Following Thiago Alves’ last fight in the UFC, it looked like president Dana White had just about enough of the Brazilian’s troubles with not making weight.
Alves lost via unanimous decision in a much hyped rematch against Jon Fitch, and in the process missed the 171-pound weight limit required for the fight, something he’s struggled mightily with throughout his career. White went so far as to say he believed Alves would have to go to middleweight following the loss.
“He doesn’t belong at 170. He belongs at 185 pounds. It’s (expletive) to have guys make weight and have guys not make weight, especially at this level. When you’re in the UFC, your job is to make weight. Everyone else made weight that day, so it wasn’t the scale. He didn’t come in on weight, period,” White said after the fight.
The message to Alves was loud and clear. Just after the Fitch fight, Alves made a call to MMA nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach Mike Dolce to oversee his daily diet and ensure his weight cutting issues would come to an end.
White decided to give Alves another shot at welterweight. He will face John Howard at UFC 124 in Montreal this weekend, with weight cutting getting just as much attention as the actual fight.
Alves, who has been working with Dolce since August, believes there will be no problem making the 171-pound limit on Friday when they hit the scales.
“Dolce’s the man. I feel really good about the whole process, making weight and the training,” Alves told MMAWeekly.com Radio. “Usually 3 to 4 weeks before a fight it’s when I start freaking out a little bit, and having a lot of doubts about my training camp and if I’m going to make weight or not, but now I’m just cruising in having fun.”
Explaining the nightmare that went on behind the scenes for his UFC 117 fight against Fitch, Alves points out the things he did wrong trying to make weight and how it ultimately backfired once he stepped into the Octagon.
“I lost 20 pounds in three days. The more that I talked with Dolce, the more I realized I never knew how to cut weight,” Alves explained. “The way I used to cut weight it’s just so unprofessional, so amateur, and it had a lot to do with my previous fights. Most of the fights I won, it’s because, yeah I trained hard and there’s talent involved in everything, but now that I’ve become a better professional, as far as making weight and knowing my body better, I think it’s going to be a huge, huge step for me going forward.”
While White all but decreed that Alves would have to move to middleweight after the incident in August, the Brazilian knows that 185 pounds simply wasn’t an option, so something had to change.
“I’m not planning to move to middleweight or anything like that,” he said. “Not because I think the guys are stronger than me or anything like that, I just think I would lose a lot in the reach advantage. I don’t think I’m the tallest guy at middleweight.
“At 170, I know I’m the stronger guy, and the reach advantage is not that big of a deal for me. 170 is the perfect weight division for me, especially now that I know how to cut weight.”
Working with Alves for this entire camp, including staying with the fighter during the last few weeks of preparation, Mike Dolce has seen the changes in him already. Dolce has handled the weight cuts of several prominent UFC fighters including Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Michael Bisping, and he wants to pass along the same type of success to Alves this weekend.
“Thiago’s such a phenomenal athlete. We speak all the time, he’s a great guy, phenomenal athlete, he’s super, super dedicated. I really get to showcase my skills on a guy like Thiago. He does everything I ask him to. He doesn’t ask any questions. He believes in what I do,” Dolce told MMAWeekly.com.
“He’s walking around right now 15 pounds lighter than he normally is before his fights. He’s leaner, more ripped, more muscular, than when he gets on the scale or in the cage in any of his past fights. Thiago could fight right now and could have fought three weeks ago.”
Dolce knows that just making the weight isn’t enough. Alves has obviously cut down to 170 pounds before, but for his new coach says this time he expects a whole other animal to step into the cage on Saturday night.
“It’s not just making weight. It’s making weight and then competing at a world-class level 24 hours later,” Dolce stated. “The best athletes in the world, they come to me for that because I’ve proven what I can do. So it is a personal challenge, I like the guys with the biggest problems because I know exactly what to do to fix them.”
Don’t blink seems to be the message Dolce is passing along with Alves just days away from facing opponent John Howard in Montreal.
“We’re going to shock the world,” Dolce predicted. “Dec. 10, when he steps on that scale, we’re going to shock the world. Then Dec. 11, GSP, Koscheck, everybody in that welterweight class is going to be on notice when they see Thiago’s performance.”
Alves has a similar idea in mind, but also thinks that this process of weight cutting and dieting the right way has taught him a valuable life less. To be a professional fighter, you have to be professional.
“I tried to change my whole lifestyle. I’m going to set the example, I’m going to be serious, and I’m going to do what it takes,” said Alves. “I will make it happen.”