Watch a replay of Monday’s Ariel Helwani MMA show on ESPN+.
When Tyson Fury weighed in on Friday night in Las Vegas for the biggest fight of his career — his rematch against Deontay Wilder — the boxing world collectively gasped when Fury tipped the scales at 273 pounds.
Fury insisted that everything had gone according to plan, though, and then went out and proved it on Saturday when he stopped Wilder in the seventh round in a thoroughly dominant performance.
Fury was a very different 273 pounds (275 on fight night) than he was when he started preparing for his rematch against Wilder, though, and George Lockhart has a lot to do with how it happened. The 37-year-old, who last fought inside an MMA cage in 2013, transitioned into the world of nutrition and helped the likes of Conor McGregor and Holly Holm ahead of some of the biggest wins of their respective careers — against Jose Aldo and Ronda Rousey, respectively.
After spending some time with a handful of standout boxers, Lockhart came to the attention of Fury’s team as they started planning for his heavyweight title fight.
“I was working with Badou Jack, and everything went really well,” Lockhart told Ariel Helwani on Monday. “His managers saw what I did with Badou, [but] Tyson was basically looking for a food prep company. They’re like, ‘No, you need a nutritionist.'”
He joined Fury and the camp in Las Vegas, and while Fury was initially skeptical — “old school”, as Lockhart put it — but as they started getting more comfortable, Fury started to buy in
“After the first couple of weeks, he was like, ‘Wow, I’m recovering a lot faster, I feel a lot better,'” Lockhart recalled. “And then when he started seeing the physical differences, [he was like], ‘Man, I’m the same weight, but I look completely different.'”
Part of the struggle initially was two-fold. First, the sheer size of Fury was a massive challenge, simply because of how much food it would take to power the engine.
“He’s not a guy that’s like, ‘When am I eating again?'” said Lockhart. “At the beginning of camp, I had to include tons of vegetables. He doesn’t like the taste of vegetables, so I’d cook it in a way that he couldn’t really taste it. A lot of these meals would contain a lot of vegetables, and he would still lose very slowly.”
Fury had to be prompted and pushed to eat, which was especially stark in comparison to another fighter living and training with his team.
“When I showed up, [Tyson] was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a guy that I’m training with that’s fighting on the same card,” recalled Lockhart. “Can you help him out?’
“I’m expecting another heavyweight, and it was Isaac Lowe, who is a fighter that’s at 126. And I’m like great, I’ve got a 274 guy and I’ve got a guy that’s 126. The funny thing is that Isaac would eat more than Tyson. Isaac was like, ‘Could I get some more, kid?’ We used to make jokes about it. The guy’s like an endless pit, whereas Tyson, he didn’t eat a whole lot [at the beginning].”
Once Fury committed, his diet, combined with his training, had him on a pace that even Lockhart struggled to keep up with. The first couple of weeks were about making sure they Fury was at a weight where he felt like he was at his best. He started at 275, but worked his way down to 260 before Lockhart was able to lock in.
“By the end of camp, I could not feed him enough, and he’d still lose weight,” said Lockhart. “There was one night where I fed him a pound of beef. It was lean beef, but it was a pound. I was like, ‘OK, he’s going to obviously be heavier tomorrow.’ And he lost a pound-and-a-half overnight. His metabolism definitely increased over the course of the camp, which is a good sign. It means his body became more proficient at processing things.”
Although it was a challenge throughout the camp, Lockhart and Fury eventually got into such lockstep that Lockhart spooked Fury with his prescience.
“Every morning he’d wake up, I would tell him what weight he was going to be. ‘Hey, tomorrow you’re going to be this weight.’ And he’s like, ‘Holy crap, you’re right on the money.’ We had a running joke, because he wanted to be a specific weight the day of the fight, and he woke up and he was like, ‘George — I wasn’t that weight.’ And I was 0.4 off. I was like, ‘Come on man, drink some water,’ because I was 0.4 under.”
Lockhart was in constant communication with Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward during camp. He kept a close eye on how Fury was performing during each session.
