George Lockhart is out in Las Vegas helping Robbie Lawler, Joseph Duffy and Dustin Poirier with their weight cuts for UFC 195, and the Three Amigo's Podcast was lucky enough to sit down with the world MMA awards ‘Trainer of the Year' nominee.
George discussed everything from his pay scale to working with opponents. Most of this piece is transcribed from an interview on the latest episode of the Three Amigo's Podcast at the bottom of the page, but some parts are from unpublished audio as well.
TAP: You just signed your sixth UFC champion in Robbie Lawler, how did that come about, and what is it like working with him?
George Lockhart: I started working with Robbie through working with C.B. Dollaway. I was working with C.B. at UFC on FOX 17 and I got talking to his manager, who is also Robbie's manager. They liked what I was doing with C.B. and we clicked, so we decided to work together.
Robbie is a champion by every definition of the word. It's not that Robbie has any difficulty with his weight cuts, he just wants to learn. His biggest questions were all about the best ways to reload without an IV and things of that nature. He's a ball of positivity and has a very calm demeanor about him.
It's funny, sometimes when I work with people who don't say a whole lot I kind of wonder how they feel about what's going on and what I'm doing. Robbie doesn't say a whole lot, but when he does, you know exactly how he feels. He's very personable.
TAP: Iain Kidd's UFC 194 fight week diaries showed just how crazy your schedule can be. That week the FitnessVT team was working with about a dozen guys and the team was six strong, but no one got more than 3 hours sleep a night. You work with several fighters on every card now, often on your own, and six of the ten UFC champions. You're on your own for UFC 195 covering three fighters. What challenges do you have in terms of managing your time?
George Lockhart: Every time I go somewhere there are a load of new challenges and things to learn. For UFC 194 I got a hotel that was 20 minutes from the fighter's hotel and we were driving back and forth to pick stuff up. This time around I am staying in the same hotel as the fighters, but they all stay in different areas and they're on different schedules. Sometimes it works out perfectly and the guys get up at roughly the same time, and they work out and eat at roughly the same time. This time, that's not really the case, so I have to plan around different schedules.
Every event poses its own problems; when I was in the Philippines I wasn't even sure if I could rent a car, so I was wondering how I could get groceries. In the end I got a taxi, and it was like $2 on the way there. Then it was $50 on the way back [laughs]. I was like, ‘How does that work?' But you can't really argue with the guy. Every event has its own unique problems, but it keeps life interesting!
TAP: You're working with Joseph Duffy, do you have additional challenges when working with guys from other countries who have to travel in?
George Lockhart: Not really. I've worked with Joe a couple of times, so now I understand what his weight is going to do if he's been traveling long distances for instance. The more times a fighter does a cut with us, the easier it gets. Joe in particular is one of the most disciplined guys I've met. We've worked together several times, but he'll still write everything down.
He's the type of guy I'll tell to have 13 almonds and he'll call me like, ‘Bro, I accidentally had 14 almonds,' which is what makes him so damn good. His attention to detail makes it so easy to work with him. I love working with people like that.
TAP: You've worked with opponents a few times recently. Edgar and Mendes, Faber and Saenz and now Poirier and Duffy. Is that ever difficult for you?
George Lockhart: Oh man, definitely. You get really close to these fighters. I honestly don't even watch the fights. After the weigh ins are done and everyone is taken care of I go home to see my kid and my girl. I'll check in on twitter to see who won and lost, but I won't watch most of the time.
TAP: Did you see the proposals that came out of the weight cutting summit in California, and do you have any suggestions of your own?
George Lockhart: I always try to stay in my own lane. I talk to Jeff Novitzky a lot and he's a stand-up guy. When you talk to him it's clear he cares about the fighters, and I know he was out at that summit looking to do what is best for them. Especially with the recent death of the ONE fighter I think they're looking for some avenues to improve weight-cutting.
From my own experience I know the more strict you are with the rules the more effort guys will go to find an advantage or a loophole. If you look at NCAA wrestling, they implemented same-day weigh ins about an hour before they compete and guys still cut weight. It's bad enough doing that in wrestling, but in MMA you're taking headshots and it's impossible to reload that quickly and prevent those head injuries.
TAP: You're working with Holly Holm, Conor McGregor, Rafael Dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler, and your FitnessVT partner Dan Leith works with Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier. With that in mind, is there anyone you don't work with that you really want to work with?
George Lockhart: God's honest truth, I was just talking to Jeff Novitzky about this. A lot of the guys we work with are champions or main event fighters, but the guys I want to work with are the guys just getting into the UFC and are making $8k/$8k or $10k/$10k.
It's very difficult to do that just now because of the expenses involved. When I have to fly out the team and pay for flights and hotel rooms, and then for a car, for the fighter's food, for the supplements, that adds up to a number that's just not affordable for those guys. What we're trying to work out is how we can work with these guys who don't have the financial means to afford those services.
When a guy makes weight and tell me they feel great and had an easy cut, that means everything to me. It makes my day and makes everything worthwhile. We're trying to figure out ways to work with everyone, but just now we have a sliding scale where the top fighters do pay more for the services they receive, while the guys lower on the card pay a much smaller fee.
TAP: You've been nominated as trainer of the year in the world MMA awards for the second year running. You've really blown up over the last 12 months, how surreal is this for you?
George Lockhart: It's awesome. I am the worst marketer in the world, you know? For a long time people only knew who I was through word of mouth. This year we got to tell more people what we do and how we do it, and that really catapulted us. People got to see that we really are out to help the fighters. I'm not going to lie, I still do this to make a living, but I get to make a living doing what I love in the environment that I love.
TAP: What do you have planned in 2016 I know you and Iain Kidd are writing a couple of books, how are those going?
George Lockhart: There's a lot coming up in 2016. We already have a lot of fights booked. Having Iain out at the fights at UFC 194 was good so he could see what I do. There are a lot of things I do all of the time that I wouldn't think to put into words that he has noticed, and that'll make the books better.
We have two books. The first book is the ‘Weight Cutting Bible,' and we're trying to answer the question of how to cut weight as safely as possible. I want to use my experience gained from working with fighters into a book. That way guys who aren't in the UFC, who can't afford to work with us but still have to cut weight, they still have a scientific source of information and a direct guide to follow. The book is very intensive, everything I do is going to be in that book, all of the math, all of the procedures, everything.
The second book is tentatively titled ‘The Combat Sports Diet,' which is for the general public. It's for people who wonder how fighters get so lean and in such great shape. They won't be cutting weight, but we'll be explaining the principles and fundamentals of both the physiological and psychological factors people face when they go on a diet.
There's also the online program at FitnessVT.com, which gives people a daily diet plan specifically tailored to their needs and their results. This is the plan the fighters follow in camp before the weight cut, and it's designed so that people can swap foods in and out to get meals that they enjoy. There are plans available specifically for fighters that include a weight cut, but there's a plan for $17 a month aimed at anyone who wants to lose weight and get healthier by using a diet plan tailored to them.
You can listen to this excellent interview right HERE or via the embedded player below. The interview starts at the 44:30 mark of the audio.