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Weight specialist Giordano says UFC's IV ban means 'fighters fighting at 100%'

Weight management specialist Lou Giordano sat down with Bloody Elbow to talk about the UFC's upcoming IV ban and his personal philosophy toward weight cutting and fight nutrition.

At UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Romero, back on June 27th, Eddie Gordon entered the Octagon looking shredded. Well, he got on the scales looking shredded too, but it was a more stark contrast on fight night, where Gordon looked ever bit the lean fighter he had on the scales the day before. A far cry from the man that appeared gassed out in three minutes, when he fought Chris Dempsey back in April.

While Gordon was technically outmatched against Antonio Carlos Jr., for the first time in the UFC he didn't look like he was constantly sucking air and tiring badly. He looked in shape. The UFC commentary team even talked about the change, saying Gordon had hooked up with weight management specialist Lou Giordano. The owner of Nüe-Trition Supplements, Giordano sat down with Bloody Elbow to talk not only about his work with Gordon, but about a major shift in the MMA landscape that he and others in his field are in a unique position to comment on, IV bans.

The USADA in partnership with the UFC recently made known its plans (in accordance with WADA guidelines) to ban IV use for UFC fighters as a method of re-hydrating after their weight cuts. The intent of the ban has been targeted at the use of IVs as a masking/diluting agent that makes it more difficult to detect PEDs in the blood stream. Many, however, feel that the ban will have a more dramatic effect on weight classes and fighters' weight cutting procedures. Some have even gone as far as to lambaste the decision as one that has a high potential to harm fighters for relatively little effect on PED use. That's not Giordano's stance however, as he explained to me:

At what point did you start to see that IV use had become as prevalent as it appears to be now?

I would say, probably the last few months, to be honest. Obviously, I've been talking to Eddie [Gordon] for quite some time and he had mentioned that, yeah, one of his friends was cutting weight and they had to use some IV and I was like, "Really, IV!?" I was kind of taken aback by it a little bit. I didn't necessarily... Because I've never, you know, I don't agree with cutting weight. I don't cut weight, I manage it. I was kind of taken aback by it. And then once it started getting all the publicity that it's getting now, I started to do some research and realized that, hey, a lot of people have been using this for quite some time.

It sounds like you're very much against IV use for re-hydrating, why?

I'm against it for many reasons, and a few of the important ones are: It actually promotes weight cutting. I'm against weight cutting. I've done it, I've been wrestling since I'm 10. I've cut weight, I've spit in cups, and I've done all the crazy things. So, I'm totally against weight cutting. So, on one hand it promotes weight cutting, it promotes fighters to say, "Hey, it doesn't matter how dehydrated you are. It doesn't matter how weak and how tired you are, and how depleted your body is, you muscles and everything. All that matters is, you step on that scale, you make that weight, and then don't worry about it, we're going to put a needle in your arm and we're going to fuel you right back up." And it promotes that.

I'm strongly against that, number 1. And number 2, in some ways I don't think it levels the playing ground. It's almost like performance enhancing drugs. There was a time when I was going through some medical issues a few years back and one of the things I needed to do was actually IV treatment. The exact same thing, just basic vitamins and minerals. And I could tell you that when I would go and I would get all these vitamins, injected directly into my blood stream, I legitimately felt like I could run through walls. It was amazing, the energy that I had. So listen, I'm not calling them steroids, I'm not saying it's steroids. But, on one hand, when you're so depleted and you're putting all that into your body, in my opinion I think it's kind of an unfair advantage, actually.

Do you think that stopping fighters from using IVs will change the landscape of the UFC's divisions?

"With Eddie specifically, we didn't cut weight. We didn't cut a pound."

I don't think it will change the divisions. I think, actually, it will help them. Because again, with Eddie specifically, we didn't cut weight. We didn't cut a pound. We actually, we had a meal at 11:30 PM the night before weigh ins, we had a full breakfast, we had a full lunch, and then a shake before he stepped on the scale. And he was fully hydrated. He was actually holding more water than I was, because we have a scale that was checking how hydrated he was. And it was kind of comical that he was more hydrated than me, being that he's been training and supposed to be cutting all this weight. So, what I think it'll end up doing is, I think you'll start to see fighters fighting at 100% of their potential.

And what I mean by that is, if you don't cut weight, if you adjust and manage it and you don't cut weight, you don't deplete your body of anything, when you go to step into that Octagon, you're going to be at 100%. It's almost like in the practice room. You hear and see it all the time, guys look phenomenal in practice, cardio for days. So then, why is it that when they go into the cage they run out of energy? Well it's, try driving your car with no gas in it, see how far you get. It's the same concept.

You've talked about Eddie Gordon, who you helped make 185 for his fight against Antonio Carlos Jr. It looked like his opponent was way bigger than him. If that wasn't a problem, what went wrong?

