Many MMA fighters, professional and amateur, spend hours in the gym working on cardio and endurance conditioning, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, and weight training. They often wonder why their performance level doesn’t improve or why they can’t drop weight. It may have a lot to do with their MMA nutrition & diet.
Billy Rush, a former professional MMA fighter, was for a long time, one of the most well-known MMA conditioning and strength coaches in the business. He was also a pro when it came down to whipping fighters into shape for optimal performance and helping them cut weight the right way through proper nutrition.
Rush was a firm believer that a fighter should not only be able to perform well to become great, but he should also look great. Not only will a fighter’s skills in the Octagon help him climb the ladder in MMA, but his physique also helps him get much more publicity, commercials, sponsors, photo shoots, etc. After all, MMA is a business.
In 2000, Rush stopped fighting and starting training and offering nutritional advice to other MMA fighters, including Rich Franklin, Joe Riggs, Tim Sylvia, and Jorge Gurgel. Rush would tell his clients to use a good multi-vitamin and basically nothing else. They should also cut out junk, fatty and fried foods and rely on solid foods – fruits, green leafy vegetables, brown rice, beans, sweet potatoes, whole grains, whey protein, eggs, milk, and lots of water – for nutrition.
“When I first got into the sport, I loved Frank Shamrock. Not because he was the best fighter, but because he had a great physique,” Rush states.
As one of Rush’s former clients, Franklin had been featured in fitness magazines, like Men’s Fitness. Beyond his superior fighting skills, Franklin’s shredded body helped him land that magazine and others. With only five percent body fat, he walks around at 205-210 and cuts down to 185 for a fight.
With Rush now seemingly retired from the business, the grand master of nutritional gurus is Mike Dolce, a MMA fighter, lifestyle guru and self-styled nutritionist. He stresses that when it comes to cutting weight for weigh-ins it’s best to start the process at least eight weeks before the fight, especially if a fighter has more than 20 pounds to lose. Unfortunately, some fighters wait a few days before weigh-ins to start dieting and that can be unhealthy and dangerous because the body doesn’t rehydrate properly when weight is dropped so quickly.
Hailing from New Jersey, Dolce uses what he calls the “Dolce Diet” to help MMA fighters, such as Rampage Jackson, Chael Sonnel, Victor Belfort, Gray Maynard, and Michael Bisping, cut weight and perform at their best through proper nutrition. After UFC 117, Thiago Alves missed making weight by half a pound, (even after he stripped down butt naked). He was in desperate need of Dolce’s help, especially since he failed to make weight twice in his UFC career. Alves has even tested positive for a banned diuretic that he used to help him make the 170-pound mark for one of his fights. Dolce called Alves’ managers and offered his assistance.
UFC President Dana White was clearly upset that Alves didn’t make weight at UFC 117. “Not only was it “bullsh-t” for him to miss weight in a number one contender bout, but the strenuous cut was clearly hurting Alves’ performances on fight night.”
Fighters are cautioned to never use diuretics if they’re trying to cut weight. According to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness people who use diuretics, which elevates the rate of urination, have experienced headaches, muscle cramps, reduced blood sodium levels, electrolyte imbalance, heart palpitations, arrhythmia, and death. The numbers of deaths increased among many athletes, bodybuilders and MMA fighters as a result of using diuretics, especially once they mixed it with Pedialyte, Gatorade or some other high sodium liquid. Besides, diuretics are a temporary fix that may help rid the body of excess water, which causes swelling and bloating, but true weight loss isn’t achieved. Experts at the MayoClinic.com noted that diuretics are prescribed for those suffering from kidney problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome and heart failure among other serious illnesses, not for weight loss.
Since Dolce started training MMA fighters, he claims he’s never had one miss weight. He helps athletes understand that the process of proper nutrition isn’t only about losing weight, but having the ability to perform to the best of their ability. With clients like Alves, Dolce knows they need special attention when it comes to their diet. Part of his services includes moving in with a fighter about eight weeks before weigh-ins. Dolce will even cook the meals and train alongside the mixed martial artist.
“In this business, a lot of guys don’t want to pay for anything. They work so hard to make what money they do. To give some back to their manager, their agent, their gym, and then to bring a nutritionist as hands-on as me in is something that’s pretty new for this sport,” said Dolce. “But these guys are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars over time in bonuses, incentives, sponsorships, and purse upgrades, simply by not doing this the right way.”
Dolce’s work in nutrition is so highly respected that he has often been called, “undisputed master of the weight cut.” In his book “Living Lean,” Dolce writes about his program, nutrition, recipes and how he gets MMA fighters to perform at a high level without ill effects from the weight cut. Although Dolce doesn’t guarantee weight loss, he does make the promise that the fighter will be as healthy as possible. Sticking to the plan is up to the fighter, since not all clients want Dolce living with them day in and day out.
Food Is Fuel
Bottom line – Food is fuel. What mixed martial artists put into their body will ultimately decide how they look, how they feel, how they perform, and whether or not they make the cut on the night of weigh-ins. If fighters are serious about becoming champions, they must put the time, energy and money into learning about the proper nutrition that’s needed to help them make their goals. If they don’t have the knowledge they should hire someone like Dolce to help them become the best fighter they possibly can be, especially if they plan to make MMA their career.
By Jillian Bullock
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