DALLAS – One of the dramas playing out in real time ahead of UFC 228 is the question as to whether or not welterweight challenger Darren Till will make weight for his title fight with Tyron Woodley. To ensure that he does is nutritionist George Lockhart’s protégé, Eoghan Gallagher, who is in Texas to help Till whittle down from his 202-pound frame to a lean, healthy 170 pounds come Friday morning at the official weigh-ins.
After Wednesday’s open workout at the American Airlines Arena, Till declared that he was down to 182 pounds and on pace to shed the last dozen without issue. Gallagher echoed those sentiments on Wednesday evening as he prepares for the final day of cutting, saying he’s “110 percent” confident Till will be on weight.
“We’re super happy with where he’s at,” Gallagher told MMA Fighting at the fighter hotel. “We were working with a more limited time frame that expected. Darren had some visa issues getting into the U.S. We wanted to get out here to do four weeks, but we only got two-and-a-half basically. So under the circumstances we’re doing amazing. The last part of the cut is always going to suck. He said it himself earlier, fighters who say they’ve had a great cut, it’s a cover up.”
Indeed, Till was in a jolly mood after receiving a very warm reception from the fans gathered at the workouts. He didn’t seem overly concerned with the rest of his weight cut, nor of showing up the scale over the 170-pound maximum for a welterweight title fight. Then again, it’s good to have a team of nutritionists helping to guide the cut that nearly did him in for his last fight against Stephen Thompson. Till showed up three pounds over the allotted limit (174) for that one, thus raising concerns as to whether or not he could be trusted to cut down for a title fight.
The UFC even went so far as to have fellow contender Kamaru Usman on hand and ready to go in in Dallas, just in case Till comes in over.
Gallagher said that he has been in constant contact with both Tyler Minton (Daniel Cormier and Max Holloway’s nutritionist) and his “mentor” Lockhart, who is in Dublin with Conor McGregor currently, helping the Irishman get ready for his own title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov next month. Lockhart spent 40 minutes advising Gallagher and making sure that they were going about the cut in a healthy way. Given the progress and what’s left to go, Gallagher said he feels “very confident” Till is right where he needs to be.
“He is really a unique individual,” Gallagher said. “He’s a lanky guy, just has a strange anatomy. His body doesn’t respond to certain things the way I expected it to, so I have made adjustments along the way. But he’s in a very good place mentally.”
This is the first fight that Gallagher has worked as Till’s nutritionist heading into a fight. It is Gallagher’s opinion that one of the reasons Till struggled his last time through was that he began cutting his sodium intake too early, and extended periods of overheating during the process caused his hormones to get out of whack. “That causes guys to retain sodium,” he said.
“This culture of guys a week out, two weeks out with the sauna suits on already, hitting pads and things like that…that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” Gallagher said. “That’s something we want to move away from it. The larger part of our cuts are done within 72 hours, so that we have the body under strenuous conditions for the least amount of time possible. So, just minor changes were made this camp.”
If all goes according to plan, by late Thursday night Till will already be on weight. That will allow him to drink water and stay hydrated before he takes the scale on Friday morning. Gallagher says that even with the circumstances being less than ideal for his first cut with Till, he believes that — contrary to popular belief — the Liverpool fighter can continue competing at welterweight for a long time to come.
Not that he can’t envision the Scouser fighting at middleweight at some point in the near future.
“The issues that I observed as an outsider, and just from speaking to his team and speaking to him personally, I think the ‘he should not fight at 170’ talks are extremely blown out of proportion,” Gallagher said. “I think that realistically he can make welterweight for years to come, but just from speaking to him — and this is a trend I hope continues in this sport — it seems like he wants to go to 185 sooner rather than later.
“Just for two reasons, the significantly less strain he’d have to put himself through. And — this isn’t his thought, but in my opinion — middleweight is in more need of a star than 170 is. Welterweight is super-exciting right now, while middleweight is one of the better divisions with a lot of the fighters in the later stages of their career. Darren is 25 years old. He’s someone who could be around for a significant amount of time.”
One way or another, Gallagher says he believes the cuts will get easier going forward — especially as he gets to know Till better. If Till has seemed a little testy during his time in Las Vegas prepared for the fight, it’s perfectly understandable given the stakes and increased scrutiny.
“He does have moods like anyone else, but if he doesn’t want you to do something he’s going to let you know,” Gallagher said. “There are times where he’s like, why do I have to do that? It can be difficult if you don’t have thick skin. But it’s a lot better than someone who will just go along with things, and then not tell you that they don’t understand something. It can be a bit abrasive, but in my opinion it’s better than somebody who balls up and doesn’t tell you anything.
“I’ve been with him for about three weeks now and I feel like we have a great relationship. The trust is definitely there. I want to also get to know him and judge him outside of the circumstances. He’s in the camp, which sucks, and of course he’s in a bad mood right now, but overall he’s been great.”