Ten MMA Vegan Fighters
Leading sportsmen from long-distance runners to tennis players are increasingly opting for a vegan diet. Many have reported improved performances, and some have even cured chronic injuries. But what about MMA? Here are some of the best MMA fighters that have done likewise.
The Diaz Brothers
It’s not unusual for brothers growing up together to have a similar outlook on a diet, and that’s certainly the case for MMA big hitters Nick and Nate Diaz. Nick’s fond of hurling insults and likes engaging in a little psychological warfare before even stepping into the ring, but in the kitchen, things are clean and green. Perhaps contrary to old assumptions, Nick Diaz’s plant-based diet dovetails perfectly with his martial arts prowess. He started with a bang, forcing Mike Wick to submit in the IFC Warriors Challenge, and later defeated Marius Žaromskis to claim the Strikeforce welterweight belt.
His younger brother Nate is also a vegan, best known for defeating the big name of Conor McGregor. Ironically, before the fight McGregor had shot his mouth off, mocking Nate Diaz’s diet and comparing himself to a lion. In the end, that just served to make his vegan opponent’s victory taste all the sweeter.
It isn’t only in the MMA that vegan diets are taking off among elite athletes. In a recent article by Top10casino site, the success of vegan diets among stars from a wide range of sports, including boxing, tennis, and the NFL are explored.
Temporary and Partial Approaches to Veganism
It’s important to recognize that veganism isn’t always total. It can be partial, such as easing into it when just starting out. Some athletes even adopt the diet on a temporary basis or a more limited way (what Venus Williams described as being a chegan). During the COVID-19 lockdown Ilima-Lei MacFarlane, Bellator MMA women’s flyweight champion, focused on cooking to try and promote general health as well as staying in shape for when things eased up again. While not a full-blown vegan, she did look more at pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan dishes.
On a similar note, Julian Marquez went through a period of dietary phases, experimenting with his food intake after missing his weight by four pounds. Marquez spent 90 days on a vegan diet, then 120 as a vegetarian.
Another partial vegan in the world of MMA is Saul Rogers. This English fighter held titles within UK-based Cage Conflict and Fight UK. As he matured, he took a more long-term view of his diet and physical health, adopting a strict vegan/vegetarian diet while fighting in the lightweight division.
Alex Caceres is a UFC featherweight fighter with 31 contests under his belt and a three-fifths winning record (18 wins and a single draw). He’s not a full vegan but has cut many dairy and processed meat products from his diet.
More MMA Vegans
Jake Shields is a UFC fighter that’s had a plant-based diet for most of his life and is a staunch supporter of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). He began wrestling back when he was just nine years old, and one of his major career highlights was winning 15 bouts on the bounce. Shields has also achieved a number of wins over notable opponents, including Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler, and Carlos Condit.
Sean O’Malley won his first UFC fight against Terrion Ware by unanimous decision and followed this up by defeating Andre Soukhamthath the same way. And his TKO of José Alberto Quiñónez at UFC 248 won him the Performance of the Night award. A long-time vegan, (though he now eats meat), O’Malley has an impressive record of 13 wins and a solitary loss, at the time of writing.
Jon Fitch is a now-retired MMA veteran fighter who turned to veganism in 2011. This shift in food helped him lose weight, dropping from over 200lbs to 170lbs. The switch to veganism followed a change towards organic food a couple of years earlier, which saw his health and overall wellbeing improve. He won 14 times in the UFC, with a single draw and 3 losses.
Herschel Walker is an NFL player who also turned his hand to other sporting endeavors, including bobsledding in the Olympics and mixed martial arts (winning both times he competed in the latter). Walker’s famous for his unorthodox diet, which shuns both breakfast and lunch, focusing on a single meal of soup, bread, and salads.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Some people go vegetarian or vegan for religious or ethical reasons, but on a healthcare basis, there are positive aspects to consider as well. In 2020 a study of over 48,000 people found that those with vegan and vegetarian diets had a lower risk of heart disease than meat-eaters. While B12 deficiency is a concern, that is something easily addressed (see below).
The same study found a 32% lower risk of cardiovascular disease in people with a plant-based diet. People who are vegetarian/vegan also have less body fat, and less cholesterol, in addition to the diet reducing inflammation.
Top Tips when Going Vegan
In addition to no meat, the lack of dairy products and eggs can be a drastic shift for some people when embarking upon a vegan diet. Getting a healthy balance is important, particularly with vitamin B12, which has limited vegan sources (including plant milk and soy). Vitamin K2 also has a small list of vegan foods that provide it, with raw sauerkraut, vegan kimchi, or unpasteurized kombucha all good options. However, it can be easier to take advantage of supplements to tick these essential dietary boxes.
Protein is a common concern but no problem for those with a plant-based diet as legumes and whole grains are both great sources. Raw carrots and oatmeal both contain vitamins, with oatmeal also rich in fiber, magnesium, and iron. And between bananas and chia seeds you’ll be covered for potassium, calcium, and sodium.
Plant-based diets are increasingly popular among both the general public and the elite athletes of MMA, and there’s no reason why someone adopting such a diet can’t reach the pinnacle of sporting success.