You know, first of all, he was three inches taller and had a 5 inch reach, so that guy was definitely a lot bigger. So you can say that even about this recent fight, Conor and Mendes. They were the same weight, Conor just had a lot of inches and reach on him. As far as the fight went down, I really don't know, because I was with Eddie that whole week and I could tell you that he looked fantastic, the way he was moving, his power, his punching... You know, we even wrestled a little bit and his strength and everything... I really can't answer that question as far as him as a fighter in that instance. But, I do know that the first thing I asked him after that fight was, "Were you tired? Did you feel weak?" And he said, "Absolutely not. Not at all. I did not feel weak or tired at all."

So you don't believe that Carlos Jr. got any benefit from cutting weight where Eddie didn't?

Again, cutting that weight doesn't... When you refuel, it doesn't make you taller, it doesn't make your arms grow too much. I mean, at the weigh in, I was right there and other than Carlos Jr. being, again, three inches taller than Eddie and having that reach, I mean muscle mass-wise they were pretty right on point with each other. Again, he's a three inch taller guy, so it's going to look like he's bigger.

It sounds like you're saying that banning IVs really won't level the playing field in terms of big fighters in divisions then.

"A fighter should not know what to eat or drink. A fighter's job is to fight."

Right. Well I mean at that point, like I said, I mean you might as well make a height class as well as weight class. But, in the beginning you will absolutely see fighters having to go up in weight classes. But, what it will also do is force fighters to seek professional help as far as weight management, as far as strength and conditioning, to be done the correct way. So that you don't have to cut weight and you don't have to rely on things like IV treatment. That's why I'm adamant about it, is because, yes, in the beginning you will have a ton of fighters... I mean, I can give you a list of people that I spoke to. When I start working with a client like Eddie even, "Let me see what you're eating and drinking during your fight camp." And a fighter should not know what to eat or drink. A fighter's job is to fight. So, I really feel bad for the fighters actually. I have a lot of empathy for them, because they're the ones suffering the most. Because they rely on their coaches to get them ready, they rely on their nutrition experts or weight management, strength and conditioning coaches to make sure that their weight and everything is on point.

And I just think there's a lot of bad advice given in just the health and fitness industry as a whole, that it's going to force fighters to seek really professional help to get it down right. And when they do... Again, when you're 100%, when you don't cut weight, ask any wrestler or ask any fighter, when they don't cut weight, how do you feel? "Fantastic." When you cut weight, how do you feel? "Terrible" There is a way to do it without cutting weight. And I just think you'll see a lot more exciting fights, because guys will be in there at 100%.

For me, it's a misconception in my opinion, that, okay, the fighter has an advantage that walks around bigger. And then when they cut all that weight and then they're going to eat all that food and gain all that weight, they're going to step in heavier and have an advantage. Actually it's basic physics that more mass equals slower speed. So if you in fact step on that scale at 185 and then bulk back up to, like, 215 lbs, it's physics, you're going to be slower. It's just... If you ran from one side of the room to the other and then I put 30 lbs on your back and then you ran from one side of the room to the other, your time's going to be slower. It's just basic physics.

So, what ends up happening is, you dehydrate yourself to try to re-hydrate in a 24 hour period. You're not putting on muscle mass, you can't put on muscle mass in less than 24 hours. You're just carrying a bunch more water. So, it really isn't an advantage to be the bigger guy walking around. Look at GSP, he never walked around 30/40 lbs over his weight class. And I think he did pretty good. And even myself, when I wrestled in my younger days, in high school I wrestled 171. I don't think I ever wrestled one match at that weight. I always had to wrestle up in weight because we never had wrestlers. So, I'd wrestle 189, 215 and I would only weigh 175 lbs. But, I was 25-5 and had 19 pins against these kids. Skill is skill, you know what I mean? I think weight does play a factor, but if you put somebody like Robbie Lawler in the cage against somebody who's 230 lbs with no real skill, I'm pretty sure Robbie Lawler is going to knock him out, even though he's 60 lbs lighter, you know?

When you started working with Eddie what were the biggest things you had to change?

Two drastic things, I would say. I would say number one, I had to get him to understand that again, we do not cut weight. We are going to manage your weight. And two, it was his perception on the whole thing. You know, perception is really the key to life. You change your perception, you can change everything. The event doesn't have to change, but change how you perceive it and you'll get a completely different result. I had to change his perception on food, calories, energy, fuel. One of my favorite quotes that I love saying is, "Food is not comfort for the mind, it's fuel for the body." And that's how you have to look at it. So, I had to convince him that we need to change his perception first. And once we did that, everything else was pretty easy.

"He was not allowed to eat or drink anything unless I saw a picture of it first."

