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MMA Fighter Uriah Hall Can’t Resist a Red Stripe (Except When He’s Cutting Weight)

April 03, 2019

By Natalie B. Compton, April 03, 2019

It’s difficult to walk very far with Uriah Hall around Las Vegas without interruption. The 34-year-old UFC middleweight fighter is a target for selfie requests from fans, mostly men with giant smiles plastered on their excited faces. Hall is a good sport about it if they ask nicely—just don’t mistake him for retired MMA fighter Urijah Faber. The two look nothing alike (Hall is Jamaican, Faber is a white dude from California), yet it still it happens enough to annoy the hell out of Hall. Hall’s coming off a win against Bevon Lewis last December, but won’t be in the ring for a while due to a wrist injury. The fighter isn’t a stranger to physical setbacks. He made headlines last year when he fainted in St. Louis on his way to a weigh in for a fight against Vitor Belfort.

Hidden away from fans, Hall and I duck into Red Plate at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to eat some Chinese food and talk about UFC, mental health, and how Jamaican beer fits into a fighter’s diet.

What happened when you fainted?
I was cutting weight and I over-dehydrated myself. I was 187 and I started my weight cut really early. Normally I start the cut at 197, but I started at 204, which made it really hard. I had digestive problems, so it was just hard to cut that much weight with digestive problems. I ended up pushing my body too far and I fainted.  I over-pushed myself. And my body was like, "Dude, you can't do this anymore." And it shut down. My kidney was just failing, and I had a seizure. Woke up throwing punches and it was a horrible experience. Basically almost died for the stupid sport. You can quote me on that.

What will you do next time to change the outcome?
The good thing that I've learned is that I'm allergic to a lot of foods. Certain foods that you're allergic to makes it hard to digest. So I have to take out most of these foods out of my diet. Small stuff like cucumbers, apples. It's more of understanding what you're allergic to as an athlete because your body is so delicate. A lot of people don't realize, especially getting older, there's a lot of transition you have to deal with. Recovery is a big part of it, too. Your body is not recovering as much. Obviously when you're younger, in your youth you feel invincible. I feel after 30, then it starts to kind of go down a little bit.

Uriah Hall and coach Clayton Hires at the UFC Performance Institute in Nevada. All photos by the author.

As your career has gone on, what are some of the ways that cutting weight has stayed the same or changed? Has it always been the same sort of methods?
For me, I try to do what's called the “five-day water challenge.” Not really a “challenge.” So five days, I drink a lot of water. It's two [gallons of water the first day], [then] three, two, one and a half, and half [on the last day]. But what I've done recently is two gallons. You drink two gallons a day for five days. What I'll do is I'll change my diet to asparagus and tilapia. Tilapia is very easy on your stomach, especially when you don't have a lot of food. Asparagus pulls water out. So you're constantly peeing. That way you lose more water a lot faster. And [I eat] egg whites and lean protein, with some salmon. For one week, if I do that properly, I can move 15 to 20 pounds, instantly.

That’s crazy. Where does alcohol fit into an athlete's diet? Can you have a beer every now and then or is it totally frowned upon.
Yes, you can have a beer. Everything is all about quantity. Too much of anything is not good. Too much food is not good. But you know, it's good for your mind. I'm a wine guy. Because wine makes you really awesome. And once in a while I'll drink beer. Of course, when you're in fight camp, I wouldn't recommend any of it.

What is your beer of choice?
My beer of choice is Red Stripe Jamaican beer. Not because I'm Jamaican. Well, that's part of it, but not really. Red Stripe was the first beer that was given to me by my grandfather when I was 13. It was my birthday and I said, "Hey, it's my birthday." And he was like, "Hey, you're becoming a man." He gave me a Red Stripe at 13 and I got drunk because I drank it like water. I like Red Stripe. Or Bud Light.

What food goes well with Red Stripe?
If you want the Jamaican experience, I would say rice and peas and chicken, which is a Jamaican dish for Sunday. We always do that on Sundays. Or ackee and saltfish with fried dumplings, which is an all-time favorite Jamaican breakfast. And some plantains.

It's OK to fail. It's OK to be in the dumps. It's OK for life to hit you. And the important thing is, you have to get back up.”

If you're going to drink a beer in Vegas, where would you go? Do you have any favorite bars that you like?
Well, first of all, Vegas sucks. And the best place I ever drank a beer is California. But it depends. I'm not really into bars. If I'm going to have a beer, I'd rather have it with close friends. I'd rather have it at home. I'd rather have it on a date.

You don't have another fight planned right now. When will you start to make moves to organize that?
Right now I'm a little injured. I blocked a kick and my timing on it wasn't perfect so I hit my wrist and popped a ligament. I can't really punch. I have surgery on Friday, and after that, then I'll know how long I'm out to recover. Then I have to do physical therapy. Probably looking at close to four months, maybe five. As of now, I'm working more on the cardio aspect of training. Just keeping my weight down, so when I do get ready to compete, to start my training intensively, it will be an easier transition.

After your last fight, you talked about mental health. Why that was important to you?
My sister is going through depression, and she almost committed suicide several times. I've heard a lot of people talk about depression. I didn't realize the big impact and how big depression is. I was talking about how Robin Williams took his life, and I'm looking at Robin Williams, who I think is one of the funniest guys ever. I’m like, "How are you ever sad?” When I saw my sister going through it I was like, "Wow, this is actually real.” My speech was for her, to say, hey, it's OK to fail. It's OK to be in the dumps. It's OK for life to hit you. And the important thing is, you have to get back up. Because everyone's going to have their opinion of you.

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