No one forces UFC fighters to cut weight. They look awful when on the scales and the videos you see when they are weight cutting are scary. McGregor has looked the worst in my opinion.
I get that there is a competitive edge but is it really that compelling an advantage if fighting at the natural weight class is better for your body and recovery.. why do it?
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The primary goal is to always be the bigger athlete in the octagon. Really sucking out the water allows for a bigger fighter to fight smaller fighters legally, so when they both step in the octagon, one athlete can be way bigger than the other but can do it legally. There have been reports of 10-20 pounds weight difference on fight night.
UFC fighters get to keep their height as well as their reach advantage, in theory they are then fighting smaller opponents. They are taking in a much bigger frame into the octagon, they then retain a certain degree of their pre weight cut physical dominance.
It's massively strategic. Look at McGregor, unstoppable at featherweight, not so much at lightweight right? He is broad, hands like shovels - if his cut to featherweight wasn't a killer process, he'd be still doing it.
Khabib was the same, many documented incidents where he ended up in hospital when trying to cut the weight, the natural structure of his body makes him so dominant at lightweight, he has to cut the weight.
Some UFC fighters just don't have the same competitive advantage, even when they cut a drastic amount. All things being equal, a well timed, well executed weight cut can get you a win, a perfectly honed repeatable strategy can take you way further.
Not something that anyone generally agrees with but as long as the loop hole is there, UFC fighters will take advantage of it and push it to the limit.
Everybody wants to increase their chances and get every little bit of an extra edge they can in the octagon. Wouldn't you?
Plus all other UFC fighters will cut weight. It's a race to the bottom, anything to get that gold, it means millions.
We have people walking around in the UFC as a light heavyweight (205 pounds) and then fighting at 170 pounds. Some even higher than that.