For a man in Mike Dolce
's line of work, watching Thiago Alves
miss weight by a half-pound before UFC 117
last week wasn't just aggravating, it was downright painful.
"It hurts me," Dolce, an MMA fighter, self-styled nutritionist, and lifestyle guru, told MMA Fighting. "It hurts my soul to see these guys work so hard in the gym their whole damn lives, get to the UFC, the biggest stage for MMA in the world, and have it all go to sh-t the couple days before the weigh-in just because they haven't learned the right information or they're listening to the wrong people."
That's why Dolce wasted no time in getting in contact with Alves' manager with a very simple offer to help "The Pitbull" put these problems behind him once and for all.
"I've been a fan of Thiago's for a long time, I just think he's fun to watch, and I saw the problems he had with his weight, whether it was missing weight or underperforming because of struggling to make weight. So after this time I sent Malki [Kawa] a text and said, 'Enough [expletive] around, let's get me working with Thiago.' Here it is Monday and we're moving forward with it. Hat's off to Malki and to Thiago for showing how serious they are about doing it."
As of Monday evening, Dolce – who some fans might remember from his stints in the IFL or on season seven of "The Ultimate Fighter" – has been hired to put the same "Dolce Diet" program that helped fighters like "Rampage" Jackson
and Chael Sonnen
to work for Alves, who arguably needs it more than any other fighter in the UFC at the moment.
Alves has come in over weight twice in his UFC career and once tested positive for a banned diuretic that he had allegedly employed to help him make the 170-pound limit for welterweights. Though he's only about 5'10", the thickly muscled Brazilian is known to get up to over 200 pounds in between fights.
After his most recent weight issues, UFC president Dana White all but demanded that Alves go up to middleweight. Not only was it "bullsh-t" for him to miss weight in a number one contender bout, White said in the UFC 117 post-fight press conference, but the strenuous cut was clearly hurting Alves' performances on fight night.
"He looked lethargic tonight, he looked slow," White said. "He doesn't belong at 170. He belongs at 185 pounds. I feel that way. I know Joe Silva feels that way. That's where I'd like to see him, at 185."
While Dolce agreed that Alves left his explosive power "on the scale" for his fight with Jon Fitch
, he challenged White's claim that going up a weight class is the only way to get it back.
"Thiago told me on the phone earlier that he walks around at 195 [pounds] eight weeks before the fight. I said, 'Sh-t, that's it? You can do that the week before the fight with me and you'll feel phenomenal.'"
Dolce, who boasts that he's never had a fighter miss weight, said he doesn't use typical methods of dropping weight, like carbohydrate restriction or extended stays in the sauna.
"The sauna to me is like an oven. Most saunas are 180 degrees. You're actually cooking, roasting your organs. You're cooking your brain, your heart, your liver. You're bringing them into a detrimental state on the eve of the most important event of your life. Why would you do that to yourself? Most athletes just think, Oh, I have to make weight. Not, I have to make weight and then perform at the best of my ability. I keep my athletes super-hydrated the week of the fight. I keep them eating food, eating carbohydrates the entire week of the fight."
The key is a holistic approach to nutrition, according to Dolce. The half-pound that plagued Alves? That should have been cut weeks earlier simply by eating the kind of diet maintaining the kind of physical state that would allow him to easily drop it on fight week. That's why, as part of Dolce's services, he'll be moving in with Alves eight weeks before every fight, cooking his meals for him and training alongside him.
"That way, when he plops down on the couch at the end of the night, I know exactly how he's feeling because I know what he's gone through," said Dolce.
If you're thinking that this sounds like an intensive, expensive service, you're right. It's also one that many MMA fighters, who Dolce points out are making a "middle-class living" from the sport as it is, don't want to pay for.
But for a guy like Alves, who lost 20% of his purse on the day of the weigh-in and then missed out on a win bonus and other incentives with a poor performance on fight night, the cost may be justified by the potential gain.
"In this business, a lot of guys don't want to pay for anything. They work so hard to make what money they do. To give some back to their manager, their agent, their gym, and then to bring a nutritionist as hands-on as me in is something that's pretty new for this sport," said Dolce. "But these guys are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars over time in bonuses, incentives, sponsorships, and purse upgrades, simply by not doing this the right way."
In order to even get offered another fight at welterweight, it seems as though Alves first has to convince the UFC that he can reliably make the weight without sacrificing his performance.
As anyone who's ever tried to change White's mind about something already knows, that's a fight in itself. But hiring a full-time, live-in nutritional guru like Dolce at least shows that Alves is serious about making some changes. Now we just have to wait and find out if they're the right changes.