Megan Anderson was the last person to step on the scale to weigh in for UFC 232. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) was giving fighters a three-hour window to hit their respective mark, and Anderson used nearly every minute of it.
The 6-foot Anderson’s weight cut is hard enough — a gradual drop from 170 to 146 pounds — but that week was particularly arduous.
Six days out from her fight with Cat Zingano on Dec. 29, 2018, the UFC uprooted the entire card from Las Vegas. Jon Jones, the headliner, couldn’t get licensed in Nevada due to an atypical drug-test finding, so the promotion went west to the Los Angeles area. Fighters who had already traveled to Vegas hopped on a charter flight to L.A. two days before they were to compete, less than 24 hours before weigh-ins.
The trip takes less than an hour in the air, but that’s crucial time for Anderson when it comes to her weight cut, which her nutritionist, Tyler Minton, plans down to the minute.
“That threw us off huge,” Minton said. “It was a 180 in some of the things we had to do.”
Anderson made the weight. It just took longer than usual — about double the trips to a hot bath with the purpose of sweating out the pounds.
“That was the hardest weight cut I’ve had,” Anderson, 29, said.
Anderson hopes there won’t be a last-minute monkey wrench this week ahead of her fight with Felicia Spencer at UFC Rochester on Saturday, a bout that will air on ESPN+. But no matter what, an intense weight cut will occur.
“I don’t think everybody could do [Megan’s weight cut],” said UFC veteran James Krause, who coaches Anderson at Glory MMA in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. “But because she is as disciplined as she is, she’s pretty spot on with her diet plan. She does love food, but whenever she’s on, she’s on.”
Anderson said as soon as she arrives for fight week, Minton takes over her nutrition completely. Whatever he brings her to eat, she eats. That includes more than 3,000 calories over six meals per day, featuring omelettes, chicken thighs, salmon cakes and what Minton calls “calorie bombs” — almond butter, oats, coconut, cacao and honey rolled into balls. During fight week, Anderson doesn’t do hard training, just drilling techniques.
“She’s going to be eating more calories while she’s cutting weight than a lot of fighters are eating 10 weeks out,” Minton said. “The thing with her, too, is being such a well-conditioned athlete, her metabolic rate is very, very high. So, she burns fast. We’ve gotta keep stoking that fire. If we start to starve her, she’ll lose a little bit of weight, but then her metabolism is gonna slow down, her training is gonna suffer. We’re not gonna be able to lose good weight.”
Regulators, led by the CSAC, have attempted to crack down on weight cutting via severe dehydration (usually done in a sauna). And two years ago, the UFC told its fighters that it recommends coming into fight week within 10 percent of their contracted weight.
For Anderson, that weight is about 161 pounds, and she tries to be around that when she gets to the host city on the Tuesday before a Saturday fight. The Australian will eventually drop 25 pounds from her initial weight by Friday morning, an amount Minton says is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, cuts among women in the UFC.
Anderson said before her fight with Holly Holm last June at UFC 225 she was 176 pounds before camp, but that was due to a 17-month layoff from the cage.
“It’s not like she has to try hard to get there,” Krause said. “She’s got abs at 170.”
Minton said Anderson (9-3), the former Invicta FC featherweight champion, eats healthy most of the time, focusing on lean meats, fruits, rice and potatoes four meals per day. When her six- or eight-week training camp begins, the food items stay the same, just in smaller portions. Anderson’s one vice in the offseason is eating a pack of bacon every Sunday, Minton said. That practice, of course, has to go once a fight is scheduled.
When Anderson starts camp, Minton said, she’s bound to lose weight anyway due to the increased MMA and cardio training regimen. He’ll put her into a slight caloric deficit — Anderson will burn enough to shed pounds — but she’ll still eat more than 3,000 calories daily, which continues into fight week.
“When camp starts, with her there’s really no room for error,” said Minton, who compares Anderson’s frame to another client: UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway. “It’s a constant balance between training enough but not over-training, because we have to put her in enough of a caloric deficit to where we know she’s going to lose weight. But where a lot of fighters mess up is their need to lose weight impedes their ability to perform. Then they get hurt in training.”
In the last 10 days of camp, Minton said Anderson will reduce her training volume, allowing her body to get rid of inflammation and some of the water it’s holding due to the stress being put on it. Minton said she’ll lose a few pounds of water just from training less as the fight draws nearer. All through the process, Minton said, Anderson remains fully hydrated — drinking two gallons of water per day — up until the water cut in the final hours before the weigh-in.
That’s when Anderson, like many of her MMA peers, will get into a hot bathtub to sweat out the rest of the weight. Minton said Anderson will spend up to 15 to 25 minutes in the tub at a time, but the water won’t be scalding. She might need to do three to four of those sessions, while trying to maintain a sweat during the breaks, to finally get down to 146 pounds.
“She’s a gangster in the tub,” Minton said. “We do it safe — we really do. But it’s never fun. If you have to cut five pounds, it’s five pounds you don’t want to cut. But Megan is very good about embracing it and doesn’t really have a negative attitude about the cut.”
Anderson’s job during fight week, she said, is following Minton’s instructions. That extends to the rehydration process once she makes the weight. Anderson has to be at a healthy fight weight, at peak performance, when she steps inside the Octagon. Anderson weighed 157 pounds on fight night against Zingano, per the California State Athletic Commission.
“One-hundred percent, if I didn’t have Tyler and the way he cuts weight, I don’t think I could make weight on my own,” Anderson said. “I just don’t have the knowledge when it comes to scientifically making sure my weight cut is healthy.”
Despite the bouncing around of weight leading up to the fight, Anderson doesn’t believe she’s any weaker fighting at featherweight than she would be if, say, the UFC added a women’s 155-pound division. Right now, though, featherweight is her only option to prove she’s among the best in the world.
Those around her believe Anderson, who has been fighting for only six years, has a chance to be just that. Krause said her punching power and athleticism separate her from the pack.
“She drops grown-ass men in my gym all the time,” Krause said. “That’s no bulls—. I’ve been hit by her — she hits f—ing hard. … She breaks faces. That’s just the deal.”
Anderson can break faces. But first she has to make the weight. So far, so good, despite it being a massive, detailed undertaking.
“We have a really good process for me,” Anderson said. “It’s healthy. It’s not easy. But we make it.”