“We kind of honed in on it, and then obviously, the day of the fight, he was exactly where he wanted to be, where the coach wanted him to be, and then he went out and performed,” Lockhart said.
One of the key factors for Lockhart was making sure Fury wasn’t losing much-needed muscle mass.
“A lot of people don’t realize that when you lose weight, you lose more muscle than you do fat,” Lockhart said. “The slower you do it, the less muscle you actually lose.”
From Lockhart’s perspective, it was an extension of Fury’s approach to fighting and life — something he has in common with another of Lockhart’s top clients.
“A lot of people, they’ll have a bad day of sparring and they’ll come back and they’ll be like, ‘My nutrition was off. George, I don’t think you gave me enough carbs,'” said Lockhart. “Tyson never has an excuse — same thing with Conor. A lot of people try to get into the right mindset, whereas Conor and Tyson, they don’t have to get in the right mindest — it’s just innate in them.
“Honestly, working with Tyson was very similar to working with Conor, with their mentality.”
With Fury’s victory, every decision that was made in the lead-up to the fight was vindicated. Even for Lockhart, who has enjoyed some tremendous success with the teams he’s worked with, it was an outstanding effort that stands as one of the crowning achievements of his career thus far.
“If I’ve ever been in a perfect camp, that was it.”
Joanna Jedrzejczyk wants to change the narrative at UFC 248
Joanna Jedrzejczyk was dethroned as UFC strawweight champion in 2017. Within the year that followed she was unable to get the title back from Rose Namajunas in their rematch and also fell short in a bid to take the flyweight strap away from Valentina Shevchenko. She misses not just the belt, but also the perception it brought.
“I don’t like the way people define me and my career after I lost the belt, and what happened,” she said to Helwani. “But I know who I am. I don’t have to prove [anything], but I want to make it clear that I am one of the best female fighters of all time.”
Jedrzejczyk can take a big step in that direction on March 7 in Las Vegas, where she will challenge Zhang Weili to try to get her old belt back.
It will be Zhang’s first defense of the title she won last August with a 42-second TKO of Jessica Andrade. UFC 248 also will be the Chinese fighter’s biggest stage, something Jedrzejczyk recognizes as a potential factor in their fight.
“She’s the champ, so all eyes are on her,” said the 32-year-old from Poland. “Some fighters, they don’t like to deal with the audience. They don’t know how to deal with the fans, with big crowds.”
Jedrzejczyk (16-3) has no idea whether Zhang (20-1) will be adversely affected by all the attention. “I don’t know who she is outside the Octagon,” she said.
Jedrzejczyk does know herself, though, and she will bask in the attention.
“He has to bow down to the Queen and say sorry… Colby should be more respectful to his teammates and women in general.”@joannamma won’t be talking to ATT teammate Colby Covington until he apologizes (via @arielhelwani) pic.twitter.com/acKQOwN76i
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 24, 2020
“I love meeting fans,” she said. “I don’t feel more nervous because there are a few thousand more people who are around me, who are watching me.”
What will those thousands see on fight night? “She will be very, very dangerous in the first round,” said Jedrzejczyk. “She’s going forward, she’s throwing loopy punches. She’s very, very, very strong. She can knock people down. I just need to be careful. I need to be smart.”
On an unrelated note, Jedrzejczyk couldn’t get through an interview without mentioning someone else who she believes needs to be smart, Colby Covington, who has brought disharmony to their American Top Team gym. Jedrzejczyk acknowledged that she does not talk to her controversial teammate.
“He has to bow down to the queen and say sorry,” she said. “Colby should be more respectful to his teammates and women in general. He should learn how to say ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I apologize.’ He’s getting there.”
Hooker vs. Highlight?
“I want the battle of the highlight reel. I want Justin Gaethje next. Let’s go.”
That callout by Dan Hooker, which came inside the Octagon on Saturday night moments after his thrilling split-decision victory over Paul Felder, drew a throaty roar from the arena crowd in Hooker’s native Auckland, New Zealand. Reaction on social media was no less enthusiastic.
On Monday, Hooker doubled down on his call for Gaethje.
“He’s just an exciting guy, you know?” said Hooker. “Six fights, six bonuses. It’s something that intrigues me.”
