I was recently in Ireland working on a book with George Lockhart, and he had some interesting things to say about Conor McGregor’s preparations for UFC 205, as well as his history working with Conor, the Nate Diaz bouts, and how people can follow the same diet plan as Conor McGregor through the FitnessVT.com program. You can listen to the full interview on Episode 93 of the Three Amigo’s Podcast at the 21:25 mark, but I’ve transcribed around a quarter of the interview below.
Iain Kidd: This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Conor, so for those who don’t know, tell us how you and Conor started working together.
George Lockhart: It was actually through his coach, John Kavanagh - he heard me on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. I was talking about Cris Cyborg’s cut, and he reached out to me, talked to me, asked what my system was and said they might be in contact. This was three weeks before his first fight with Jose Aldo (at UFC 194). They reached out to me, we started working with them and everything went well.
I learned a lot from working with Conor the first time. I gave him a list of foods to eat, and his coach was like, “It would be great if he could eat all of this, but we don’t see how that’s possible!” It was so late in the game, I told them to do what they wanted to do and I would work around that. A few hours later coach Kavanagh calls me back and says, “No, we made the decision, we’re going to follow you 100%.” They did that, everything went great and we’ve had a great relationship ever since. Conor is seriously one of the best guys I’ve ever worked with. I love the guy to death, he’s just an amazing guy all-around.
Iain: I was out with you at UFC 194, and it was crazy. You were working with something like, thirteen fighters in total, right?
Lockhart: It’s funny, that’s a week I remember very well, and don’t remember a lot of at the same time. It all kind of meshed together into one day. I don’t think we slept for like three or four days in a row. It was pretty awesome. Luke Rockhold won the title, Conor won the title… It was a great weekend for us. Not all of our fighters won, in fact a couple of guys we were working with actually fought each other - Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar. That sucked, because they’re two of the nicest guys, and I’m huge fans of both of them.
Iain: Conor’s next fight after that was supposed to be at 155lbs, and he was going to work with you for that. Then Dos Anjos fell out, and it was booked at 170lbs instead. Conor kind of decided to do his own thing for that fight, since he was going to be under 170lbs regardless, and the fight didn’t really go as expected.
Coach Kavanagh came out afterwards and said they made some mistakes, including on the nutrition. Conor said himself that he loaded up too much and was eating whatever he wanted, which hurt him during the fight. So, for the second Diaz fight, even though it was 170lbs again, they worked with you the entire time, right?
Lockhart: Yeah, man. It was awesome. What’s crazy is a lot of times I will go out to a fighter’s camp and they’ll tell me they’re following the program (from FitnessVT.com), then I look in the refrigerator and the cabinets, and there’s literally nothing on the program in there. When I went out to Conor’s everything was there.
I’ll ask Conor if he done something I asked, and he’ll look at me like “Yeah, you said to do it!” It’s hard to get used to [someone being so disciplined]. One thing I love about him is every time it’s time for him to eat, he asks exactly what he should eat. Conor is very particular about his coaches, and this is why he does so well. Whether it’s his jitz coach, his striking coach, his nutrition coach - whatever it is - once he finds the one he has full confidence in, he puts his full trust in that individual. He lets me do my job, which makes my job crazy easy. I love working with him.
One thing Conor does very well is he and his team look at his problems in a very unbiased way. They did that after the Diaz fight and they got the victory, which is awesome. I never watch fights, but I watched that one. That made me remember why I don’t want fights - I almost had a heart attack during that fight!
Iain: You’re talking about Conor being different from a lot of fighters in how disciplined he is, and I’ve been around you with fighters a few times and I’ve noticed that, too. Today there was a situation where Conor came in and said, “I might be doing X tonight, or I might be doing Y. What do you need me to do based on those two things?”
I remember from being with you at UFC 194 that most fighters are more like, “Can I have food? When can I eat?” asking when they can do the stuff they want to. In contrast, Conor wants you to tell him what to do. It sounds like such a small thing, but that mindset, that attitude stands out to me as making a big difference. Would you say that’s fair to say?
Lockhart: Oh, 100%. I work with a lot of amazing fighters and champions. You start realizing there’s commonalities with the guys at the very top level. Those are the guys that are easiest to work with. They ask you what they need to do, and it gets done. I work with Rafael Dos Anjos, Frankie Edgar and other, my partner Daniel Leith works with Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier, and you see commonalities between these guys. You see what makes a champion a champion. Conor is at the top of the game right now, he’s at the top of the combat sports world, and you can see why he is where he is right now.
Iain: Normally you work with fighters remotely, and you can’t really have hour to hour contact with them. For UFC 205 you’re out here at Conor’s place and you can do that with him. Normally you’ll give a guy a roughly set diet, this is what they’ll eat and this is the time they’ll eat. With Conor I’ve noticed that you’ll wait until basically the last moment to cook, so that right as Conor is ready to eat, that’s when the food is ready.
How useful is it for you to be able to find out how his day has been going, or his training has been going, before you start cooking? Obviously we’re talking about a matter of inches here, but do you think being able to respond hour to hour like that a significant benefit?
Lockhart: I do. Some people know how to read their body and listen to their body. With Conor I could make a huge bowl of food and tell him to eat until he’s full, and there might be a third of the bowl missing. With other people, I could tell them to eat until they’re full and the whole bowl would be gone. They don’t listen to their body at all. That’s the average american; we’re raised with the thought process of finishing everything on our plate. We might be full as all get out, but we’re still going to pick at that food as long as it’s in front of us.
Conor isn’t one of those people. We listen to the body and give the body what it needs. If I have a fighter who feels hungry at a certain time, I work out what macronutrient they need. If they feel weak, or tired, or bloated, we can adjust right there on the spot. If Conor was to be like, “I feel tired, but I need to work out in an hour,” and I have a bunch of rice and carbohydrates prepped for him, I sure as hell ain’t giving him that! If he’s hungry in that situation, I’ll address it in a different way.
If I go into a workout while I’m hungry, I can’t give 100%. Equally, if I’m full, I still can’t give 100% to that workout, so it’s a fine line. The cool thing is, while I’m out here at Conor’s place, I can walk that fine line. Like today - he was like I might do this or I might do this. We could address that by saying let’s do X, Y and Z, and he was able to do either a phenomenal workout, or whatever else it was he needed to do.