Thursday 29 September 2016

UFC 196: Five reasons why Conor McGregor will be a different animal at welterweight against Nate Diaz

James Edwards

Published 01/03/2016 | 12:08

UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor (L) and lightweight contender Nate Diaz (R)
UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor (L) and lightweight contender Nate Diaz (R)

This weekend, Conor McGregor will take an unprecedented leap up two weight divisions when he moves from the 145lbs featherweight division to the 170lbs welterweight division to take on American Nate Diaz.

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McGregor's weight has long been a talking point. The Irishman was originally expected to step up to lightweight (155lbs) to face Rafael dos Anjos in a bid to claim his second UFC title, however, just one week ago an injury to Dos Anjos caused a change in plan and in came Diaz to face McGregor at welterweight.

With so many questions surrounding McGregor's new diet and training regime, we elicited the help of Darren Deane at Physiques Training, a specialist in nutrition and weight management for elite athletes, to help us understand what we should expect from the 'new' Conor McGregor this weekend.

McGregor's weight cut this Friday

It was revealed last week that McGregor is currently walking around at 177lbs. Deane believes that McGregor will have to make little effort to hit the 171lbs limit on Friday evening:

"We know from recent comments that Conor has gone from eating Salads for cutting to steak and potatoes to keep his weight high," said Deane.

"In our opinion, Conor’s nutritionist will cut his overall calorie intake slightly since the announcement of the fight at that weight.

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"He may also use a water load then reduce water to a minimum the day before coupled with the use of a natural diuretic to remove any remaining water."

How does McGregor make the featherweight weight limit?

McGregor usually fights at 145lbs and it's been widely remarked that he pushes himself to the limit making this weight. Deane believes he gets down to the weight using a number of different weight cutting techniques:

"To make 145 lbs Conor’s diet would have looked very different. He would be eating less calorie dense foods, for example instead of steak and chicken maybe fish and turkey," said Deane.

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"Again towards the end of camp maybe some water manipulation and natural diuretic along with extra cardio sessions, more than likely in a sweatsuit.

"To drain the last water retention, a sauna or hot bath would possibly be used."

Is McGregor limiting his true ability fighting at featherweight?

Despite his amazing performances in the Octagon, many believe McGregor hasn't been fighting at his true potential due to him cutting so much weight 24 hours before the fight. Deane doesn't quite sign up to this but believes that he might improve in some areas at the higher weight classes:

"Having been working with John Hathaway for 7 years now, who cuts from 90-92kg to 77kg pretty comfortably without losing a level of performance, I would say it truly does depend on how it's done," said Deane.

"If Conor walks around at 80kg roughly and has to make 65kg, it’s a similar amount to which John loses. Conor is an intelligent fighter and would not risk a bad weight loss, therefore, I would predict that he and his nutritionist would have everything planned in great detail as to how to drop the weight without affecting performance.

"If he was badly weight drained or dehydrated for a fight this would affect his mental judgement, cardio output, flexibility, agility and his ability to take strikes.

"Taking all this into consideration and the way he has stormed through his opponents, I would say his diet is perfect for his weight cut."

What differences can we expect to see from McGregor at 170lbs?

Deane believes we could well see a different animal in McGregor come Saturday night: "Carrying extra lean muscle mass means one massive advantage - an increase in strength.

"His clinch will be stronger, his strength on the ground will be better and his punching more powerful."

"He may lose some speed as he will be heavier, however, his agility and flexibility will not be affected because of all the movement and flexibility specific training he does. I look forward to seeing the bigger, more powerful Conor this weekend."

What weight division is right for McGregor?

Never before has a UFC competitor been so laissez-faire moving up and down weight divisions. Deane believes McGregor after this fight should probably step back down to lightweight before later moving back to welterweight:

"If every fighter entered at their walkaround weight, then welterweight would be his division," said Deane.

"The fact is most welterweights can lose anything up to 10kgs or more to make weight, then after rehydrating they would put most of that back on.

"So would Conor be able to compete against guys who are a lot heavier in the Octagon at welterweight? Well, only time will tell!

"It may be that he will be ‘cleaning out’ the lightweight division before his body matures and grows more before he moves up."

The festivities will start in Las Vegas tomorrow at a media day where McGregor and Diaz will meet for the first time since their run in last week at the UFC 196 press conference in LA. The fight will go down Saturday night at the MGM Grand and will be broadcast live on BT Sports 2 for UK viewers.

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