Last weekend, Stipe Miocic become UFC heavyweight champion for the 5th time when he knocked out Daniel Cormier at UFC241 in Anaheim, California. The 4th round win cemented the Croatian-American’s legacy as arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time.
Miocic impressed many pundits in the victory with his tactics and stamina. After eating up all that Cormier would throw at him for three rounds, Miocic changed it up at the start of the fourth round by attacking Cormier’s body and landing some big blows to his liver. Miocic out-grinded Cormier and when the defending champion was tiring, he went for the kill to claim an incredible victory.
Miocic, and Cormier, were quick to thank and congratulate his world-class team, which includes his coach, Marcus Marinelli, strength coach Bob Kaleal, boxing coach Alex Cooper, Jiu Jitsu coach Pablo Castro, training partner Steve Kinas, wresting coach Adam Disabato, manager Jim Walter and his sports nutrition coach, Croatian-Canadian Dr. Paul Biondich.
Biondich is a first generation Croatian born in Toronto, Canada, with both of his parents born in Croatia. His wife, Renata, is also a first generation Croatian with both of her parents born in Croatia also.
“Growing up we were quite immersed in the Croatian culture and language from an early age. Renata and I have visited Croatia numerous times and honestly there is so much of Croatia I have not seen that each time I visit, it amazes me how stunning the country is from top to bottom,” Dr. Biondich tells us.
Dr. Biondich is a Chiropractor who has been designing custom high performance sports nutrition programs for elite and professional athletes for almost 20 years. He has worked with athletes from the NHL, MLS, MLB, professional boxing, numerous National team players from Canada and has been working with UFC fighters for 17 years.
“I often travel with my pro athletes administering performance care treatments to optimize performance prior to competition and have traveled to Japan, London England, Brazil and throughout US and Canada. In addition to working with athletes I lecture on High Performance Sports Nutrition internationally and have helped a global nutritional company design a new supplement to improve endurance called Amped NOX,” he says.
Dr. Biondich has been working with Miocic for more than seven years now.
“I started working with Stipe in early 2012. I heard about this Croatian UFC Heavyweight from Cleveland Ohio and I was interested in helping a fellow Croatian out as I was working with UFC fighters already for 10 years at that time. I reached out to his manager to see if they were in need of a Sports Nutrition Coach and so I drove 4.5 hours from Toronto to Cleveland for an interview, the rest is history.”
“Essentially, my role is to separate fact from fiction when it comes to sports nutrition and there definitely is a lot fiction in this industry. I study nutritional companies globally looking for the most advanced sports nutrition supplements and protocols in the world. I research what the latest trends are in high performance nutrition not just in the US and Canada, but what’s happening in Germany, England, Australia and Russia. At one point I had a data base of over 500 proteins bars in my computer so when someone asked me what is the best protein bar in the world, I could actually answer them from a factual perspective as opposed to an opinion. Opinions don’t get you world championships.
If an athlete needs to move a specific metric, run faster, jump higher, recover quicker, improve power to weight ratios, whatever the metric is, I need to be able to move that needle. If I can’t, I’m not successful in my role. That takes a lot of time to understand the true science behind how the body functions from a human physiology perspective and more importantly what are the rate limiting steps affecting that outcome. Once you understand that, you get results.”
What can you tell us about Stipe’s nutritional program?
“When I first met with Stipe, his manager and his coach Marcus Marinelli I proposed that we put a nutrition / training program to take him from 240 to 255 pounds (109 kg to 116 kg) by adding more lean muscle to make him even stronger and move powerful. But I was surprised when coach Marcus said no. Marcus said Stipe doesn’t have a strength issue, he’s Croatian!,” Dr. Biondich explains, before adding.
