Phil Hawes Says He’s The Most Jacked Guy in the UFC
Every fighter in the UFC trains hard—you’d be a fool not to. Yet even among these uncommon men, Phil “No Hype” Hawes stands out. Perhaps the only thing more impressive than his junior college national championship in wrestling and his 12-4 record in the UFC is his physique. The 34-year-old New Jersey native looks like an action figure. And while many in his sport—including the GOAT Jon Jones, a sparring partner who called Hawes one of his toughest opponents—have been tainted by accusations of steroid use, Hawes says he’s never touched the stuff (yet). Instead he’s carved himself with an impeccable work ethic, a Spartan diet, an understanding that time is precious, and an unyielding belief that his time is now.
Hawes fights Dagestan’s Ikram Aliskerov in Newark at UFC 288 on Saturday. Ahead of that bout, GQ caught up with him as he touched down in the U.S. after a long flight back from training camp in Phuket, Thailand.
For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and other high performers about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
GQ: Welcome back to the U.S.A. I want to get something out of the way before we begin. Are you the most jacked guy in the UFC?
Phil Hawes: I’m top three for sure! Frances [Ngannou] is huge but he is gone now. Paolo Costa is yoked up for sure. But the most jacked guy in the UFC? Yeah, that’s me—I’ll take that.
How’d that happen? Your workouts must be crazy.
My training is intense, especially in Thailand. That’s all they do: train. I wake up around 6:45 and run for an hour, then I hit the mitts with my boxing coach from 8:30 until 9:30. Next it’s jiu jitsu from 10:30 to 11:30. Then I go home and take a break and gear up for the rest of the day. We do super-intense MMA sparring with the team in the afternoon, and then after that I do more jiu jitsu.
That’s a lot. What about weights?
Weights are Tuesday, but I am trying to get quicker and be more cardio based. I do HIIT workouts: rowing, box jumps, ropes, that sort of thing. I used to be a real pick-you-up-and-slam-you-on-your-head-type of fighter, but now I’m focused on becoming faster.
So, to be clear, it sounds like you don’t really lift much.
Yeah, in high school I was about 240 pounds, when I played football. I used to love lifting weights. And then of course wrestling in college, they have you doing power cleans and stuff. I guess the muscle just kind of stuck around, because in general these days I am really tapering off weightlifting.
That’s unexpected. Let’s talk about steroids in MMA. They’re relatively prevalent, yeah?
I think steroids are super prevalent, but no one is popping [ED: testing positive], so there’s no proof. A lot of fighters say they should open the floodgates and make steroids legal, but I don’t like that idea because some guys couldn’t afford them. Some bigger-name fighters could go to other countries and get stem cells, but if you’re an entry-level fighter you may not have the means to do stuff like that which I don’t think is very fair. [Laughs] I mean not to be a baby, maybe I’m just complaining because I haven’t done them yet.
OK, so no steroids, what do you put in your body?
Right now I’m at 2,000 calories a day, lots of oatmeal and egg whites, not a lot of fat. We eat carbs pre-training and protein post-training for recovery. I have a new nutritionist. She teaches me a lot. For breakfast I have 50 grams of oats, 50 grams of egg whites, some protein powder, and then 100 grams of berries. We weigh everything out so we know exactly how many calories everything is. Weight is super important in my sport. I don’t have the luxury of gaining weight in the offseason like some sports.
For lunch, lots of salads and very few carbs. And for dinner, I eat about 500 calories, lots of lean proteins and vegetables, plus brown rice for the minerals. If I want a snack it’s flavorless, low-fat yogurt, and I’ll add some flavor drops.
That is not a lot of food. Do you ever get starving?
No, it’s life now! Of course you get hungry, but there are tricks to stay full. Like, you have oatmeal and put in protein powder to make it fluffier, and we put a lot of ice into it and it almost has the consistency of ice cream, and you can eat a whole huge blender full and it hurts your stomach you eat so much and mentally you feel satisfied. There are tricks—you just gotta find them and make them your own.
Combat sport athletes notoriously need to lose a lot of weight right before a fight to fit into their weight division. How do you cut weight and what’s it like?