Hooker has heard the talk that Gaethje might be otherwise occupied in a fight with Copnor McGregor, and self-interest aside, the fan in him can’t help but like that matchup.
“If I was Conor, I would take the Gaethje fight too. That’s an incredibly exciting fight.”
Where would that leave Hooker?
“If Gaethje’s busy, then [Dustin] Poirier’s the man,” he said. “Either Gaethje or Poirier — those are the only two options that make sense for me.”
Poirier is No. 3 in ESPN’s lightweight rankings, Gaethje is No. 4 and Hooker is No. 8 (although his win over fifth-ranked Felder over the weekend should move him up).
Crute earns ‘life-changing’ bonus with another kimura
“It’s a life-changing amount of money,” he said. “It’s huge.
“I’m going to be smart with it and hopefully I can buy a house this year.”
Crute earned the money by becoming just the fifth fighter in UFC history to win two bouts by kimura. He submitted Michal Oleksiejczuk at 3:29 of the first round Saturday.
Now he’d like to be the first one ever to get three. He’s already in the UFC record books with the latest finish in a light heavyweight bout when he submitted Paul Craig with nine seconds left on Dec. 1, 2018.
“If I could hold another UFC record, that would be great,” he said. “If I could get my name out there as much as I can, I’ll be going after it. But I won’t be thinking about it for that reason. I’ll be thinking about it because I like doing them and they’re satisfying when you hear someone’s shoulder pop.”
Calderwood recalls journey from doubt to title shot
It was a dream come true for Joanne Calderwood to get the call from the UFC to challenge for Valentina Shevchenko‘s flyweight title, and it would make the moment even sweeter for Calderwood if that bout is on the Australia card this summer. That’s where Calderwood went for two months in 2018 in a moment of doubt, when she considered “giving up.”
“I was injured and in a very bad mind space,” she said. “I feel like in Australia I did a lot of self-healing, and got that bug back and motivation.
“I’m glad I didn’t give up.”
Calderwood listened to a motivational speaker on YouTube and regained her passion for MMA. She’s won three of her last four and is using a saying by that YouTube speaker as inspiration against Shevchenko, who will be a heavy favorite.
“It’s possible,” she said of her chances.
Calderwood said she put mind and body through a lot of “trauma” to make strawweight, but after taking a step back in Australia, her career has taken a turn for the better. And she’s in a much better frame of mind.
James Gallagher has a plan for 2020
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 24, 2020
James Gallagher is ready to get back into the cage. After pulling out of this past weekend’s Bellator 240 due to what he referred to as a “small muscle tear” in his back, Gallagher is back training at SBG as he prepares to face Cal Ellenor on May 16 at Bellator London.
Gallagher went to the fights over the weekend and while disappointed to be in the crowd instead of the main event, he used the experience as motivation.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” he said to Helwani. “You have to sit and overcome all of that, sit and watch it. And see other people get in there getting what was essentially mine. It was a different kind of thing for me, but the way that I did it was I just looked at what the people in there were doing, and what they did to get there and just took inspiration from that. I used that to keep me motivated and content in the process of recovering from my injury.”
While Gallagher states he’s focused on Ellenor, who he was scheduled to face last year before Ellenor pulled out, his eyes are looking forward to a bout with Sergio Pettis later this year. Pettis, who made his Bellator debut earlier this year, would be a big step up in competition for the Irish star.
“I want to go in there and beat Cal,” he said. “I don’t just want to go in there and beat him, I wanted to beat him in a spectacular performance. And after that I want Sergio Pettis. That’s who I’m coming for.
“I’ll step in there against anyone. Cal is next, and he’s going to get it.”
After Pettis, it’s a title shot.
“Back in Dublin at the end of the year. Who wants it? I’m here. I’m not running,” Gallagher said. “I’ll never be accepted in his world of MMA. Ever. People don’t like me… people will always run me to the floor and they will never take me for me. They’ll never take me for me. I’m going to give them no f—ing choice. Trust me on that. They will all be bowing down to be at the end of it.”
