Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Chiropractic Care and the UFC Athlete

By Paul Biondich   

Features Clinical Patient Care

It is Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 34 and Carlos Newton is
preparing to defend his World Championship welterweight belt against
Matt Hughes at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

It is Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 34 and Carlos Newton is preparing to defend his World Championship welterweight belt against Matt Hughes at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. For the past five days, Carlos has been on a strict regimen of media interviews, light training, and chiropractic care, and a diet most professional athletes wouldn’t dare to dream of. His weigh-in is on the day before the event and he must weigh in at the 170-pound limit.

Dr. Paul Biondich with world champion UFC welterweight, Carlos Newton



The science of weight
With the average fighter dropping between eight and 18 pounds in a period of just over five days, the science of “cutting weight,” and more importantly the science of “refuelling” (post weigh-in), has never been more critical for success.

In my opinion, a great many fights have been actually won or lost right on the scales, ironically, even before the fight has begun. A poor weight cut can cause a brutal and gruelling eight-week training camp to simply go to waste. Incredibly, today’s UFC fighters are still having great difficulty simply meeting weight specifications. The consequences for not “making weight” range from losing 20 per cent of your purse; to cancellation of the fight; to, in world title fights, losing the belt, regardless of the outcome.

However, making weight is only half the battle. The other half, and the most important component affecting the fighter’s performance, is “refuelling.” Although you have many days and even weeks to prepare for the weight cut, you have only 24 hours to put the eight to 18 pounds back on (since the weigh-in is 24 hours before the fight).

So, the nutritional protocol that is designed for a fighter has to account for every nutrient that is lost through the process of dieting and dehydration, and also, more importantly, which specific nutrients are consumed when the body undergoes extreme stress. Consequently, having an intimate understanding of the body’s response to stress is essential to setting up an effective nutritional protocol for elite mixed martial artists. 

The experience of supporting the athlete
Fast forward to UFC 129 and there are 55,000 fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, a North American record. An awesome crowd, no doubt, but still shy of the 65,000 fans who would routinely watch a Pride Fighting event in Japan, the type of event Carlos Newton had been accustomed to competing in.

Meanwhile, preparing for his UFC Toronto debut is Mississauga’s Claude “The Prince” Patrick, who will be taking on Daniel “Ninja” Roberts. Minutes before the fight – and despite the fact that I’m not the one fighting – my heart is pounding and my stress response is rising uncontrollably (ironically, exactly the response I have designed to control in my fighters). Just as the referee is getting ready to say “Fight!” a retrospective flash goes through my mind, and I review the eight weeks of preventive chiropractic care, sports performance-enhancing strategies and the pre- and post- weigh-in nutritional program. Could I have designed it better? How is his system going to react? These are questions that I hope I know the answers to, but despite my experience and my use of current research, I still wonder if I may have missed something or if I could have done something better.

Claude Patrick is victorious at UFC 129, with a dominating three-round unanimous decision. Claude states that it’s the best he’s ever felt during a fight. It appears that all of the sports performance strategies (eight weeks of preventive care, a custom sports nutritional / supplemental program, weight-cutting strategies, post-weigh-in refuelling strategies and day-of-fight nutrition) were a success. The strategies were considered a triumph not because he won (that definitely helps, of course), but because every human performance system demonstrated a significant improvement over his last fight.

Working with mixed martial artists (MMAs) is an incredibly exhilarating experience that can come with a very sharp double-edged sword. When your athlete wins, this can put you on a professional and personal high. But when he loses, it can be not only personally difficult, but also  professionally challenging. Rumours can start (often not connected to your camp) that if you introduced new elements into the regimen too soon, and the fighter did not respond well, they – and, by extension you – were to blame for the athlete’s poor performance. There are many examples of fighters firing their entire camp after a poor performance. So, if you are interested in entering the world of mixed martial arts, be prepared for the potential highs and lows.

The best way to protect yourself from this double-edged, serrated sword is to create a Kevlar suit. The strength of this Kevlar suit comes from a combination of experience, your knowledge base and avoiding the deep traps that the sports nutrition industry often can create. The sports nutrition industry spends literally billions of dollars per year brainwashing the consumer and athlete into believing that its latest product can produce superhuman results; in fact, this is rarely the case. So, be careful not to get caught up in the hype, as you might not last longer in this field than the next sports nutrition fad  does. Having said that, there is a place for sports nutrition products for the elite athlete – however, the practitioner must take the time to understand the role of each product and what the actual sport performance outcomes are. This is easier said than done.

