CALGARY — Sam Stout stops short of asserting that UFC fighters are the world’s best-conditioned athletes.
But the 28-year-old Canadian lightweight says the popular sport is certainly among the most physically demanding.
"We’re right up there," he tells Sun Media in a one-on-one interview at a Sport Chek-sponsored media event at Champions Creed Mixed Martial Arts prior to the recent UFC 149.
"There’s different types of conditioning. There’s some sports I could do and be exhausted. But probably the athletes from those sports would try to do what I do and be exhausted. So it’s hard to say who’s really in the best shape. But I definitely say we’re in the upper echelon of the guys in the best shape."
UFC rounds last up to five minutes. A championship fight is scheduled for five rounds, while a non-championship fight is capped at three rounds.
To the casual observer, that may not sound very gruelling.
But to put it in perspective, especially for Canadians, Stout often compares a UFC bout to an NHL hockey fight.
"It (a hockey fight) is usually 30 seconds at most. And look at the guys when they’re sitting in the penalty box. They’re sucking wind," explains the heavy-handed striker from London, Ont.
"A lot of times, you can see the fatigue in them for the rest of the game. I have some very good friends that are NHL hockey players and that’s what they said — for the rest of the game, their shoulders are shot and they’re just worn out."
In terms of time, a UFC match is akin to 30 back-to-back hockey fights, Stout adds.
That’s why he doesn’t take his training camps lightly.
The 5-foot-9 fighter typically trains 13 weeks for a bout, gradually cutting his weight from 170 pounds to a lean and mean 155.
His regimen leading up to a fight involves 11 weekly workouts: Twice a day on Mondays through Fridays, and once on Saturdays. Sundays are a rest day.
It’s a mixed bag that includes strength and conditioning, pad work, sparring and grappling.
"There’s a whole lot to fit in there," he says. "The hardest part is finding a balance between all the different aspects of the sport. "¦ There’s only so many hours you can train in a week."
As for his diet in the lead-up to a fight, Stout sticks to mostly protein sources and vegetables. Staples include fish, chicken, egg-white omelettes, rice and spinach. The challenge, he notes, is maintaining his energy levels while dropping weight.
"It’s really a science, the diet part," says the nearly seven-year veteran of the UFC.
"And it’s really trial and error because everybody’s body is different. A diet that works for me may not work for you or somebody else."
Stout, who co-owns London’s Adrenaline Training Centre, knows first-hand what it feels like to not be prepared for a fight.
"Luckily, I learned that lesson in my amateur career, where you take a fight too lightly and you think, ‘Oh, I can smoke this guy,’ and you don’t train hard enough," he admits.
"There’s no worse feeling than being in there with somebody who’s throwing punches at you that has better conditioning, who’s still fresh as a daisy and you’re sucking wind and can barely hold your hands up.
"So I’ve really prided myself through most of my career, since I learned that lesson, on my conditioning, my cardio and being able to maintain that explosiveness right through to the last round."
Sam’s training advice:
"People need to understand that there’s no shortcuts for anything. The road is paved in blood, sweat and tears. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices and it’s not going to happen overnight."