Perennial UFC featherweight contender Dustin Poirier has tallied notable victories over stiff competition throughout his nearly six-year professional career in mixed martial arts. After spending the last three years fighting at 145 pounds, "The Diamond" will be taking a step up to lightweight for his next bout with Carlos Diego Ferreira.
Poirier has always eaten right, according to his longtime nutritionist George Lockhart. He is only 26-years-old, but has competed often, and at a high level, since his UFC debut.
Lockhart and Poirier have been working together since the latter's first UFC fight against Josh Grispi in January 2011. It wasn't only Poirier's first fight in the big leagues, but also his first fight at featherweight.
"The first one [weight cut] with Dustin was actually relatively easy for the time we had. A three-week cut, not that much weight," said Lockhart. "Dustin was shocked at his performance. He went out there for three rounds and destroyed Grispi."
From that moment, Poirier's confidence skyrocketed. He was eating quality foods and developed a routine outside of the Octagon that greatly influenced his fighting career.
The Louisiana native was well on his way to stardom, earning three-straight dominant victories following his drubbing of Grispi. Poirier was already a well-oiled, technically-sound fighting machine but after his first UFC loss against Chan Sung Jung in May 2012, he packed his bags and began training at the famed American Top Team camp in South Florida.
Poirier made the move for the better coaching and training partners. The workouts that coaches like ATT co-founder Ricardo Liborio employed also went a long way, says Poirier.
"I have a strength and conditioning coach [Brian Harris] at American Top Team and I just listen to him. The first stage we do is all strength at the beginning of camp, then we start to switch to cardio and stuff," Poirier says.
As he readies his body for battle in a 2-3 month camp, Poirier also preps for his eventual weight cut. The process is a steep one, and one that requires the utmost dedication and discipline.
"In the offseason he has my program, it basically tells him when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. We bring him down relatively slow," says Lockhart.
Poirier normally tips the scale at 185 pounds at the start of camp. His meal plan is laid out for him by Lockhart, who has trained other well-known fighters and champions in the sport. In the plan are four key principles for Poirier to follow: types of food, timing, portion size and hormonal response to food.
He eats high-quality, all-natural and organic foods; as well as a good mixture of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
"For breakfast, I might do a cup of kale with eight egg whites, some strawberries and some blueberries. Some oatmeal. I'll go train and have my protein shake after training," says Poirier. "For lunch, I might have four ounces of chicken, four ounces of avocado, a couple handfuls of spinach and some almonds. Then I head back to the gym, [and have] another protein shake after training."
"My protein powder is all plant-based, organic. I do protein and greens after my training sessions. If I don't do a protein shake between sessions I do like a fruit shake, I'll make it before I go to the gym. Berries, flakseed oils stuff like that."
Lockhart also makes sure Poirier takes in a lot of Kefir, which is fermented milk. It's a probiotic that helps clean out his fighter's system.
Over the next two months of dieting and training, Poirier will stand to lose roughly 15 pounds.
But, dieting and working out was simply not cutting it for the well-rounded featherweight. His body became weak and calorie deficient.
"I could only get my body down to the low 160s before dehydrating and cutting water," says Poirier.
After some time, the body's natural defense mechanisms kick in. The body will stop sweating when a hormone vasopressin is secreted. Vasopressin shuts down the bodies’ pores.
What happens 10 days out from a fight is called a waterload, according to Lockhart. He overloads Poirier with water so that the body gets the sense that it has too much water.
"If the blood is thick, it tricks the body into thinking that we're not in any worries and vasopressin isn't secreted," says Lockhart.
Additionally, Poirier had to fight off one more hormone on his way to the featherweight limit of 146 pounds. Three days before weigh-ins, Aldosterone, a hormone that tells the body to retain sodium and water, is produced. It was the hardships that he endured during these final hours before stepping on the scale that turned Poirier away eventually.
He fought six more times at featherweight, compiling a 4-2 record, before turning away from the division for good. Poirier is still young, but for a fighter who's approaching two dozen fights, the future is now.
"I want to fight until I'm at least 35-years-old. I've had weight cuts where I've felt my back hurting and stuff. I don't know if it was my kidneys, [I've been] so dizzy that I've almost fainted. It's ridiculous, you know," says Poirier. "I'm done with that, I want to be healthy and I want to be happy. This is the kind of job where you have to really love what you're doing because otherwise you're wasting your time. I think these next fights people are going to see who I really am as a fighter."
His lightweight return will come against the 30-year-old jiu-jitsu ace Ferreira on April 4 at UFC Fight Night 63. The Brazilian was beaten at his own game in his last outing when he faced Beneil Dariush at UFC 179 in April.
Ferreira is a highly formidable opponent but it won’t faze the veteran of 20 professional MMA fights. Over the course of his UFC career, Poirier has been in the cage with several jiu-jitsu fighters and knockout artists.
Right around the three-week mark before his fight with the dangerous Brazilian, Poirier had been waking up at around 170 pounds. The difference now is that he’s waking up with more energy and his body isn’t as broken down as it used to be.
When Poirier takes to the cage for his tussle with Ferreira, he’s going to be firing on all cylinders.
“I just feel better and stronger; my body feels like this is where it should be. 155 pounds is a lot closer to my natural body weight,” Poirier says. “I was really draining it and not eating enough to replenish all the calories lost to fuel my recovery between training sessions. I'm recovering better, sleeping good at night.”