Thiago Alves nearly reached the pinnacle of the UFC welterweight game. He beat every contender put in front of him to earn a title shot against champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100. While making a strong account of himself and going the distance with GSP, Alves was unable to make history, succumbing to the relentless takedowns of the champion. Worse, he followed up that performance with a back-to-back loss to Jon Fitch at UFC 117. While losing to arguably the two best fighters in the division is nothing shameful, it's not enough for Alves to admit he was competitive in a loss.
So he retooled. He rethought his career and realized while he's still got plenty of time to reach his goals (he's only 27), now is the time to make changes.
Alves hooked up with famed MMA nutrition coach Mike Dolce to help with any weight issues. His first performance under Dolce's direction was against John Howard at UFC 124. The result? 'The Pitbull' never looked better. Alves also redoubled his training at American Top Team. Perhaps most importantly, though, the experience getting to the top even in a losing effort matured the young fighter. It gave him a sense of priority about what's important, what's helpful to his career and what he needs to do to achieve the goal that eluded him in July of 2009: winning the UFC welterweight title.
To continue on the road back, he has to first surmount a tough task in the unheralded (to the casual fan base, anyway) Rick Story this weekend at UFC 130. In this exclusive interview conducted on MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, Alves opens up about putting his faith in the Dolce Diet, how dangerous Rick Story truly is, making a home for himself in the United States, being a 'veteran' at age 27 and a potential Nick Diaz vs. Georges St. Pierre fight.
Full audio and transcription below:
Luke: Are you doing the Dolce Diet for this fight Thiago?
Thiago: Oh yeah, the last fight I had Dolce with me for two weeks. For this fight I had him for six so I'm pretty excited.
Luke: Alright, so can you tell us right now, what is your weight today, a week out from the fight?
Thiago: Yesterday I woke up a little bit heavy weighing 192 but we ate at night so it's to be expected.
Luke: What are you supposed to be by say, Wednesday if you're on target weight? What is target weight on Wednesday?
Thiago: I have no idea. I don't really ask many questions you know? I just do what Dolce tells me but I should be about 15 over, not much more than that.
Luke: So is that how it works? You basically put your entire faith and trust into Mike Dolce. He works it all out for you, you show up on the scales on Friday afternoon just ready to rock and he also guides you through the rehydration process, is that it?
Thiago: Yeah, the last time I couldn't make weight was against John Fitch. Dolce took over my whole lifestyle and I feel amazing all the time, energy levels are through the roof and that's pretty much what it is. Just trust him, I have a few questions here and there because it's better to understand whats going on with my body to respond to the diet so I ask him a few things here and there but I trust everything that he says to me.
Luke: For those on the outside who don't understand, I've cut weight once but I'm no professional athlete, talk to me about just one thing that you can share with the fans that you didn't do correctly before and that Dolce helped you correct now.
Thiago: If I'm gonna mention one thing it's gonna be really hard. I used to do everything wrong in the book. I used to cut weight like a body builder and one of the things that amazed me is that you need food to cut weight. I used to just stop eating, especially carbs like a body builder does. Cutting out carbs releases all this water that's been in your body so it's good for body building because they don't expend energy, they don't have to perform, but for athletes it's a whole different concept. One of the things that extends out is that I'm actually eating more than I was before and my weight is much lower. It's much easier to cut weight now.
Luke: Are you eating cleaner than you use to?
Thiago: Oh yeah, the Dolce Diet isn't just a diet, it's a lifestyle. Pretty much it's just eat good healthy food. It's nutritious and delicious food. Everything that he makes is whole wheat from the Whole Foods store for the last two months and I feel great man. You really are what you eat man. Your body really is the perfect machine and once you know how to use all the ingredients the results are amazing.
Luke: You're Brazilian, born and raised there. Obviously you live stateside now but have you talked to UFC management, is it something that you even want, is it even possible about fighting on future cards in Brazil? UFC 134 is too close in proximity but is that something that you've talked to them about?
Thiago: Of course I think that it's something that ever Brazilian fighter wants to accomplish fighting for the UFC in Brazil, yeah so it's in the back of my mind and I really want to fight on a Brazil card. After this card if everything goes the way that I'm planning it's gonna go and I know it will, I definitely want to get on the card. The card is not done yet so I still have a lot of chances. But first thing is first, I have Rick Story ahead of me on Saturday. I'm gonna take care of Rick Story first and we'll move on from there.