“As a heavyweight, we need to maximize his endurance capacity. I thought this was a brilliant directive by coach Marcus as so many athletes over emphasize strength over endurance, especially in the heavyweight game. So the majority of my nutritional focus was on how to optimize and maximize both his anaerobic and aerobic systems. In combination with his physical training program designed by his strength coach Bob Kaleal and with a specific nutritional / supplemental program to maximize endurance, Stipe has not only gone 5 rounds three times but also set the UFC record for most punches thrown / landed in ANY weight division. We also know that no matter how much you plan for fights, unexpected situations can happen that alter an athlete’s expected performance.”
Miocic was the lightest he has ever been for a title fight on Saturday night, but Dr. Biondich says Stipe and his camp were not concerned going into the fight.
“At the end of this camp, Stipe’s endurance was on point and he was strong as ever. His weight on the scale really didn’t matter as this is called “power to weight ratio”. Ultimately you want the athlete to be as strong as possible and as light as possible. His body settled at 230.5 pounds (104.7 kg) and Stipe’s team was happy with that.”
Dr. Biondich explains more about what he does, who he has worked with and who he would like to work with in the future.
“Since starting to do DNA testing with my athletes, it has delivered a new level of insight into the specific nutrient needs of the athlete. Once you know what specific genes are down-regulating or up-regulating a certain function in the body, you can then design a custom and specific nutrient program to optimize the function of those genes or support a specific function in the body. This has been a game changer as your genetic profile is the same when you are born and will be the same when you die. Having an insight into what your specific genetic profile is as how it relates to your hormonal profile, detoxification systems, aerobic and anaerobic systems is a critical starting point for any athlete who wants to maximize their performance in every way.
As a Chiropractor, I also assess the body’s musculo-skeletal system to maximize performance. In other words, often from over-training and lack of preventative injury techniques, I find athletes have a build up of adhesions / scar tissue in their specific muscles that are mostly used for their sport. By performing a variety of hands-on soft tissue techniques on those specific muscles, you can sometimes improve their power by 50% in one session. This can be a massive game changer for an athlete especially before a big event.
This is how I got started working in the UFC 17 years ago. A patient walked into my office and said that I fixed a friend of his shoulder problem. He was hoping I could do the same to his shoulder. After 4 visits the injured shoulder became stronger then his supposedly “un-injured” shoulder. The patient asked me how is it possible that the shoulder I worked on is now stronger then the shoulder that doesn’t have an injury. I said you probably have a build of adhesions / scar tissue and although you don’t have pain in that shoulder, you are probably operating at 70% of your potential strength capacity. So we started working on the opposite shoulder and his strength dramatically improved. He then came in and asked if I could work on the rest of his body in the same way. This athlete was Carlos Newton who became UFC World Champion in the welter-weight division.
Over the past 20 years I have found that there is a tremendous amount of “half-truths” when it comes to sports nutrition and performance. Nutrition is one of those topics that is similar to religion where people will have heated, passionate debates about nutritional concepts. Nutrition is not religion. We can respect someone’s religious beliefs but in nutrition there is a wrong and a right and it’s actually not up for debate (most of the time!). I have spent a tremendous amount of time to learning and discovering “nutritional truths”. These nutritional truths were true 20 years ago, are true today and will be true 20 years from now. Once you discover these nutritional truths, they become part of a powerful tool to move any metric in an athlete.
Respectively, I find that in a lot of pro clubs, the staff mostly do a good job at covering the basics, but there always is another level to maximizing an athletes performance. It is often small changes in nutrient timing, substituting a higher quality product or altering the dose that make huge changes to an athlete or team’s performance. It’s the difference between a football (soccer) team able to press in the last 10 minutes of the game will full power to score the winning goal as opposed to the team that just doesn’t have it in the tank. These small put important nutritional adjustments can mean difference between championships and millions of dollars. This is what I love to do, to help athletes and teams take their performance to the next level.
Although I’ve extremely fortunate with who I’ve been able to work with and have been in the fight game for a long time, my passion is also in football (soccer) and would love to share my insights in high performance sports nutrition with other Croatian professional athletes and teams if the opportunity exists one day.”
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