Can a vegan MMA fighter still kick ass? These 4 prove they can

Mixed martial arts (MMA), also called cage fighting, is a no holds barred combat sport whereby two competitors attempt to win by dominance. Exhausting, highly skilled and dangerous. Training is brutally extensive, and the proper diet is vital to stand any fighting chance and achieve optimum performance and recovery. The hit documentary The Game Changers is our go-to for explaining the science behind gold-winning vegan-powered athletes.

Wipe the sweat from your brow and meet some top vegan MMA fighters. Find out how veganism helps them knock out the opposition!

Nate Diaz

In an interview with UFC Fight Pass, Nate Diaz discusses coming to veganism at eighteen and following a raw diet for training. He tried meat again at one point but claimed his body didn’t react well. He believes that a vegan diet helps him recover from wounds and fatigue faster than a meat-eating diet. 

Diaz surprised the critics by beating champion Conor McGregor at UFC 196, which came to be one of UFC’s most famous fights, and has been a part of the biggest Pay Per View fights in the history of the UFC.

Fighters often tease and mock their opponents in televised fights to add drama to the entertainment. McGregor’s side reportedly mocked Diaz for being vegan, but Nate offered the last jape as he tweeted, “Conor McGregor got his ass kicked by a vegan”. What a way to discredit the stereotype that vegans are weak. K.O. 

Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Karolina Kowalkiewicz started her martial arts journey at sixteen by training in krav maga, and by 2015 was signed with the UFC. 

In 2019 Kowalkiewicz was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid gland and symptoms include fatigue and muscle weakness. Kowalkiewicz has not allowed this to stop her from competing, including beating Silvana Gómez Juárez in November 2022 at UFC 281. 

To help manage the condition, Kowalkiewicz takes care of herself with a vegan diet: “ I pay much more attention to regeneration after training. I take care [to have] the right amount of sleep. I have also been on a vegan diet for some time - it serves me very well, and I feel better and better.”

Mac Danzig

Mac Danzig started his vegan journey in 2004 and is an animal rights activist. Before he became a professional vegan MMA fighter, he worked as a caretaker at the Animal Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. When Danzig started MMA, he was an anomaly as a vegan, but he subverted the MMA world of majority carnivores by winning fights as a vegan. “Everyone tells you if you’re an athlete you need to at least have chicken and fish in your diet for protein,” says Danzig for Plant Matter Kitchen, and that is “one of the myths that’s been perpetuated for a while.”

Being vegan for both health and ethics, Danzig speaks out about living in an exploitative era and recognises that “most people are just victims of consumerism and are victims of misinformation like we all are in so many ways”. Even at a very young age, Danzig’s compassion was sophisticated: “I remember being 13 and seeing a truck on the interstate filled with pigs all headed to the slaughterhouse. One of them made eye contact with me for a while. It was one of the saddest moments I can remember. There was so much intelligence and spirit in him, and here he was, being sent to an awful death.”

Ashlee Evans-Smith

Pro vegan MMA fighter Ashlee Evans-Smith competes in women's flyweight and bantamweight divisions, claiming veganism helps her shed pounds for those crucial weigh-ins to maintain divisional weight (being over the weight limit results in penalties). By going vegan, Evan-Smith said, “I’ve never lost strength - only fat. I’ve never lost energy; only guilt.”

Evans-Smith, AKA Rebel Girl’, turned vegan in 2016 and has gained a following for her podcast Sex & Violence with Rebel Girl, which features MMA fighters discussing dating, love, and sex. 

So, there you have it, examples of the strongest, most physically resilient people in the world proving that a vegan diet keeps you super fit and healthy. For more on fitness, check out more myth-busting.

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