Professional MMA Fighter Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion B.A. Baracus in the A-Team (2010)
We were approached by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s management team to assist him with his nutrition and weight cut for the full 8 weeks of his training camp, based at Wolfslair, Warrington. Rampage was preparing for his final contracted UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fight against Glover Teixeira at UFC on Fox 6 at the United Centre, Chicago. Rampage had struggled with making the weight for his past two fights and had not made the weight in his previous fight, incurring a 20% fine on his fight earnings. For the entirety of the 8 weeks we provided Rampage with a bespoke version of the Soulmatefood Perform Plan. This plan is designed to support athletes and people participating in heavy training and is tailored to their specific sport and training goals.
At the first weighing session after arriving in England Rampage weighed 244 lb (111 kg). From initial mass we set a target mass of 210 lb for the day before the cut, meaning that Rampage would only have to dehydrate 5 lb on the day (2.26 kg) ~2% of his body weight. The mass target that we set was reasonably low to allow for a margin of error as Rampage had always struggled with making weight.
We also recorded Rampage’s skin fold measurements with Harpenden Skin Fold Callipers to assess his current level of body fat. This would allow us to calculate the maximum amount of body fat that could be lost. Rampage’s sum of 8 skin folds came in at 110 mm. Ideally over the 8 week period he would drop to below 40 mm to maximise his power:weight ratio when in the octagon (a performance limiting factor in all combat sports).
MMA Weight Cut Considerations
MMA has many dangerous and potentially life-threatening techniques with which fighters and coaches use to cut weight before competition. It is not unheard of for fighters to cut over 50 lbs in 6-8 weeks to make weight and even more dangerous, 20 lbs in one day through dehydration.
Rampage had 39 lb to lose, which is a great deal over an 8 week period, but our main consideration was to ensure that this was done as safely as possible and to try and re-educate him and his coaches in safe ways to cut weight. As mentioned before, on the morning of the weigh-in we ideally wanted Rampage to weigh 210 lb to reduce the amount of dehydration and Rampage would have been subject to with a large cut. Many fighters’ judgement can become clouded during the cut and making the weight can become the main focus of the camp and not the actual fight! By bringing Rampage down to 210 lb his stress levels would be greatly reduced, allowing him extra relaxation time, taking the pressure off the weigh-in and allowing him to mentally prepare for the fight.
8 Week Training Camp
During the 8 week training camp the focus was to lose on average 3-4 lb per week. However it was important for him to still be adequately fuelled to maintain a high intensity during training and to optimise recovery. This was achieved by providing a low carbohydrate, high protein and moderate fat diet whilst increasing carbohydrate content in the hour before training and immediately after. Rampage’s weight was monitored every other day and his skin folds recorded once a week.
Rampage’s Skin Fold Measurements During the Camp
To minimise the effects of both jet lag and water retention certain strategies were put in place before he travelled.
We advised Rampage to alter his sleeping pattern for the five days prior to flight to encourage his body to adapt to the five hour time difference in New York
We recommended supplementation with Pychnogenol to reduce the chances of DVT and edema on the flight. Pychnogenol may also reduce gains in weight during the flight due to possibly reducing the amount of water retention.
Rampage was advised to wear compression garments for both his upper and lower body to improve cirulation and reduce the risk of DVT
Drinking frequently was also critical to ensure hydration was maintained. Dehydration would of caused increased viscosity of the blood, again possibly leading to increased DVT risk.
Rampage had previously told us that he did not like plane food. However, this was a good thing as plane food usually contains high levels of carbohydrates, fats and salt, all of which are not suitable for an athlete needing to drop weight. To overcome this problem we provided Rampage with three high protein, low carbohydrate meals to be heated by the flight attendants and to be consumed during the flight as alternatives to the flight meals. The flight from Manchester to New York was to take 8 hours, so these meals were provided to increase the feeling of fullness, reduce the chances of boredom eating and the temptation of unhealthy in-flight snacks.
