clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Lockhart: I've only heard 'bro science' from Dolce

Part one of a two part piece on the science of nutrition and weight cutting for fighters with FitnessVT's George Lockhart.

Courtesy of George Lockhart

When people talk about fighters cutting weight, the name that tends to come up is Mike Dolce, but behind the scenes the mastermind behind some of the most successful weight class transitions in the UFC is George Lockhart.

Lockhart spent years with the USMC as the premier combat conditioning specialist for the Marines. After 10 years of coming up with the best ways to keep marines suitably fuelled for operations, recovering from injuries and hitting weigh in targets in short periods of time, he took that experience and developed a weight management program, FitnessVT.

He has worked with fighters from Jon Jones to Rory MacDonald, and retired legends like Brian Stann and Kenny Florian. He spoke to Steph Daniels and me at length about everything MMA weight cut and nutrition related. From Mike Dolce’s claims, to his take on Johny Hendricks’ loss being weight cut related.

This is part one of a two-part series. Here are George’s thoughts on Cyborg, Hendricks, Dolce and more. Later this week part two will be out with a detailed breakdown of the science of weight cutting, and where fighters tend to go wrong.

Following Hendricks’ narrow title defeat to Robbie Lawler at UFC 181, George felt that Hendricks declining performance in the later rounds could be attributed to a less than perfect weight cut, which was supervised by Mike Dolce.


If you look at Johny Hendricks, I know from Hendricks’ pedigree as a wrestler that if you tell him what to do, if you give him a weight cutting plan to follow, he does it. Looking at how much weight he had to lose and how he looked at the weigh ins, that makes me think that the way he seemed to fade in the fourth and fifth rounds had a lot to do with his weight cut.

The way Hendricks seemed to fade in the fourth and fifth rounds had a lot to do with his weight cut. -George Lockhart

I would like to work with Hendricks. I would work with him for pennies on the dollar just to show him, and get the science of cutting weight out there to more fighters. Not the ‘bro science,’ the actual science. I’ve changed careers using scientific weight cutting; Brian Stann, Dustin Poirier, Jeremy Stephens and Kenny Florian not only cut weight, they dropped weight classes. It changed their careers. I’m not saying, ‘oh they felt great,’ the proof was in the pudding. These guys lost weight and they got stronger. All of them.

Mike Dolce

I understand that Mike Dolce a great guy but I’m seeing a lot of negatives coming out of this in terms of how guys are cutting weight. I feel this is something that really needs to be addressed, especially if guys are paying thousands and thousands of dollars.

I’ve never actually heard or seen any true science from Dolce. They back it up saying ‘bro science’ and all this other stuff. The thing I always hear is regurgitation of ideas that are commonplace, like eat healthy greens and drink lots of water, but nothing very specific. I’ve never heard him explain the whys.

I’ve never heard Dolce talk about anything that would lead me to believe that he is a guru of weight cutting. I do believe that he can get the average person to lose weight. The average person, that’s the kind of guy Dolce would be awesome for; he can talk a good game and get people to follow things.

I’ve never actually heard or seen any true science from Dolce. -George Lockhart

Does it piss me off that the UFC gives Dolce so much attention? No. He’s a self-marketing man, and the UFC needed a face. He’s great at marketing, but when it comes down to the actual nutrition… It blows my mind. If you look at Dolce's top fighters, four of them have popped [for PEDs]. That… That gets me wondering. It’s crazy.

Cris Cyborg

I used to work with Kelsey DeSantis who would walk around at 170lbs, and I managed to get her down to 135lbs. Now, the more muscle you have, the easier it’s going to be to cut weight. She has so much muscle that it would be easy for me to get her to down to 135lbs. I could get Cyborg down to 135lbs without a hiccup.

George’s Background

I started fighting at an early age, and I had my first professional fight at the age of 18. I lost my fight, so I joined the Marine Corps, and I was part of the Corps for 10 years. I became the combat conditioning specialist for the USMC. I wasn’t a specialist, I was the specialist.

At TBS (The Basic School), where all of the officers go, I was the guy who they would send for to come there to help someone gain weight or lose weight or to recover from an injury. The Marines has a lot of weight standards, but they also have performance standards. You have to weigh a certain amount, but you also have to be able to perform at a certain level. That gave me the tools necessary to do weight cutting for fighters.

