On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
At the end of 2018, TJ Dillashaw was on top of the world. He had just successfully defended his UFC bantamweight title against longtime rival, Cody Garbrant, destroying his former teammate in an emphatic first round knockout.
With the win, he earned his fifth Performance of the Night bonus, an additional $50,000 on top of his $350,000 fight salary, and was now itching for a superfight against the flyweight champion in an attempt to join the historical ranks of UFC double champs.
It would all come crashing down in just a few months.
After months of trash talk, with Dillashaw promising to end the flyweight division, he challenged Henry Cejudo for the title at UFC Fight Night 143 in Brooklyn. The bantamweight champion was knocked down multiple times and finished by the smaller man, in just over 30 seconds.
To add insult to injury, shortly after the fight, it was revealed that Dillashaw had tested for positive recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) and was suspended for two years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). With the suspension, Dillashaw relinquished his UFC title and would be eligible to make his comeback in January 2021.
In subsequent interviews, Dillashaw explained that he took the banned substance because of the drastic weight cut process, stripping down an additional 10 lbs to his usual 135 lbs. For a lean, muscular fighter who walks around above 145 lbs, that meant draining over 20 lbs of fluids from his body, an extreme process, even by MMA standards.
“I cheated,” he admitted in an interview with Chael Sonnen. “I’ve got to get past it. I understand people are going to ridicule me, thinking that I did it in the past, all this stuff, but I deserve that for taking that on. I just want to let everyone know that this is a one-fight thing.”
“I decided to take something I knew I wasn’t allowed to take. It is an anemia medication that would help me not only make the weight, but be myself,” Dillashaw explained.
TJ Dillashaw’s training routine & diet
During his days as the UFC bantamweight champion, Dillashaw was routinely training 6 days a week, putting in 4 to 6 hours each day.
Working primarily with his head trainer, Duane Ludwig, and strength & conditioning coach, Sam Calavitta, as well as a rotating roster of sparring and drilling partners, Dillashaw often split his days up into two gym sessions to squeeze in all the necessary elements of MMA training: BJJ, boxing, grappling and Muay Thai.
“Training for MMA is one of the hardest things in the world, because there’s so many energy systems you use in one fight,” Dillashaw explained in a GQ interview. “In that 25-minute period, I’m going to hit my aerobic, anaerobic, and lactic thresholds.”
“An MMA fighter has to be explosive, so I have to train my fast-twitch muscles. I have to be in anaerobic shape—not just aerobic. I have to have more muscle endurance, and I have to be able to push my lactic threshold. I have to be able to sprint as hard as I can for as long as I can. A fight is a sprint, with a little bit of recovery time in there when you’re dancing around.”
Juggling multiple training sessions a day with young family often led to long days for Dillashaw. A 2018 profile in the Calaveras Enterprise described a typical daily routine for the ex-champion:
He leaves the house around 9 a.m. for morning practice, and though he may briefly pop back in midday, he quickly heads out for his second, and sometimes third training session of the day. Generally, he returns home between 8 and 9 p.m., has a late dinner and then some family time. If Ludwig is in town, the two may review videos, talk training and strategize late into the night.CATCHING UP WITH THE CHAMP | Calaveras Enterprise
“The long days, the six days a week of training and the traveling are our normal. It has produced a beautiful life and is one we’re both very grateful for,” said Dillashaw’s wife, Rebecca. “Bronson doesn’t know any different either. He is well-adapted to travel and life on the go and, depending on his dad’s training schedule, gets to experience life in both California and Colorado. He’s such a happy baby wherever life takes us.”
To fuel his long days and regimented training routines, Dillashaw typically ate six meals a day, three main meals and three snacks. He described a typical daily meal plan to GQ:
I usually do three meals and three snacks throughout the day to keep my body fueled up. I eat organic, and stay away from grains, sugars, and processed foods. In the morning I’ll have an omelet with broccoli, spinach, cheese, and ham. I’ll also have some fruit and drink a cold-pressed juice. Snacks are usually MusclePharm protein bars and some nuts. For lunch, I’ll do a salad with lots of greens and spinach, a broiled egg, and chicken. I’ll have some sort of fish or clean protein for dinner. Since I’m not eating carbs from breads, pastas, or rice, the amount of vegetables I’m eating these days is unreal. That’s a big reason I have to use supplements—to get some of those macronutrients that I miss out on by eating a high-protein, high-fat diet.The Real-Life Diet of T. J. Dillashaw, UFC Champion and Future Ironman Triathlete | GQ
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