Given that most combat athletes compete in weight divisions and are often forced to adjust dietary habits in order to make weight, the risk of developing disordered eating behaviours is elevated. This study sought to identify trends between sport-specific self-confidence, pre-competition weight loss, and disordered eating. 


Elite and sub-elite MMA (n=47) and BJJ (n=64) practitioners were recruited via survey, and their current body mass in comparison with intended competition weight was noted, The participants also completed the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q), as well as the Trait Sport Confidence Inventory Test (TSCI). 


As expected, MMA athletes cut more relative weight than BJJ athletes, and also scored higher on the EDE-Q, particularly in the sections related to restrictive eating. MMA athletes also scored higher on the TSCI, indicating greater levels of sports-specific self confidence. 


Whilst there was no correlation between the EDE-Q or TSCI for either groups, in the MMA athletes there was a positive correlation between the amount of weight lost and the level of sports-specific confidence. This is an important point, as it indicates a clear psychological advantage to cutting weight, and as such complicates the task of improving the weight-cutting practice amongst combat athletes.


Blomqvist Mickelsson T, Thylin M, Hansson E. Self-Confidence and Disordered Eating amongst Martial Artists: A Cross-Sectional Study, Asian J Sports Med. Online ahead of Print ; 11(4):e104436



About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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By Sam Gilbert