They sent me all over the place. I had TSAC (Tactical Strength And Conditioning) training, which covers how to provide troops in the field with the necessary nutrients, and how and when to do it. You have to know how to get the required nutrients into somebody with a limited amount of time using whatever food was available, because you usually don’t have the perfect stuff available.

A lot of stuff that’s useful for marines translates well to fighters. Over the years I was able to come up with my own system which was very specific based on body types. Some marines would be like, 'Hey bro, I can’t eat for 9 hours because I’m on a march.’ Someone else might be sitting in admin and able to eat all day long, and those guys require different things.

FitnessVT Program

With our program we have a bunch of algorithms. Everything I do is based on math. There’s no ‘a little of this, a lot of that.’ Our system is based off of time, type, portion sizes and how you respond to the food.

Everything we do is based on formulas and algorithms. It took me like two years to make those. There’s a lot of even more detailed stuff in those algorithms, things like the potassium-sodium ratios and the calcium and magnesium ratios to make sure the muscles contract. Sometimes if you have too much calcium the muscles will contract too quickly and you can blow your wad. If you have too much magnesium, you can go forever but you’re slow as hell, you lose your pop.

The program is 99% automated, so if you’re not losing weight it finds out what works best for your body and changes foods and macronutrients around. If you’re trying to lose weight, we don’t just cut calories, because once you cut them your body will learn to work off of less calories, which will drop your basal metabolic rate. The program changes your macronutrients until it finds the right levels. Usually people will lose five to seven pounds in the first week, and their energy levels will be going up, because the program doesn’t feed you less, it feeds you right.

If a professional fighter came and wanted to lose 20lbs for a fight, we could cut that in a week. That’s basically a hiccup. I’ll find out what food he’s been eating, because I don’t want to deviate too much from that, and then I’ll manipulate the macronutrients and they’ll be golden. Just recently I had James Vick, who was a little over 180lbs on Sunday and he had to weigh in at 155lbs that Friday. I flew out for him and Frankie Edgar and he made the weight no problem saying, ‘dude that was the easiest cut ever.’

Where fighters go wrong

One of the biggest mistakes I see fighters make is not taking into account a specific hormone: Vasopressin.

Vasopressin is an anti-diuretic hormone that controls the rate your body expels water. If it wasn’t for vasopressin, if you were in the desert you would sweat out and die within hours. When your blood becomes thin your body increases your levels of vasopressin.

What some fighters will do is cut five pounds, and they’ll plan to lose the other five the next day, but overnight the body notices the blood is thin and releases vasopressin. The next day they’ll be in the sauna dying wondering why they’re not sweating. They have the water, but the signal has already been sent to the body to release the vasopressin, and once that happens it’s very difficult to create sweat, but there are some things you can do.

I’ll do whatever the fighter wants, so if they want to cut weight overnight like that we will, but I’ll tell them how to do it more effectively. The way you do that is instead of keeping the room really warm, which you would think helps, you actually keep it really cold. What happens is the viscosity of the blood thickens because of the low temperature, which decreases the amount of vasopressin, so the next day the pores stay open and you sweat a lot easier.

I hope this doesn't sound bad, but as you get close to a fight, a fighter’s mind is so fragile. There are so many things that people do because they’ve always done them, like the football player who always wears the same jock. For some guys that’s an IV. Sometimes a guy doesn't need an IV, but he’s always had one. What that means for me is I need to design the muscle loading around the IV. If you have too many electrolytes you can get diarrhea and other negative effects.

You get fighters who have been pigging out during the start of camp, taking in 5,000 or 6,000 calories, and then mid-way through the camp it’s time to get ready to fight and they’ll cut down to 2,000 or 2,500 calories. Now initially they lose weight, but the body will start learning to work off of those 2,500 calories, so they stop losing weight, and they can even start gaining weight. What you want to do instead is keep the calorie count high, so that towards the end of the camp when you do cut those calories you lose the weight.

You can follow George on Twitter, and find out more about his program here, and his gym here.

The second part of this interview, covering the science and details of cutting weight, will be up later this week.