Luke: I want to talk about the Rick Story fight in just a minute but I'm still curious about this Brazilian thing. The country has made a ton of changes, how often do you get to go back to Brazil? How much of the year do you spend there versus here?
Thiago: I live here pretty much. I went to Brazil once last year just to spend Christmas and New Years. The more I go to Brazil the more I feel like I have to spend less time there. And not because I don't like Brazil anymore, it's just not my thing. I've been here since I was 19, so all my business and friends are here. I go back just to relax a little bit and enjoy my family. But after that, I feel like I'm wasting time. I'm not training as hard, I'm spending money. I want to come back right away. But it's very very different. I mean once you adjust to the American lifestyle, when you go back to Brazil, I don't see myself living in Brazil anymore.
Luke: Is it because they say it's a super relaxed culture there? Is that what you're referring to?
Thiago: No, I live a pretty relaxing lifestyle here. In Brazil, one of the things is that people really happy with nothing. They don't have much but they're always trying to have parties and have an excuse to celebrate. It's just not my thing. I've been here since I was 19 so all my friends are at a different stage. I'm a professional athlete while everyone back in Brazil parties a lot and drinks a lot. I was out of my element a little bit so I go there just to enjoy my family pretty much.
Luke: Do you think that Brazil, it has its own developing MMA scene, it's got more organizations now. Obviously Jiu Jitsu has been a part of the country for a long time. But do you think that it's ready to be like the Canada of South America, as an MMA hotbed where the UFC can go back there several times a year? Do you see Brazil being that type of country for MMA?
Thiago: Definitely. The funny thing about Brazil, all the mainstream sports in Brazil are very rich. Soccer or what we call Football, is very rich. And now that MMA has become mainstream, thats the new biggest thing in Brazil right now. Soccer and MMA are the two biggest things in Brazil right now. I'm pretty sure that it's gonna be great for the country and the economy having the UFC there. MMA in Brazil, I think we've got, you look at the level of Brazilian fighters and they're at the top of the weight class at every weight class. I think now with the investment that the government is doing into the sport, I think it will be great for the country.
Luke: I'm curious to see what it's going to do for the country. I don't think it's going to make Canada jealous just yet but I think that it's going to be a new home for MMA. I want to ask you one last question about Brazil and then we'll move on. Can you talk to me about the health of the Muay Thai scene there? You came out of it but you've been here for a long time. You have other guys coming out of there with just these ridiculous skills and obviously not everyones going to be like that but you've got guys like Edson Barboza who are coming out with just these vicious abilities. How healthy is the Muay Thai scene, from your understanding, in Brazil right now?
Thiago: The Muay Thai Muay Thai is pretty strong. It's not as strong as Thailand or in Europe but I think that the Muay Thai striking for MMA in Brazil is superior to all other countries. You see the strikers that we've got in the business, it's a different ball game. You're talking about stand up boxing for Muay Thai and the Muay Thai for MMA, it's a completely different sport, completely different angles and positions. So when it comes to MMA, I think that Brazil is at the top of the game.
Luke: Lets move on, you're taking on Rick "the horror" Story at UFC 130 this weekend. I want to see if you agree with me. I think this guy is incredibly dangers and a lot of fans don't know who he is which makes him even more dangerous. Would you agree with that characterization?
Thiago: Definitely. Rick Story is a very tough kid. He's won five in a row in the UFC. Whoever gets five in a row in the UFC is definitely someone that I'll give a lot of respect and he's hungry. He's younger than me. I think it's the first time I'm going to be fighting somebody that's younger than me. I've been in his shoes before fighting a guy, fighting a veteran. He's trying to make a name so I'm pretty sure that he's going to be coming 100 percent prepared but as I said, I've been in his shoes before. I know exactly what's going through his head. I'm prepared like I've never been before, I've had the best training camp of my life. I've done stuff that I've never done before so I'm very confident.
Luke: You sound like you're describing yourself like a veteran, obviously you're super experienced. Are you more experienced or are you a veteran? How do you see your career to this point?
Thiago: I think I'm both. I've been fighting since I was 15 and I've been in the UFC since I think 2005? Something like that. It's been 6 years that I've been a part of the organization and I've fought the best of the best in the weight class so I feel I'm a veteran. I have a lot of experience and I'm still pretty young, I'm 27 so I've still got a lot to improve and a lot to go.
Luke: I wanted to get more on Rick Story. Can you guarantee us on the air right now that he won't be able to take you down on Saturday?
