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George Lockhart: Max Holloway’s UFC 223 weight cut will be ‘tied’ for biggest I’ve ever done

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Max Holloway
Max Holloway
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

George Lockhart was one of the last lines of defense when it came to Max Holloway accepting the short-notice fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223.

On Sunday, before news of Tony Ferguson’s injury hit social media, Holloway’s manager Brian Butler-Au and Holloway reached out to Lockhart, Holloway’s nutrition and weight-cut coach. Holloway had the chance to fight Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title in Brooklyn and it was up to Lockhart to determine whether Holloway could make 155 pounds by Friday.

“It was a lot of math, a lot of calculations and a lot of f*cking stress in a short amount of time,” Lockhart told MMA Fighting. “I was like, ‘f*ck.’”

Lockhart would not say how far Holloway, the UFC featherweight champion, was above 155 pounds Sunday. But he does have a admittedly brutal cut to make 145 and has not been active in training recently due to an ankle injury.

In the end, though, Lockhart gave the thumbs up and Holloway accepted the fight. He’ll take on Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 223 on Saturday at Barclays Center.

“This is huge for Max and honestly this would be so easy to say, ‘No, man, he can’t do it’ and it would be no stress on me,” Lockhart said. “But the kid, I know he wants it. I know Max wants it. He’s actually excited about this shit. He has so much weight to cut, but he was excited. It was like he had a challenge. He’s just like, ‘Let’s do this’ and I’m like, ‘all right.’”

Lockhart said anyone other than Holloway attempting this kind of cut in this accelerated environment would have given him pause. But “Blessed” is a different beast, he said. He’s not worried about him not following exact directions.

“Max I know is gonna do it to a tee,” Lockhart said. “I know he’s gonna be able to push himself to where most people aren’t willing to go. So, I’m excited. But still. When I was in the Marine Corps and we had to run three miles, it’s not like you couldn’t run three miles, it’s like because you have to do it in a specific amount of time, it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s just that you know what you gotta go through to get there and it’s like, ‘shit.’”

Normally, Lockhart and his team will work with a fighter throughout training camp to get their weight down. It’s a six-week process, Lockhart said. With Holloway now, they have six days. And it’s not going to be easy.

“Anybody that follows us and knows what I do, this is tied for the largest weight that I’ve ever done,” Lockhart said.

The big difference now is throwing certain things out the window. Speed is important, Lockhart said, so there are some things he and his team cannot worry about. One of those things is performance. Holloway needs to make the weight to fight for the 155-pound belt first and that’s priority.

“We always look at performance,” Lockhart said. “We want to keep performance high. During the entire camp, we’re trying to make sure he’s getting better, getting better, getting better. Where, at this point, it’s not about performance, it’s all about weight. The only time performance is gonna come into play is Saturday night. So, there’s gonna be things that we’re gonna do that are not gonna be great for his performance. They’re gonna accelerate the fat-burning process.”

To do that, Lockhart said they’ll have to put Holloway in a “keto” state while having him do aerobic exercise. Basically, Holloway will be deprived of any carbohydrates, so the body will begin burning fat for energy.

“He’s gonna have to push his body,” Lockhart said. “But it’s gonna be low impact. It’s not like he’s gonna be sparring and grappling and stuff. His body doesn’t have the ability. That would be dangerous. So we’re doing low impact, but high volume.”

To compound matters for the “Lockhart & Leith” nutritionist team, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who challenges Rose Namajunas for the UFC women’s strawweight title in the UFC 223 co-main event, is also a client. In total, seven fighters on the UFC 223 card will have Lockhart & Leith working on their weight cuts.

Lockhart does not plan on sleeping much — if at all — this week in Brooklyn.

“It’s f*cking crazy, but it’s quick,” Lockhart said. “It’s like a sprint.”

When it’s all over, Lockhart said he believes Holloway will hit the 155-pound mark Friday morning at weigh-ins and do so without endangering his well being.

“I am,” Lockhart said. “I’m confident in the team, I’m confident in Max. We’ll do it in a healthy way and we’ll make sure he’s on point.”