The dry air on a plane and the close proximity to many people, greatly increases the chances of contracting an illness. To reduce this risk, Rampage was advised to chew chewing gum often during the flight to encourage nasal breathing. A dry mouth is also a breeding ground for bacteria, so to avoid this it was recommended to sip water frequently.
New York & Chicago – Fight Week
The main focus of this week was to ensure that Rampage was as close to the 210 lb pre cut target that was set initially. On arrival to New York Rampage weighed 219 lb, 2 lb could be removed from this due to the weight gained from air travel. This would settle over the next couple of days. This meant that we had to shift roughly 9 lbs off Rampage in the 9 days before the day of the weigh-in.
The meals provided were designed primarily to deplete Rampage’s muscle glycogen stores (carbohydrates stored in the muscles). The average person roughly holds up to 400-600 g of muscle glycogen and each g of glycogen is bound to 3 g of water, so fully depleting this source would drop 1.6-3 kg (3.5-6.6 lbs) with little difficulty. Another reason for depleting muscle glycogen is that fat metabolism is increased as the fact the carbohydrate stores have been depleted and are therefore not available as a fuel for the body to use. To deplete glycogen stores it was extremely important to strictly limit carbohydrate intake to fewer than 20 g per day. This was achieved by removing any heavy carbohydrates (e.g. pasta, noodles, rice, potatoes, couscous, oats) and limiting any carbohydrate content to only come from low carbohydrate vegetables (e.g. spinach, lettuce, kale, fine beans, broccoli).
On the morning of the weigh-in Rampage weighed 214 lb, this meant that a cut of 8 lb was required to make the 206 lb limit of a non-championship light heavyweight bout. In previous fights Rampage had been cutting from over 220 lb, so we were confident that this was to be an easy cut.
With coaches Gavin Sterritt, Tom Blackledge, Bobby Rimmer and Dave Jackson , Rampage was able to drop to 205 lb in only two hours. They achieved this by switching between hot baths and sweat suits in bed every thirty minutes.
These were Rampage’s thoughts on the cut;
As Rampage had cut the weight fairly easily, he was allowed a small drink of the US favourite “Arnold Palmer”. To ensure that this did not put Rampage overweight the drink was weighed.
For the next couple of hours Rampage rested and sipped the drink, until it was time to head to the Hard Rock Hotel and await the transfer to The Chicago Theatre for the weigh-in.
A casual and up beat Rampage entered the waiting room, full of the fighters and coaches, sipping his drink to some confused faces who thought that Rampage wouldn’t make the weight. This was great to see as many of the fighters were looking rather drawn and fatigued, showing that they had obviously had difficult and uncomfortable cuts having had to drop more weight.
For the weigh-in Rampage was accompanied on stage by our C.E.O. and founder Christian Coates. Glover Teixeira was up on the scales first, only just making the weight at 206 lb. Up next was Rampage, stepping up onto the scales and weighing in at 204lb, looking in great physical condition and full of positivity. From our point of view this was great to see as the longer an athlete spends in a severely dehydrated state the greater the risks. The effects of severe dehydration can last several days, so for Rampage to have only dehydrated ~2 % of his body weight was perfect, as the refuelling and rehydration process would be a lot more efficient and the effect of the dehydration would be minimal when he stepped into the ring.
Watch Quinton Jackson’s Weigh-In
Immediately after the weigh-in it was critical that Rampage began his rehydration and glycogen replenishment as quickly and efficiently as possible. He had lost over 8 lb of fluid on the day of the weigh-in and had been depleted of carbohydrates. Due to this, at least 4 L (8.5 lbs) of fluid and 500-600 g carbohydrates were required to be consumed over the next twenty-eight hours to fully replenish muscle glycogen and hydration levels.
To ensure that Rampage’s fluid intake was monitored we had prepared eight 1.5 L bottles (Four containing an electrolyte and carbohydrate solution and four containing mineral water) and stored them in the fridge. Once one had been consumed another was given to Rampage. From this we had a clear indication of how much fluid Rampage had consumed and depending on this amount we could increase or reduce consumption rate.
