Former Strikeforce Featherweight champion and current Invicta FC 145-pound titleholder Cris "Cyborg" Santos has been a thorn in the side of the face of female mixed martial arts (MMA), Ronda Rousey, for quite some time.
Even before Rousey strapped the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) belt around her waist, talks of a potential fight between the two biggest stars in women's MMA were simmering. The only obstacle in the way of a bout between the two bruising champions has been 10 pounds.
Enter famed MMA nutrition guru and FitnessVT creator George Lockhart who has trained everyone from contenders to champions, including current clients Rafael dos Anjos and Beneil Dariush. The one-time fighter and former serviceman has worked with other female fighters before, so getting Cyborg to the 135-pound mark at some point in the next 12 months will be a relatively easy trip if all goes as planned.
"I've been working with female fighters for a while now. I actually started when I was in the Marine Corps. One of the first fighters I had, she fought at an XFC event. It was definitely educational," says Lockhart. "I work with Sijara Eubanks and DeAnna Bennett in Invicta. I've been working with them for a while. Their bodies are so different. It's funny because there's a lot of women that miss weight because people don't understand -- they try to attack everything the same exact way that you would a man and they're completely different."
The 32-year-old Lockhart recently began helping the stout Brazilian. Prior to Cyborg's tilt with Charmaine Tweet, Lockhart had conversations -- on the word of good friend Brian Stann -- with her manager George Prajin. After mapping out his plan to Prajin, he flew out to California to meet with the fearsome featherweight's team.
"I just told them this is exactly how I'm going to do it and this is exactly how it's going to go down. I stick with the science, just facts and not theories," Lockhart says. "Initially, there wasn't any hesitation. She's always been awesome, she's such a sweetheart.
Tweet lasted all but 46 seconds when she met Cyborg at Invicta FC 11 in February this year. The 29-year-old Brazilian bomber will make one more stand at 145 pounds, presumably before tightening things up in her diet with George and then making the drop down to Bantamweight to challenge "Rowdy" Ronda.
There hasn't been quite a buzz surrounding women's MMA and a lot of that is owed to what Cyborg and Rousey have accomplished in the cage. The pair have collected finishes in 22 fights combined.
Lockhart will play an intricate part in helping the two meet, though, behind the scenes (she is already under contract).
"A lot of people can make somebody make weight. But, to have somebody going down an entire weight class and increase their performance -- that right there is science. It's hard to explain how difficult and amazing that is," says Lockhart. "Cris, because she is so powerful and that's her style of fighting -- to increase that power or keep that power the same at 135 -- we have to make sure that everything is on point."
For now, there are a couple of obstacles in the path between a potential showdown between the two giants, notably Bethe Correia and Faith Van Duin. If both Rousey an Cyborg are to make successful title defenses in July and September, respectively, than a superfight will become all the more realistic.
MMAmania.com spoke with Lockhart recently, who will begin his preparations for the Van Duin fight with Cyborg starting this week in Orange County, regarding his relationship with the champion, her nutrition and impending move down to 135 pounds and much more!
Besides Cris, who are some of your favorite Brazilians to work with?
GL: It's funny, so I train here in Georgia. You have "Jucao" Roan Carneiro, Douglas Lima, Dhiego Lima. I'm working with a lot of guys at the time and I've got like four to five guys in UFC and they're Brazilian; Rafael dos Anjos. We're doing so many at one time right now. It's great. Definitely a plethora of people.
Being that your base is in Georgia, do you have a relationship with Raphael Assuncao?
GL: Me and him have actually trained together. I haven't been here -- I haven't talked to Raphael in a couple of months now. Sometimes he'll come and hit me up and it's funny because it's a lot different when you've got someone on your actual team because it's not like 'Write me a program.' People will ask me questions, my team will ask me questions. A lot of times it's just tips. We kind of use the system and they have me there. It makes things real simple.