Coach: Max Holloway Facing Daunting Weight Cut Ahead of UFC 223

By Nathan Zur Apr 4, 2018

Usually when an athlete accepts a fight on short notice there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration. However, the No. 1 priority is being able to actually make the weight.

George Lockhart is Max Holloway’s nutrition and weight-cut coach, and was the final piece in the puzzle to accept a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 (now available on Amazon Prime) on such short notice considering he’s only recently recovered from an injury which kept him out of his own featherweight title defense just last month.

Holloway’s manager, Brian Butler-Au, got the OK from Holloway to compete and needed confirmation from Lockhart to see if the Hawaiian could make the 155-pound limit by Friday. Lockhart spoke to MMA Fighting on the stressful situation he was put under to provide his professional opinion regarding how feasible the request was.

“It was a lot of math, a lot of calculations and a lot of f*cking stress in a short amount of time,” Lockhart told MMA Fighting. “I was like, ‘f*ck.’”

Lockhart did not reveal just how heavy Holloway was when he accepted the fight as he has not been actively training due to the injury. Lockhart did admit however it would be a very challenging weight cut.

“This is huge for Max and honestly this would be so easy to say, ‘No, man, he can’t do it’ and it would be no stress on me,” Lockhart said. “But the kid, I know he wants it. I know Max wants it. He’s actually excited about this sh*t. He has so much weight to cut, but he was excited. It was like he had a challenge. He’s just like, ‘Let’s do this’ and I’m like, ‘all right.’”

Lockhart said other fighters may have hesitated with a weight cut challenge like this but not Holloway, who he believes mentally is on a different level than most fighters.

“Max I know is gonna do it to a tee,” Lockhart said. “I know he’s gonna be able to push himself to where most people aren’t willing to go. So, I’m excited. But still. When I was in the Marine Corps and we had to run three miles, it’s not like you couldn’t run three miles, it’s like because you have to do it in a specific amount of time, it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s just that you know what you gotta go through to get there and it’s like, ‘sh*t.’”

Fight camps can usually range anywhere from six to eight weeks given the notice from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. This time is used by nutritionists and weight cut coaches to methodically plot where their fighters will need to be each week from a weight perspective. However Lockhart and his crew don’t have that luxury and are required to bring Holloway’s weight down in just six days’ time.

“Anybody that follows us and knows what I do, this is tied for the largest weight that I’ve ever done,” Lockhart said.

The challenge that lies ahead for Lockhart and his team is to ensure Holloway loses the weight but still has enough energy and speed come fight night to give him the best chance of beating his opponent.

“We always look at performance,” Lockhart said. “We want to keep performance high. During the entire camp, we’re trying to make sure he’s getting better, getting better, getting better. Where, at this point, it’s not about performance, it’s all about weight. The only time performance is gonna come into play is Saturday night. So, there’s gonna be things that we’re gonna do that are not gonna be great for his performance. They’re gonna accelerate the fat-burning process.”

For Lockhart to be able to achieve this, he said they would need to put Holloway in a “keto” state while having him do aerobic exercise. This is a low-carb diet which is highly effective for losing weight particularly during the first week burning off his stored carbs and water being used up.

“He’s gonna have to push his body,” Lockhart said. “But it’s gonna be low impact. It’s not like he’s gonna be sparring and grappling and stuff. His body doesn’t have the ability. That would be dangerous. So we’re doing low impact, but high volume.”

If the challenge to get Holloway ready in six days wasn’t enough, his “Lockhart & Leith” nutrition team are also tasked with getting Joanna Jedrzejczyk ready for her title fight with Rose Namajunas for the UFC women’s strawweight title in the UFC 223 co-main event. Jedrzejczyk spoke after her previous loss to Namajunas, citing that her difficult weight cut was to blame for her sub-par performance that night. After the loss against Namajunas, she enlisted Lockhart and his team to prepare herself better in the next fight.

As well as Jedrzejczyk and Holloway, there are also five other fighters competing on the UFC 223 card that is relying on Lockhart & Leith to have their weight right come the official weigh-in.

“It’s f*cking crazy, but it’s quick,” Lockhart said. “It’s like a sprint.”

When asked if Lockhart is confident Holloway will make the 155-pound limit on Friday morning at weigh-ins without risking his health.

“I am,” Lockhart said. “I’m confident in the team, I’m confident in Max. We’ll do it in a healthy way and we’ll make sure he’s on point.”

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