Role of the chiropractor
Often it is the fighter with the least number of injuries going into the fight who has the best chance of winning – and chiropractors are best positioned to help them out.

If you were to poll every single UFC fighter – from November 12, 1993, at UFC 1 to the present – to learn how many of them were injury-free walking into their fight, the answer would be zero. UFC fighters and Formula One cars are very similar – they always train at full throttle. When you train at full throttle, every component gets pushed to its limit and thus must be systematically taken apart, rebuilt and then reassessed. A chiropractor’s skills and knowledge, which include chiropractic manipulation, soft-tissue techniques, massage therapy, acupuncture and, of course, phytochemical sports performance nutrition, position him/her to be the best versed at designing a preventive program that can keep this “Formula One machine” running optimally in the octagon.

How can you create an environment that provides the highest quality of support for your athletes and other patients?

There are many professional seminars that offer incredible knowledge and insight into a wide variety of practice areas, but it is the way you, the DC, interpret and use this information that can bring success or failure to your practice.

Admittedly, I have come home from an inspiring seminar to try to implement many of these new advanced protocols only to be met with failure. Why? Because I stopped using my brain. There are no cookie-cutter methods that work. You have to evaluate your patients, or athletes, on a purely individual basis and customize or modify the protocol for their needs. Only then, will you start to see changes . . . hopefully.

Next, you need to surround yourself with extremely competent health-care professionals. This will allow you to quickly solve the dynamic problems that arise with high-end athletes. Although I might be the front man, my success – my athlete’s success – in part, comes from a large network of incredible people.

I am very fortunate to have other professionals to consult with on many of my cases: my wife, Dr. Renata Biondich, a chiropractor and acupuncturist; Dr. Carol Laic, a naturopath and professor of pharmacology at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto; Dr. Jason Su, a sports medicine specialist who was the ringside physician at the UFC 129 here in Toronto; and finally, Jennifer Ferreira, RMT.

In addition to having a great team around you, cultivating a good relationship with a knowledgeable health-food store is also critical. Because many of my formulations involve single standardized herbs at very high doses, I often rely on Nature’s Source and Popeye’s Supplements to find the high-quality products I need.

Having said that, I also have a favourite group of nutritional products and companies that I like to use. They include but are not limited to Wobenzyme, Platinum Naturals, Metagenics and Seroyal/Genestra.

Understanding and harnessing the research
There is an interesting phenomenon happening in North America: the perception that if the research has not been conducted here, then it does not exist. Try to read research outside of North America, as there are very good reasons the Russians, the Germans and many Eastern bloc countries have been far ahead of us in so many aspects of sport nutrition, such as: mitochondrial optimization, adaptogens, oxygen enhancement, buffering mechanisms and aerobic/anaerobic systems.
Although I use the term repeatedly, “sports nutrition” (in my opinion) is actually a myth. For instance, nutritional deficiencies in a fibromyalgia patient can sometimes be incredibly similar to those in a professional athlete. They may have acquired their deficiencies from a very different mechanism, but the solutions for them can often be incredibly similar. This brings me back to the point of having a strong foundation in fundamental nutrition, human physiology and, obviously, the many different manual techniques available under the scope of chiropractic.

Once you diagnose a problem accurately, selecting the right set of nutritional and chiropractic tools to advance your athlete can be quite simple. However, actually diagnosing accurately is often quite the opposite of simple – it can be extremely challenging.

But it is worth it for the chiropractor – and ultimately for the athlete –  to understand a situation thoroughly in order to harness the most effective preparation and treatment strategies.

For the elite mixed martial artist who does not already participate in preventive care, the chiropractor with the right strategies can offer a tremendous sports performance advantage. The sport of MMA is growing rapidly. These athletes desperately need good-quality chiropractic care because an ounce of prevention in this sport can definitely be worth its weight in a World Championship Belt.

Dr. Paul frequently lectures on high-performance sports nutrition for the elite athlete and has a private multidisciplinary practice with his wife, Dr. Renata Biondich, in Mississauga, Ontario. In addition to working with UFC fighters, Dr. Paul has worked with players from the NHL, MLS, CFL and athletes from numerous Canadian National Team programs. He has also designed a pain and healing gel called Bionica and patented the I2 hockey mask that is licensed under Bauer / Itech and used by both NHL and amateur hockey players. For more information, visit .

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