Since moving up to welterweight, Michael Chiesa has gone 2-0 and has never felt better.
And Chiesa (16-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) says the motivation to make the move up was largely in part to the success former UFC interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier has had since moving up from featherweight, where he has gone 9-2.
“For me, the biggest one was Dustin Poirier,” Chiesa told MMA Junkie. “When he was at ’45, I remember seeing him at the airport one time and was like, ‘Dude, this guy is, like, wide – he is barrel-chested. That’s a big ’55-pounder, and he’s cutting to ’45.’ So I would see him and be like, ‘I’m not alone. At least I’m not the only guy cutting a lot of weight.’ And I saw him go up in weight class and saw the success he was having.
“I mean, look at his win streak he had, going into that Khabib (Nurmagomedov) fight. I was like, ‘Maybe that’s what I need to do. Maybe I need to make a change in my weight class.’ Look at the success Dustin Poirier is having, look at what he’s doing. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t give myself the opportunity to do the same thing.”
But it’s not like “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 winner didn’t have success at lightweight. Chiesa was able to take out some notable names, such as Al Iaquinta, Beneil Dariush and Jim Miller. But eventually, the cut for Chiesa, who walks around at nearly 200 pounds, started to take a toll on his body.
After suffering back-to-back losses to Kevin Lee and Anthony Pettis, Chiesa decided to make the move to 170 pounds, and said contrary to what many people may think, his grapple-heavy approach works better when he’s not cutting so much weight.
“With my style of fighting, I just don’t think weight cutting really makes a lot of sense,” Chiesa said. “I know a lot of people will say, ‘You’re a grappler and cutting the most amount of weight makes the most sense so you can be the biggest guy, and it’s like, no. I really disagree with that. I think if you’re going to be a grappler, you need to lift a lot of weights, you need to get really physically strong and fast, and you need to work on your strength and conditioning as a whole, and you can’t do that if you’re going to cut a bunch of weight.
“For my style, I need to not cut a ton of weight. I need to hit the weights more. It’s like the polar opposite. So seeing Dustin Poirier’s success was really kind of what influenced me to make that jump.”
Chiesa is heading into arguably one of the biggest fights of his career on Jan. 25, a matchup with former UFC lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on ESPN+ 25 in Raleigh, N.C.
Ever since he started competing at welterweight, he has found new life, and is rejuvenated to continue his goal of one day wrapping a UFC title around his waist.
“Ever since I’ve done that, I feel like I started my career over again,” Chiesa said. “I’m training all the time. I never want a break. When I fought at ’55, I’d get done with a fight and it’s like I don’t even want to touch the gym for a month. I’m burned out. The camps at welterweight are tougher, but my body can handle it because I can eat and I can nurture myself.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Michael Chiesa on how he was inspired by Dustin Poirier to make the move up to welterweight