Did The Ceremonial Weigh-In Tradition Start?
Some of you may have already known this, but for those who don’t, the UFC ceremonial weigh-ins used to be the time at which a fighter would actually weigh-in! Instead of having it at the fighters’ hotel, the fighters would simply show up to the stage on weight.
There are several reasons why this might have been changed. I should say, I don’t have any official sources stating why, but these are my best assumptions.
The first reason actually has been confirmed by the UFC, and that is that letting the fighters weigh-in in the morning gives them more time to rehydrate. This allows them to fight in a healthier state, promoting better performances and fights. Since the UFC still wanted to keep weigh-ins for the fans, they made the afternoon weigh-in ceremonial, and made the morning one the official.
The weigh-ins used to be like this, where the actual weigh-ins looked like the ceremonial weigh-ins of today. Note the balance beam scale, with the commissioner taking the weight, meaning the fighters are dehydrated in this image.
The second reason is that it is very bad for a fighter to be dehydrated for long periods of time. Unfortunately, this was the case for when both weigh-ins used to happen at the same time. Before the event started, the fighters had to be at the event and ready to weigh in. This means that they are already dehydrated when they arrive.
Then, they have to wait until the fighters in front of them weigh in and face off. This isn’t so bad if you’re the first fighter to weigh-in, but the main event fighters could be waiting over an hour, while dehydrated. To prevent any issues, the UFC separated the official and ceremonial weigh-ins.
Nowadays, the fighter only has to be dehydrated for as long as it takes them to weigh-in. As soon as they make weight, they can immediately report to the scales and weigh-in, without having to wait as they did before.
As mentioned before, this gives the fighters more time to rehydrate, and they can show up to the fight healthy and strong. Since the UFC weigh-ins have traditionally been open to the fans, the UFC kept the old format as a ceremonial event, with some traditions, such as ‘weighing in’ and facing off, beeing kept.
In short, UFC fighters weigh in twice because one weigh in is official, while the other is ceremonial. The first weigh in happens in the morning, and an official weight is taken. The second weigh in happens in the afternoon, and is simply a ceremonial event for the fans, where the fighters do not actually have their weight taken.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, be sure to check out the Martial Arts History page, where I answer questions similar to the one in this post. Thanks for reading!