Michael Chiesa knows deep down inside he probably should have made the move to welterweight prior to his upcoming bout at UFC 232.
The former ‘Ultimate Fighter’ winner always cut a huge amount of weight to get down to the lightweight limit but as years passed, it just got tougher and tougher.
The breaking point was his last fight against Anthony Pettis where Chiesa broke his foot 10 days out from the event but decided to still move forward rather than pull out of the contest.
Chiesa prides himself on toughness being his greatest attribute but on that particular occasion it backfired on him because running is a big part of how he cuts weight and that was eliminated at the most crucial time while trying to shed those last few pounds.
“You’ve got to hit exact numbers. It’s a game in itself and going into that Anthony Pettis fight, I broke the second metatarsal in my foot 10 days out from the fight sparring with my teammate Austin Arnett,” Chiesa revealed when speaking to MMAWeekly. “I threw a body kick and caught him on the elbow and it was just a downhill slide from there. We got close, we got really close but the 24 hours before we did about 10 hours of cutting and it just wasn’t enough.
“This was one of those instances where I should have just not fought. It was a little too soon after Brooklyn, having the broken foot, there was a lot going on and then my best attribute worked against me. This whole thing is just one big learning process.”
According to Chiesa, even when he was training full time and keeping a completely clean diet, he still struggled to maintain his weight at a healthy level so he could cut down to the lightweight limit.
It was never a question of dedication for the Washington native.
As time went on it was just abundantly clear that Chiesa was too big to compete at lightweight any longer but he still killed himself to try and make the weight.
“My goal was go beat Anthony and then move up,” Chiesa said about his move to welterweight. “I had been talking about that when I started my second camp for him and I remember telling Bo Sandoval, the strength and conditioning coach at the [Performance Institute] that I think I was just ready to make that jump. I was expressing how I’m just so tired and I’m not focusing on fighting anymore.
“I train great outside of camp but then once camp starts, it’s just a constant weight cut. I’m a big guy so even when I eat good and train hard, I’m still more than 190 [pounds] or in the high 180’s.”
Now that he’s just day away from his UFC welterweight debut, Chiesa can honestly say that the constant attention on cutting weight absolutely hindered his performances but not because his body was depleted or that he never recovered after breaking down to make the 156-pound limit.
It was because Chiesa spent the bulk of his training camp just trying to get his weight lower and lower and his focus was never on getting better as a martial artist.
“Looking back in hindsight, I really stunted my growth as a fighter by constantly cutting weight all the time,” Chiesa said. “When you train outside of camp, it’s fun, I’m playing around, I’m working hard but I’m having fun. When I get into that camp it’s 10 weeks of tunnel vision on that opponent, you’re trying to work on your strengths and weaknesses, really trying to get better in different areas before the fight.
“I really wasn’t doing that the last few fights. I was just putting out the same product that I’ve had the last few years because I was just focused on cutting weight.”
The difference now as he prepares for Carlos Condit on Dec. 29 is like night and day compared to his last few fight camps.
Chiesa is healthy and happy, which makes a huge difference when he’s about to step into the Octagon and do battle with one of the greatest welterweight fighters of all time.
“My girlfriend said it best to me that these last few fights, she would talk to me on the phone and I was always stressing about my weight, complaining that I’m not a couple of pounds lighter. Now I come home, I’m singing, dancing, jumping around,” Chiesa said.
“I’m not going to say the bulls—t cliché ‘this is the best camp I’ve ever had’ but I will say this is the most different camp I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a camp like this and it’s been fun.”