Ryan Hall just wants to fight
Since Ryan Hall beat Darren Elkins in July 2019, he has struggled to find anyone of note to accept a fight against him. Currently ranked as the UFC’s No. 13 featherweight, Hall has defeated BJ Penn (at lightweight), Gray Maynard and Artem Lobov since joining the promotion.
Hall has become frustrated with the lack of forward progress.
“It’s been a little bit of a struggle to find an opponent,” Hall said. “I’ve been directly turned down or been told that they’re unavailable from 12 all the way down to 6. That would be [Shane] Burgos, [Jose] Aldo, [Josh] Emmett, [Jeremy] Stephens, [Renato] Moicano, Frankie [Edgar] and [Calvin] Kattar. Pretty much everyone down to about Korean Zombie or Yair Rodriguez has been unavailable.”
Hall, who says he is now targeting May for his next fight against the best of who’s available, feels he’s fallen victim to two pitfalls — fighters not wanting to face him, and big names who are moving between divisions.
“Edgar, Aldo and Moicano — all of whom are very tough guys — are holding spots in a division they’re not currently competing in. It just seems like there’s a bit of a logjam that’s difficult to deal with.”
In addition to trying to call out most of the fighters above him, Hall has gone so far as to offer to put his name in the hat as an alternate for a proposed fight between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Brian Ortega. He also proposed potential fights against Cub Swanson and Ricardo Lamas, unranked veterans who represent name value and suitable completion, as well as a bout against another fighter who has struggled to get fights made.
“Pedro Munhoz really wanted to fight, and I really appreciated that. Unfortunately, I guess the UFC wasn’t super interested in letting a cross-weightclass fight take place in that case.
“I’m not asking to fight the No. 1 guy in the division — I wouldn’t do that,” said Hall. “The only reason that I find myself looking at the No. 5, 6, 7 guys is that everyone in between me and them has said no… I don’t believe that I have some right to fight Frankie Edgar, to fight Brian Ortega or anything like that. They’ve done things that I’ve not done in the sport. However, I find myself in a situation where I’m not sure what else to do, because no one else will accept the fight.”
Note to NBA players: Don’t pick a fight with Steven Adams
The 6-foot-11, 265-pound center for the Oklahoma City Thunder said is a huge MMA fan. Adams, who is from New Zealand, said he’s friends with UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and City Kickboxing teammate Dan Hooker.
But the big man showed that he’s knowledgeable about the sport in discussing his favorite fighters.
“I find them quite interesting, especially the wrestling side of things,” Adams said to Helwani. “It’s almost like when jiu-jitsu first came in — no one really knew what to do. I kind of feel the same thing with [their] wrestling. No one really knows what to do. It’s pretty intense.”
So when he’s done tussling in the paint, will we see Adams battle in the cage?
Forget it, he said.
“I’m a heavyweight, I’d have to go up against Derrick Lewis or something,” Adams said. “That’s scary. There’s no way.”
Riddell has eyes on a UFC bonus
Brad Riddell was all but counting the cash. Fifty grand, to be exact, which is what he would have received this past Saturday for a fight of the night bonus.
Riddell was certainly worthy of it, earning a split decision victory over Magomed Mustafaev in a riveting lightweight battle. But not long after, poof. Riddell’s City Kickboxing teammate Dan Hooker and Paul Felder had a five-round thriller in the UFC Fight Night main event and each received the $50,000.
“I was like, Dan, you a——, you took my money,” Riddell quipped.
But chances are Riddell will get another crack at a bonus check soon enough. After his victory, Riddell called out Alexander Hernandez and he explained why on Monday’s Helwani Show.
“I think that would be a very, very exciting fight because egos are going to clash,” Riddell said. “I feel like he’s always yapping and talking and calls out guys in the sport that are very respected and says inappropriate things about them.”
Riddell has fought five times since last April, including twice in the UFC, going 5-0. But forget about taking an extended break. He wants to keep his roll going against Hernandez, which is a fight he believes should create some buzz.
“It’s a good media matchup,” Riddell said. “It’ll generate a lot of eyes. So I think if all the stars align, me and him should butt heads.”