Photo courtesy of VFD Marketing
Before I get started, I just want all you Chicago Bulls fans to think of that song Michael Jordan and his teammates would get introduced to during the Golden era of Chicago Bulls basketball. Now that the song is stuck in your head, you are beginning to get into the frame of mind I was in about 24 hours before my first fight in the UFC featherweight division last month.
I was at the weigh-ins. The Chicago Theater was filled with fans ready to see if the Dude could get down to 145 pounds. Hell, my family was interested in seeing if I could hit the 140’s for the first time since college, about 10 years ago.
Before I stepped on the scale, all the struggle of the previous 11 weeks was going through my mind. But I wasn’t thinking about the training with my coaches at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s MMA or all the changes I made to my diet or even what I was going to eat as my first real post-weigh-in meal (spoiler alert: everything). What popped into my mind were frozen pipes.
No, The Dude isn’t having a Lebowski-esque flashback here; the pipes I’m referring to were the ones in my frozen Winnebago that I lived in during training camp. Because of them I had to fetch pails of water from public locker rooms and run them out to my RV just to have the pleasure of being able to do things like use my toilet, brush my teeth, and do the dishes. And let me tell you, there’s nothing less fun than washing dishes in freezing cold water then quickly putting your hands in front of one of the few space heaters you have strategically placed throughout your DudeMobile in an attempt to create a whirlwind of warm air to counteract the empty LP tank that is no longer producing heat.
With not enough heat to go around, I would bundle up in layers of wrestling warm-ups, winter hats, and wigwam socks while diving under numerous comforters as well as a bear-fur blanket to fight the bitter ABQ winter. I did this for over a month with the help of my friend John, my old man, and my wrestling coach, Izzy.
As for the actual weight cut, shedding the final few pounds was easy. All that bearing down and feeling like I was fighting for survival just by living in my RV made the meager meals I had seem like a feast for a king. I kept following the George Lockhart FitnessVT diet, and as a result I honestly felt that it was easier making 145 than it used to be making 155. But I’ve made so many sacrifices to pursue the sport I love. Besides freezing my ass off for a month, I’ve missed Turkey Days, birthdays, Christmases, New Years, and plenty of other special occasions with family and friends because I want to be a UFC champion. Missing a burrito or a slice of pizza is nothing compared to that.
So, with thoughts of the pipes having worked their way through my mind, it was now the moment we’d all been waiting for. Put that music back in your head and now picture me wearing my red Bulls Air Jordan jumpsuit, complete with the Jordan Bred 11 shoes. I felt like I was the lost member of those great 90’s Bulls teams. Move over John Paxson -- the Dude is manning the point.
After successfully making weight, I fought a top-ranked opponent in Hatsu Hioki and I did what I had to do to win. It definitely wasn’t my most entertaining fight, but at this level, you have to fight smart, and Hioki is a dude who will make you pay if you lose concentration for even a second. I listened to my coaches, and buying into the system is the reason I won that fight.
Afterwards, I celebrated with my friends, family, managers and coaches at Scout Waterhouse & Kitchen, and it was an epic night. I’m even more excited to know that my next fight will be against one of the best in the division in Chad Mendes, as we will bang heads on April 20 in San Jose, California. That’s gonna be a good one. So the Dude has a clean slate and the best is yet to come! Now I’m just hoping the pipes will be thawed out by the time I get back to the ‘burque.
Check out Clay's earlier columns:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
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Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
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Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
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Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
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Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.