Eat Like an MMA Fighter

MMA fighter Jon Manley tells us how to eat like you're training for a prizefight.

Jon Manley in the cage. (Photo provided.)

Jon Manley taking down his competitor. (Photo provided.)

Saturday at the Dorchester Armory, Victory Combat Sports (MMA event producers in the Northeast) will host all weight class prizefights. Both men and women will be competing. One of the competitors, Jon Manley, who will be headlining the upcoming fight, is a Mass. native and has been a professional MMA fighter since 2007. He also recently opened his own gym in Northampton. We asked Manley about his diet and how he stays in shape for competition.

What is your typical daily diet?

When I am not training for a fight, I pretty much eat anything I want. I always train hard and I do not worry about calories or stuff like that. When I am in fight training I eat only food prepared by myself at home. I eat chicken, steak, or turkey with either sweet potatoes, kale, or spaghetti squash and many different types of fruits. I never eat any sugary foods or drinks. I only drink water or coffee and I eat about five times a day and about three hours apart. I pretty much eat the same thing over and over again.

What is the difference between a fight week and a regular week when it comes to eating meals?

During fight week I still eat five meals a day. Meals one, three, and five consist of protein and vegetables. Meals two and four are plain Greek yogurt and organic fruit preserves with protein powder. I drink lots of water, about a gallon and half a day, up until 24 hours before weigh-ins.

Manley during a fight. (Photo provided.)

Manley during a fight. (Photo provided.)

Do you have to starve yourself to make weight? What does that entail?

I learned early in my career that staving myself before a fight was not a good way to make weight, because it left me feeling weak. I know some fighters do it, but it is not something I do. I eat up until the day before weigh-ins and just limit the calories I take in so that I am strong for my fight.

If someone was interesting in becoming an MMA fighter, how would they start with nutrition? What are some key elements?

Well, the most important is to eat clean. What I mean is stay away from fast food and read the labels on all your food. When you shop for food stay only on the outer ring of the store; everything in the inner aisles is processed foods.

What is a typical example of a day’s worth of meals for you?

For breakfast I would eat a piece of steak, two eggs, kale, tomatoes, and peppers. For lunch I will have chicken, pasta with red sauce, and sweet potatoes. Dinner is shephard’s pie made with sweet potatoes, ground turkey, and peas. I will eat a snack between these meals that is plain greek yogurt and organic fruit preserves with protein powder mixed together.

This is the inside of Jon Manley’s fridge. (We see some greens. Are those stuffed peppers?):

Manley says that he has his own mini fridge so that he doesn't have to see what his roommates eat. (Photo provided.)

Manley says that he has his own mini fridge so that he doesn’t have to see what his roommates eat. (Photo provided.)