Thiago: He's going to have a hard time. And every time he tries, he's going to pay for it. I'm not going to guarantee because a fights a fight, anything can happen but I'm focused on my performance right now and I'm pretty sure that Ricky Story is going to have his hands full anywhere. I out class him at everywhere in the game so I'm very prepared and I can't wait to get the job done.
Luke: You know, he is known for his wrestling. And he outwrestled Jake Ellenberger in a fight that not a lot of people know about, it didn't happen in the UFC obviously, but I don't think his striking is on par with your's, your's is obviously superior. But he is very aggressive and mixes his wrestling very well and has really good body shots. Can you comment on the striking of Story?
Thiago: You're fighting with four ounce gloves, you've gotta be careful with anybody you fight, especially a powerful kid like Rick Story. But you know, like I said, at this level, everybody is dangerous. Everybody knows how to throw a punch and take anybody down and do submissions so you've just gotta come up with the right game plan and be very prepared and that's what we do in my camps. I'm not overlooking any of his skills and I know he's dangerous anywhere in the game but I'm just prepared and very confident.
Luke: Jose Aldo is on a different team than you and runs in different circles I'm sure, but he went to Andy Souwer, professional Kick Boxer-Shoot Boxer...have you ever explored that or do you bring in professional kick boxers to help you train?
Thiago: We've got a really good relationship with people from Holland. We've got Melvin Manhoef come in all the time, and not just him. We've got Badr Hari and all the other guys coming to American Top Team to train Jiu Jitsu with us and they exchange striking with us. My former-Thai coach is a five time world champ and my coach right now is a former champ as well. So when it comes to striking, when it comes to all overall of the game, we're very prepared at American Top Team.
Luke: Wait, so you've trained with Badr Hari?
Thiago: Yeah, he came to ATT. I didn't really spar with him but he gave me a few tips here and there. And you don't want to spar with Badr Hari man.
Luke: Do you think he wins a rubber match with Alistair Overeem?
Thiago: I want to see that. That's the funny thing about K-1 man, everybody knocks out everybody. That's why it's so exciting watching the K-1 fights. I was just watching It's Showtime on Friday night and Tyrone Spong and Badr Hari fought and knocked the guys out really quick so I've been a big fan of Muay Thai since I was a little kid. That's my background. That's the good thing about Muay Thai, anybody can beat anybody.
Luke: You were initially going to be on the Spike portion of the card and now you're going to be on the Pay Per View card but after that happened, the Main Event got wiped because both guys got injured. How do you feel about that now, would you rather be back on Spike or are you happy where you're at?
Thiago: It doesn't really matter for me, it doesn't change the pay check. Once you step in there you don't think about if you're on a pay per view or regular TV. You just know you're inside of a cage and got another guy in front of you so you've gotta take care of business. It doesn't really matter to me.
Luke: Were you at all disappointed when you heard the main event was out or is that just too much to worry about and you don't think about it?
Thiago: I don't really think about it cause it's not my problem. As a fan, yeah, I wanted to see the fight but it doesn't affect me in any way.
Luke: I want to get your predictions, or at least how you're leaning for some of the other fights on the card. I just saw a link online that Randy Couture has picked Matt Hamill to upset Rampage Jackson, do you agree with that? Do you think he's going to upset him?
Thiago: Hamill has improved a lot in the last few fights, that's what's so exciting about MMA, anybody has a shot. He's very hungry and I think that if Rampage isn't at the top of his game, he's going to have his hands full with Matt Hamill so we'll see.
Luke: One of the pieces of news coming out, it's not confirmed, but it's heavily rumored is that Nick Diaz, Strikeforce Welterweight Champion, is going to get a shot against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 140. Some people think he's jumping in line ahead of contenders. What is your feeling on that? Do you believe that Nick Diaz should get a fight against St. Pierre?
Thiago: It doesn't really matter to me. He's the champion of another organization. If you're going to put Champion against Champion, it makes a lot of sense. But do I think he should come and do what Jake Shields did and take a fight against a top contender and then get a title shot? It should be like that. But it's not my place to say what's right or wrong.
Luke: Obviously you would give yourself a great chance at beating him, but how do you think Nick Diaz would do against someone like John Fitch, another top contender?
Thiago: It would be a grind. Fitch would turn it into a "Fitch Fight" like he always does and take him down and just hold him. But Nick can knock him out at any moment so it would be an interesting fight to see.