Last Saturday, in the main event of the UFC’s latest trip to Brazil, reigning Invicta featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino made good on her sophomore UFC effort with a first-round TKO of Lina Lansberg. Actually getting down to the bout’s contracted weight of 141 lbs., however, proved to be a nightmare for the Brazilian striker.
In the week leading up to the fight, the MMA community stay glued to their screens for updates on Cyborg’s weight cut process, which apparently began above the 165-lb. mark.
During this hellish cut, Cyborg made the surprising admission that her nutritionist – the highly-regarded George Lockhart – had encouraged her to take birth control to help keep her weight down. Unsurprisingly, Lockhart caught quite a bit of flack for this strategy.
On this week’s episode of The MMA Hour, Lockhart finally had the opportunity to defend his choice, explaining his rationale to host Ariel Helwani. Be warned, there’s a lot of scientific jargon ahead:
On the show, Lockhart explained that he encouraged Cyborg to use birth control as a way of managing the complicated effects of her period on her weight cut.
“We have sporadic periods and when this happens, we tend to go up [in weight] a lot,” Lockhart explained on the show. “What I wanted is lighter periods, a little bit more frequency, a little bit more regularity. This is something that we wanted to address. The actual birth control that was prescribed to her, it’s got a compound that actually helps out with aldosterone. Aldosterone is an anti-diuretic hormone. Basically, when you start cutting weight, your blood volume decreases. When your blood volume decreases, the thickness of your blood increases.”
Now what happens is, your body, it’s an amazing survival mechanism, right,” Lockhart continued. “It’s always trying to keep a balance, a homeostasis. It’s always trying to keep itself in check. So once these blood volumes go down, it’s going to raise that hormone aldosterone. When aldosterone is raised, what it’s trying to do is draw water back into the body, so you can increase the blood volume. When you draw water back into the body, obviously weight is going to go up, weight-cutting is going to be very, very difficult.”
“So the biggest thing is, we look at it like, we want the frequency of the periods to be more regulated, they want to be lighter, and this is something we talked about. Like, hey, last camp, this something that we faced. And every single cut, we want it to get easier and easier. I don’t want to have the same cut every single time. Like, ‘okay, well we did this last time, let’s just do the same thing next time.’ There’s so many different variables that come into play with weight cuts. There’s no weight cut that’s the same, even with the same fighter. Principles stay the same. There’s a lot of things that we had to do differently.”
“You look at these numbers, you say okay, this is a plus-one, this is a plus-two, this is a plus-three. And then, oh, you hit your cycle? That’s like a plus-10 in the amount of water that a woman will hold,” Lockhart elaborated. “You’ve got women that will go up 12 pounds, 13 pounds, and that’s not abnormal. You include the amount of stress during a fight week, again they’re going to hold water, and then the lack of sleep. During this time, Cris hit every one of those [speed bumps].”
“[Other than birth control], there’s no other way that we can help out with aldosterone, there’s no other way that we can help out with the periods, so that’s something that I brought to her attention,” Lockhart said.
While Lockhart’s choice to put Cyborg on birth control is likely to remain a controversial one, it appears that is reasons for doing so are grounded in science. Where do you stand on this unorthodox weight-management strategy? Sound off, PENN nation!