Sometimes change is good, even for those trying something they did not enjoy the first time. At least that appears to be the case for Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight Jordan Rinaldi. The former lightweight made his first Octagon appearance at 145 pounds at UFC 230, and the results were promising.
The 20-fight veteran had visited the featherweight division before, just not in the UFC. However, Rinaldi had good reasons for giving up his pursuits at 155 pounds prior to reaching the Las Vegas-based organization.
“I fought three or four times at featherweight prior to signing with the UFC,” Rinaldi told Sherdog.com. “Each time I fought, I thought I was going to die cutting the weight. The last time I fought at 45, I think I was 10 or 12 pounds over the day of weigh-ins, so I had to cut all that water weight, and it was terrible. My father was in the room, and he thought I was going to die.”
Despite the horrors of that last experience, Rinaldi, 31, chose to return to the division after a disappointing 1-2 run in the UFC’s 155-pound weight class -- a stretch that was capped by a disheartening defeat to the undefeated Gregor Gillespie at UFC on Fox 27.
“If you saw my fight in Charlotte, I got destroyed,” Rinaldi said. “Gillespie is a great fighter. He dismantled me in the first round. I take nothing away from him, but I did terrible.”
Rinaldi admits that the stakes rise exponentially once fighters reach the UFC.
“When you step into the UFC, everything is ramped up,” he said. “You can feel it. It’s something unlike anything else in the world.”
Despite his reservations, Rinaldi and his team thought a return to featherweight may be in his best interest. The decision was made easier this time because of a key resource Rinaldi did not have at his disposal previously: the UFC Performance Institute.
“We went to the performance institute specifically to see if we can make 145, and if so, what kind of support could [they] give me,” Rinaldi said.
Working with the talented doctors and staff at the Las Vegas facility was an awakening for the One Kick’s Gym and Sergio Penha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter. He believed he had a good grasp of proper nutrition and training techniques. After a week at the institute, he realized how little he really knew. For example, it improved his diet and eating regimen to fuel the varying intensities of his training program. Th experience also taught him how to better listen to his body and recover more efficiently in between workouts.
“They really worked on the timing of what I was eating for the kind of work out I was doing,” Rinaldi said. “Bo [Sandoval, director of strength and conditioning] is the one who really got me on the idea of not training as hard as I was. That was a huge problem that I’ve always had. I tend to over train. Even if I was eating healthy and doing all the right things in nutrition, I was training hard at least once, maybe twice a day, every day of the week. As a resource, the [UFCPI] is fantastic. It’s absolutely incredible in what we have. Just having a nutritionist that I can message any time of day, five [or] six days a week, really helps out a lot.”
With the institute’s help, his weight cut to 145-pounds was a complete 180 from previous experiences. He was eight pounds out from the limit the week of the fight. With a diet plan furnished by the institute, he woke up four-tenths of a pound over the limit on the morning of weigh-ins. Rinaldi had no need to suffer in a sauna or hot tub or through any of the various techniques fighters use to cut water weight at the last minute.
Rinaldi drew positive reviews on Nov. 3, when he took a unanimous decision from Jason Knight on the UFC 230 undercard at Madison Square Garden in New York. His handlers were wary of Knight’s capabilities off of his back in rubber guard, so the plan was to keep the fight standing early before testing him on the ground.
“Once I got on top and was having a lot of success there, we said, ‘Nah, let’s just put him on his back and get this solid win,’” Rinaldi said.
He put Knight on his back often throughout their 15-minute encounter. Rinaldi credits his passion for Olympic-style weightlifting as a source for his strength, which was on display in the grappling exchanges.
“I don’t want to be mean about it, but he was on the weaker side of opponents that I’ve had,” Rinaldi said, “but that’s also because it was a weight class lower. Strength is something I’ve always generally had over most of my opponents. I think I’ll always have that at 145.”
With his issues making the 145-pound limit seemingly behind him, Rinaldi hopes to also change mistakes made following his latest victory inside the octagon. After submitting Alvaro Herrera at UFC Fight Night 114 in August 2017, Rinaldi believes he asked for too much too fast. Preferring a higher level of competition, he was slotted opposite Gillespie with less-than-desirable results. Rinaldi hopes for a late December or early 2019 return and plans to take a slow-burn approach to climbing the featherweight ladder.
“This career is crazy enough as it is. We need to try to be sane about our abilities, about what we’ve done in the past, and using that, let’s slowly try to build,” Rinaldi said. “Let’s get somebody around where I am again [and] see how I respond to being under the spotlight.”