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SportsMixed Martial Arts

The cutting weight game before UFC fights

Chris Weidman preps for a workout before UFC

Chris Weidman preps for a workout before UFC 168 in Las Vegas on Dec. 26, 2013. Credit: Mario Gonzalez

From the corner of the L-shaped island in his kitchen, Chris Weidman mentioned three numbers.

"203," he said last Friday morning.

That's not a punch combination the UFC middleweight champion has been working on as he prepares to defend his title this Saturday against Lyoto Machida in Las Vegas at UFC 175. There was no interrogative intonation in his statement as if he was looking at the phone number from an incoming call and wondering which city that area code represented.

It was his weight that morning.

A lean 203 pounds for Weidman, eight days shy of needing to be 185 pounds at 4 p.m. on July 4 inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

"I've been lighter," Weidman said. "I've definitely been heavier, too."

Like the time he took a fight on two weeks' notice against Demian Maia and had to cut 34 pounds in that time span. The anguish in those photos should be enough to trademark a new Instagram filter.

This time, though, Weidman said he's right where he wants to be with his weight. Then the champion went and added some healthy calories - ground turkey with sautéed bell peppers and onions, scrambled eggs with Sriracha sauce and an avocado on the side.

The concept of dropping 18 pounds in a week may send civilians sprinting to the salad store just thinking about it. But Weidman and the 21 other mixed martial artists on the UFC 175 fight card (and the 20 on the following night's "Ultimate Fighter" finale, including Freeport's Eddie Gordon) are all in the same position, give or take four ounces of salmon and some almond butter.

What happens in the days leading up to weigh-ins involves water. Lots of it. Drinking it, then sweating it out.

It also involves sodium. Very little of it.

The process is a bit more scientific than sweating through a T-shirt walking around the desert sun of Las Vegas while avoiding salted pretzels.

And, contrary to popular belief, it involves consuming food. Every fighter does it differently, some with lean proteins such as tuna fish, or with English muffins or rice cakes. Yes, the calorie intake is limited, but fighters who cut weight properly do not boycott food entirely.

Some fighters pack all their food with them in their luggage for fight week. Some buy it all when they arrive in whichever city the event is held.

There will be late-night workouts. Pad-hitting. Running on treadmills. Pedaling on the stationary bike. Saunas, pools, swimming, rubber suits, sweatshirts, wool hats, sweatpants.

And sweat. Beads of it trickling down the handles of the bike. Puddles of it accumulating on the floor beneath. Light gray sweatshirts turn dark gray easily. And the T-shirts under those sweatshirts? Think two-day thunderstorm with no umbrella.

"When it comes to the weight cut, fighters know what they have to do," said Jamal Hamid, Weidman's strength and conditioning coach, last December before UFC 168. "It's not an easy thing."

New York Sports