Cutting weight is never fun, but it’s part of the game. First you have to diet down to a good place to start your weight cut. I’m 204 right now and I need to be 185 by the weigh-in for my fight on May 6th. There’s a few ways to cut, but I water-load. You drink massive amounts of water—two gallons a day—for ten days out. So you trick your body into thinking it will keep getting this fluid, so your body is sweating and peeing a lot because it thinks it will rehydrate soon, and then you stop drinking water almost completely, and you sauna and you workout and all the water weight comes right out of you. You can lose 15-20 pounds in a night. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
You’re leading a super-demanding lifestyle, even by pro athlete standards. What drives you to do it?
I know this isn’t forever. Fighting is what I do career-wise, but it’s not who I am. It’s easier knowing there is a goal and I know I only have a finite amount of time to accomplish this goal. As a normal person it might be hard to understand that. But as a fighter you are very aware that your next fight could be your last fight and you never know.
You currently train in Thailand—why did you go halfway around the world to find a gym?
Less distraction. I was training in South Florida before my last fight, and I don’t drink or anything, but I remember going into Club E11ven one time when it was night and when we came out it was daytime. And I was like “oh man, what am I doing, I have a fight coming up.” And I lost that fight, got knocked out, and I think the lack of rest and Florida lifestyle played a role in that.
So I went to Phuket, and man, my mind is free there. There’s no temptation to go to clubs, and there’re no OnlyFans girls, and you don’t need to put on Yeezy’s to go to the store. Phuket is really simple and really nice. You meet a lot of people on their fitness journeys, and it’s easy to stay focused, which is what I need to be right now.
You don’t drink alcohol at all?
Hawes: No. I look at it like this. Floyd Mayweather is one of the best to ever do it, and he doesn’t drink. So what makes me think I can get away with it? It’s all about sacrifice.
You mentioned getting knocked out in your last fight: What’s that like?
Getting knocked out? It’s not so bad—you just go to sleep. No, I’m kidding, it’s not good, mostly it’s from a punch you don’t see coming, you don’t brace for it, your chin is up, it’s scary from the CTE aspect, like “oh shit, is this going to jeopardize my career?” There’s negative aspects, but you need to be a little ignorant of them. A lot of athletes who get KO’d are tentative or scared afterward. You can’t be like that. You kind of have to be a little stupid about it—”have a short term memory” is maybe a nicer way to put it.
Knocking someone out, though? It’s like hitting a home run. The crowd goes wild. My background is wrestling—striking is newer to me, and it’s like a new toy. I like punching people in the face. I think it’s cool. I like kicking people in the face—I think that’s cool too. You knock someone unconscious, and you get a little aura like “oh shit, I can do that.” But it’s a little scary too, knowing what you’re capable of.
Does fear play a big role in your approach to your sport? Do you get scared before fights?
I get scared, yeah, of course. I think fear is a positive thing. I’m on my way to the gym right now because I’m afraid of losing. If there was no emotion attached to it I’d be sitting on the couch eating ice cream. I’m afraid of underperforming. If anybody says they don’t get scared before a fight they are probably crazy. We aren’t playing games here. We are looking to hurt each other. There’s always fear and that’s what makes it fun, and that’s why people tune in and that’s why some people don’t fight.
Let’s change the subject a little bit. I follow you on Instagram and noticed you have had some interactions in Phuket with the Kathoey [a term for transgender women or gay men common in Thai culture]. I found it kind of refreshing because it’s done in a respectful way, and doesn’t necessarily seem in line with how a lot of people might think a typical pro fighter might behave.
Listen, I appreciate everyone man. I’m an open-minded person and I appreciate people’s lifestyle choices. I hate to be the guy that’s like “oh yeah, I support everyone,” but to an extent I do, as long as their morals are right. [The Kathoey] thing is huge in Thai culture, and it doesn’t bother me at all. Gay, lesbian, whatever, I’m super open to all people. I accept people for who they say they are.
Very cool. OK, so your fight is coming up soon. How are you going to celebrate your impending victory?
Hawes: That’s easy. I’m gonna cross the river and go into Manhattan and eat pizza. I love those two-dollar slice spots. I’m going to get three plain, and three pepperoni. Six slices at least. I can’t wait.
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