The life of a mixed martial artist (MMA) is definitely not an easy one.
For every megastar like Conor Mcgregor or Ronda Rousey who rakes in millions of dollars, there are a thousand other fighters who struggle every day to even make it to a fight.
Some of these struggles can be put down to the infamous method of losing weight known in mixed martial arts as weight-cutting.
Weight-cutting is the process of losing loads of weight in months, most of the time through dehydrating yourself just days before the fight itself.
This is done so as to meet the limits of a lighter weight class, where bigger fighters who cut tons of weight can simply re-hydrate and have a bigger advantage in terms of size and strength over a smaller opponent who didn’t cut as much weight.
The downside is that weight-cutting is extremely dangerous for those who try to cut too much weight, and has even led to serious issues like kidney failure, seizures and even death.
Those who cut ridiculous amounts of weight and get approved to fight also suffer: their performances might to suffer if they are unable to hydrate themselves adequately fast enough.
Take Amir Khan, one of Singapore’s leading lights in MMA, who stands at almost 6 feet tall and used to fight at featherwight, a class where fighters have to weigh 66 kg or less.
Amir, who trains out of MMA gym Evolve, is currently fighting for ONE Championship, one of the few MMA organisations in the world that have strict rules on weight-cutting, and monitors each fighter to ensure they are fighting at a healthy weight class for them.
When ONE did allow cutting a lot of weight, getting down to featherweight proved to be no easy task for Amir as well.
He told Business Insider: When i was at (featherweight), I used to cut 10 to 12 kg, and start two months (before a fight).”
Losing that weight proved to be a challenge for the now 23-year-old, who had to cut out basic food like carbohydrates for several months, something which he “hates doing”.
Despite having a good record at featherweight, Amir eventually moved up to the lightweight division, which he feels like is a much better for him than featherweight, which he has “no interest” in going back down to.
Even with the weight settled, the are still numerous challenges for someone looking to turn MMA into a career.
For Amir, he is relentless in his desire to get to the top. His gruelling schedule is proof of that – he trains throughout the year, describing what he does as both his “passion and (his) full-time job”.
During fight camp, which typically starts six weeks before his fight, he trains two to four hours a day, six to seven days a week.
His schedule is rarely easy and he would go weeks without a single break sometimes as well.
Amir said: “If you fight 4 times a year and each takes six weeks, that takes up a lot of time. It’s 8 months of a year that I can’t really do much. I have to sacrifice that little fun.”
After a fight, he has a week of rest before going straight back to the gym.
Amir’s current fight camp is almost at an end, and with a win against his next opponent, former ONE featherweight champion Honorio Banario, he is guaranteed a fight for the ONE lightweight title.
If he does win against Banario at “ONE Championship: Beyond The Horizon” on September 8 at the Boashan Sports Center in Shanghai, he will be a step closer to achieving his dream.
A dream which like many other MMA fighters all over the world, he has had to fight numerous opponents, both in and out of the cage, to realise.