We had a 1.5 litre bottle of high carbohydrate, electrolyte solution at a specific concentration ready as soon as he stepped off the scales and… Well after he had confronted Glover… in his camouflage boxers. This beverage was to be consumed within fifteen minutes. The bottle contained 1.5 L water with SIS GO Electrolyte added at a concentration of 10% (optimal balance between hydration and glycogen replenishment for post weigh in with a six hour+ recovery window). Table salt was also added to increase the sodium concentration to 1500 mg/1500 ml (optimal for rehydration). The drink also contained 110 g carbohydrates (maltodextrin and fructose blend to maximise uptake) to replenish muscle glycogen. Rampage had tested this beverage previously in the camp to ensure that no gastrointestinal distress was caused by the high carbohydrate concentration.
To optimise rehydration it was important to ensure that Rampage did not eat for the two hours following the weigh in. The reasoning for this is that any food consumed during this time would reduce the rate at which fluid would be absorbed in the gut, reducing rehydration rate. During this period Rampage was given another 1.5 litre bottle of the high carbohydrate electrolyte solution to consume.
After the two hour period we allowed Rampage to eat with his family and friends at an Italian Restaurant, ensuring that he selected meals from the menu that were suitable for replenishing muscle glycogen stores further. This meal needed to be high carbohydrate, moderate protein and low fat. From the menu we opted for Bruschetta for starter, followed with a Chicken Arrabiatta main, avoiding the high fat alternatives on the menu.
During the meal Rampage was asked to drink a further two large glasses of water. Rampage had a further high carbohydrate meal and a 1.5 litre of low carbohydrate electrolyte solution before sleep.
Fight day nutrition was all about ensuring that Rampage was fully rehydrated and fuelled for the fight. An early morning breakfast of wholemeal pancakes with lean bacon and a bowl of fresh fruit salad was prepared. This meal was a great source of slow release, low Gi carbohydrates and the salt from the bacon helped with rehydration. A litre of electrolyte solution was also provided; this was to be consumed within an hour of waking up.
A mid morning snack of a banana and a flapjack provided more carbohydrates and a good intake of potassium from the banana, aided hydration.
A high carbohydrate, low Gi meal of whole-wheat spaghetti with a small serving of lean turkey meatballs and a garlic and tomato sauce was provided at 2 o’clock. This meal was designed to provide a slow release of energy ensuring that Rampage was fully fuelled to maintain a high intensity of performance throughout the duration of all 3 x 5 minute rounds.
Forty-five minutes before the fight a high Gi carbohydrate, low fat brownie (Rampage’s favourite snack) was provided. This brownie also contained roughly 30 mg of caffeine from the cocoa powder to improve Rampage’s alertness. It would have been useful to increase caffeine intake with caffeinated gum or a caffeinated gel, however Rampage was opposed to using these as he hadn’t supplemented with caffeine in previous fights.
As this fight was Rampage’s final fight in the UFC, post fight nutritional strategies were unimportant, however here are a few details to take on board that may help with recovery;
High protein (30-40 g) and carbohydrate (80-100g) meal immediately after the fight
Use of tart cherry juice and Pychnogenol to reduce muscle soreness due to the high anti-oxidant content
Avoid alcohol for twenty-four hours after to prevent dehydration and improve power output in the following days
Travelling with Team Rampage to the U.S.A. was a great experience in which a lot was learnt and many great people were met. Unfortunately Rampage lost the fight via unanimous decision. However, throughout the camp and the days leading up to the fight Rampage and his coaches had commented on how impressed they were with his weight and how good he was feeling even during the cut. Many other coaches and fighter had stated that Rampage was looking in the best condition he has in recent years, but unfortunately on the night it wasn’t to be.
We wish Rampage the best of luck in the future, what ever his next career move is. We also would like to thank Anthony McGann, Lee Gwynn, Bobby Rimmer, Gavin Sterritt, Tom Blackledge, and Dave Jackson for making the week memorable and being part of a great team.
Written by our in-house nutritionist Tom Whitehead