If you’re a combat sports fan, you’re likely familiar with the weigh-ins fighters must do before every bout. They’re almost as exciting as the fight itself (for reasons we’ll discuss in more detail later). But when did weigh-ins start, and what made combat sports introduce weigh-ins in the first place?
Weigh-ins started in combat sports in 1880. British amateur boxing authorities introduced weight classes for fighters. As a result, they needed to weigh the fighters before competitions. However, this practice was not adopted into professional combat sports until 1907.
Continue reading this article to learn more about the history of weigh-ins in combat sports. We’ll examine the pros and cons of this practice and even go over some common concerns combat sports fans may have about weigh-ins before fights.
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The First Combat Sport to Require Weigh-Ins
In the old days, boxing had no weight classes, weigh-ins, or referees. Instead, boxing was a hand-to-hand combat competition that often resulted in bloody and dangerous fights. Over time, boxing evolved to become safer and fairer for the competitors.
Amateur boxing was the first combat sport to include weigh-ins in 1880. It was also the first combat sport to have strict weight classes. Before the introduction of weight classes, fighters could compete against any other willing opponent, regardless of their size and strength advantages.
Weigh-ins were adopted in professional boxing in the 1900s. This change to the sport was done for multiple reasons, including making fights fairer and protecting smaller fighters from injuries sustained by larger, stronger, and heavier opponents. However, in the modern day, weigh-ins have become more than just a safety measure.
Weigh-Ins in Modern Combat Sports
Since the first weigh-ins in boxing, the practice has been adopted by most (if not all) combat sports. Weigh-ins ensured fairer contests between opponents who were well-matched physically. This ensured that battles were won on skill and not just by the size and weight advantage of one fighter over another.
Weigh-ins are now more than just a way of checking a fighter’s weight. While this is the function of the weigh-in, it has since grown into a spectacle of its own. Thousands of fans fill arenas to watch their favorite fighters tip the scales in anticipation of a big fight.
Weigh-ins also offer pundits and analysts insight into how prepared a fighter is for an upcoming competition. When a fighter weighs in, you can see how healthy they look and how much their weight has changed to meet weight class specifications.
In general, if a fighter looks weak or in poor health as they hit the scales, the weight cut will have taken a lot of their energy, and they won’t recover in time for the beginning of the fight. This, of course, puts them at a disadvantage when competing against an opponent who can meet the weight class requirements without having previously subjected their bodies to drastic weight-changing regimens.
Health Concerns Linked to Weigh-Ins in Combat Sports
While weigh-ins, in theory, should make fights safer as it ensures fighters are the same size before a contest, they can actually have the opposite effect. This is because fighters have a motivation to lose as much weight as possible (and as quickly as possible) before a fight to compete against smaller opponents in a lighter-weight class.
As a result, fighters drastically cut weight, often over 22 lbs (10kg) in a short space of time. When competitors do this, they remove a lot of the water from their bodies, which poses significant health risks and potentially affects their overall performance in the upcoming fight.
This issue is especially prevalent in combat sports with large jumps between weight classes like in MMA. In fact, high-profile UFC fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov have even pulled out of fights due to health issues caused by trying to make weight. There have even been fatalities as a result of this practice.
Weigh ins are a crucial aspect of the build-up to any big combat sports competition. Fighters must weigh in to ensure they meet the weight specifications for their upcoming fight. These weight classes were introduced to allow evenly matched fighters to face each other and to ensure that competitions had to rely on skill and not just physical size to win.
While there are many merits to weigh-ins in fight sports, there are some genuine concerns regarding fighters’ health in the process. Cutting weight puts enormous stress on internal organs and can be fatal if not done correctly.