But, as far as the pictures were concerned, the main reason I had to do that, because, like what you just said was, it kind of makes it hard for the person to cheat. Actually, you know, if I say to you, "Hey send me a picture of what you're eating," it's easy to take a picture of good food, but then eat something else. But, because I wasn't... I live almost an 1hr 45min from Eddie, so we spent 8 weeks communicating via text message and phone calls and emails. So, he was not allowed to eat or drink anything unless I saw a picture of it first, up until fight camp. And then, obviously, I was with him that entire week, and literally, I did everything except actually chew his food for him, because I was able to be there and do it, vs. "you gotta send me a picture." I had to hold him accountable somehow, not being with him and being that far away.

Do you know if they can test for fighters using IVs? I've heard some people say yes, others say that they'd have to catch you in the act.

I would say this confidently, that I'm pretty sure that they can test for whatever they want to test. There's probably tests that can tell you what you ate when you were 5 years old. I'm pretty sure that they can test for that, and I do know that they can... Because again, I've had some medical issues where I've had to get extensive blood work done and all my levels and everything needed to be checked. And one of the things that we would check for is, when I was getting my IV medicine and I would get my blood work done, to see if any of my levels went up or down and how much was I actually holding. And so, I would say yes. I'm not a doctor, but I would definitely say there's definite ways, if they wanted to test for it, they could.

Any advice on proper re-hydration for fighters that are cutting without an IV?

100%. Don't cut weight, manage it. And email loutrition@gmail.com and I'll help you out. Because I don't want to see that, I don't want to see it at all.

Do you think there's any potential fallout from the IV ban that others aren't seeing or understanding?

Here's the thing. When they do that, because there's so many fighters on the roster... And forget about just the UFC, just in general, fighters in other organizations... Because I do work with fighters that are not in the UFC as well, and everything like that. The scary thing is, because again, I feel really bad for the fighters, that it's going to affect them in a big way. If you don't do it properly, you can really get hurt, you can really injure yourself, you could injure your brain, you could injure a lot of things. It's not going to be healthy. But, what I think it will do is that it will wake people up to say, "You know, there has to be another way." Going up in weight may work for some people, and there's going to be a lot of fans and a lot of people that may be happy with certain fighters going up in weight... Because, if you ask a fighter, "Here's the deal, you can either cut weight the way you're doing it, with no IV bag and risk permanent damage, or you can go up in weight." Obviously, they're going to choose to go up in weight.

"I'm that guy in the corner that's waiving, saying, 'Whoa whoa, there's more to this. You don't have to do it that way.'"

But, what it's going to do is it's going to give somebody like me, who in my opinion, I'm the minority when it comes to this. Because of my views and my philosophies, I'm the minority and I'm going to start having a louder and louder voice. And that's why I'm doing what I'm doing and I'm talking to the people that I'm trying to talk to, because I'm that guy in the corner that's waiving, saying, "Whoa whoa, there's more to this. You don't have to do it that way." And I'm hoping that more people like myself will be for banning it, because we can educate and teach people the right way. Versus saying, "Well, if you ban it it's going to be terrible for people." Well, is it going to be terrible for people, or is it going to be terrible for your business? It's tough. That's probably my biggest challenge is just overall bad advice that's being spread when it comes to strength and conditioning and nutrition.

Think of it like this, you can have a Ferrari, your Ferrari is your strength and conditioning. So, you have a Ferrari, your strength and conditioning is very fast, very good, high efficiency. But, if you're putting bad fuel in the car and if you're putting bad oil in the car, the car is not going to run as good as it normally can run. It's gonna force people to do a lot of things.

It seems like, for the whole announcement has honestly been kind of a system shock for the MMA fighter community.

I think for the wrong reasons. I think because people are building it up to be like, "Oh my god, if they ban IVs fighters are going to die. It's going to be terrible." Yes, if you dehydrate yourself and do not hydrate, yes you absolutely will. But, look at the ways people are doing it. Obviously you're an MMA fan, so I'm sure you were watching the Ultimate Fighter American Top Team vs. The Blackzilians. They had to send a guy home because he was water loading, which I think is terrible, and he started having seizures. And luckily for him he didn't have any permanent brain damage. He ended up fighting on the same card that Eddy fought and he ended up getting knocked out. Not that it had anything to do with it.

But, you have water loading, you have this crazy thing with people sitting in bathtubs with Epsom salt and all this other crazy stuff. It's just zapping your body, pulling nutrients out in a drastic way. It's gonna force people to say, "Hey, you know, there are other ways of doing it." I think it's like this: The old school MMA, back in the day when it was Karate vs. Kung Fu and Jiu Jitsu vs. Wrestling and somebody finally said, "Hey guys, maybe if we mix the martial arts, you'll have the perfect weapon, the perfect fighter." So, I think it's going to force people to start getting a little more educated in that way, I think. I hope, anyway.

But that's kind of a back door way to change things. Hoping for larger changes from a minor rule adjustment.

There you go, 100%, that's exactly what will happen. It's just like trying to prevent one thing. If people want to do it, they're going to find a way to do it. So, I think if they ban IVs and people don't get correctly educated on how to really fuel yourself up and all that stuff, it's going to create more problems.