The Warrior Vegan - Exploring the Influx of Vegan MMA Stars and Bodybuilders

The Warrior Vegan - Exploring the Influx of Vegan MMA Stars and Bodybuilders

When you think of a professional bodybuilder, what comes to mind?

You’re most likely picturing images of men and women posing with muscles and veins bulging out of their skin. Even to other athletes, it may seem like these people consume 12,000 calories a day and spend every waking minute in the gym. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that meats have by far the most protein of any food group - So why are so many bodybuilders and MMA fighters switching to the vegan diet?

Meet the Vegan Mr. Universe - Barny du Plessis

Unless you’re deep into the world of bodybuilding, you probably haven’t heard the name Barny du Plessis. At age 40, Barny won the Mr. Universe title in 2014. Like many bodybuilders, Barny saw this as the pinnacle of achievement for a weightlifter and decided to retire shortly after. That is until a new dietary lifestyle enabled him to get in better shape than ever.

Almost Retired - Until He Discovered the Vegan Diet

Barny du Plessis, was on the verge of retiring, but decided to continue training for Mr. Universe - as a vegan. Since Barny grew up with vegetarian parents and even witnessed the first hand treatment of animals as he worked on a pig farm as a teen, the seeds for his vegan lifestyle were planted long before he became Mr. Universe. Attributing animal rights and his personal health as his biggest reasons for going vegan, Barny du Plessis also insists that he’s put on muscle since switching to plant-based foods.

Meet the Most Badass Vegan in MMA - Nate Diaz

Are you aware that a lot of MMA fighters are swearing off animal products and embracing the vegan lifestyle?

Of this new breed of vegan MMA fighters, none are as famous or successful as Nate Diaz. While he’s been in wars with the best of the best, his most famous victory in recent years came when he choked out Conor McGreggor. Along with his equally-badass brother Nick, Nate Diaz attained all of his MMA success while strictly following the vegan lifestyle. With notable wins and a bad boy attitude, it’s no wonder so many MMA fighters are following Nate into adopting the vegan lifestyle.  

The Needs of an MMA Fighter Can be Met By a Vegan Diet

A bodybuilder needs to sculpt his or her muscles and perform poses until they’re at their most impressive - but what about the needs of an MMA fighter? Not confined to strength, MMA fighters must train their cardio, skill, flexibility, and stamina - in addition to building muscle. From Mark Hunt to Mac Danzig, an increasing number of MMA fighters are finding veganism to be the perfect diet for their intense lifestyle.

Awesome without Animals - A New Breed of Vegan MMA Fighters

While Nate Diaz and Mark Hunt are some of the most recognizable vegans in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, they certainly aren’t the only ones. Check out some other fighters who are part of this new breed of vegan athletes, and make sure to root for your fellow vegans when you see them in the octagon!


  • Jake Shields (38-8-1)

  • Mac Danzig (21-12-1)

  • James “Lightning” Wilkes (7-4-0)

  • Georgi Karakhanyan (24-6-1)

  • Josh Clopton (6-2-1)


In Their Words - MMA Fighters Talk about their Veganism

Going vegan isn’t typically a simple decision and different people can have very unique reasons. Here are some MMA fighters explaining their choice to cut animal products from their diet:

Mac Danzig

“I don’t understand how anyone can have an animal in their life and know what is going on and contribute to it. You don’t need any kind of animal products to be an athlete in this day and age.”

Jake Shields

“I’ve got nothing to compare (my veganism) to. The only thing is nobody can train as hard or as long as me and Nick Diaz, so that seems to indicate something.”

Jon Fitch

Commenting on his switch to the vegan diet: “The biggest thing is better recuperation from training. I don’t have the days where I came in flat. It’s made for the best training camp of my career.”

Why the “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt Went Vegan

In a case that is worth highlighting, heavyweight UFC fighter, Mark Hunt has decided to go vegan. If you’re a casual MMA fan, then you probably remember Mark Hunt as the last opponent of Brock Lesnar, or for his many dramatic knockouts. Known for his unstoppable knockout power, Mark Hunt recently announced that he’s cutting animal products out of his diet and going vegan.

Real Men Care about Animals

In the case of Mark Hunt, he went vegan after seeing a disturbing video that depicted the 4th largest pig farm in the United States. The video showed pigs being mistreated and abused as they live out their lives in a cramped, disgusting environment. Mark Hunt summed up his feelings and decision in a Facebook caption that accompanied the video:

“I’m going vegan, hate this.”

Mark Hunt proves that even men who knock people out for a living are capable of remarkable displays of compassion for other forms of life.

It’s Not Just about Protein - The Many Advantages of Veganism

While it’s true that meats provide large amounts of protein, protein isn’t the only nutrient needed to compete at the top level - not even for bodybuilders. Plus, there are numerous ways to get enough protein on the vegan diet through nuts, seeds, and grains. Discover why a meatless diet offers the most significant advantages for hardcore athletes:  

  • Avoid Saturated Fats with the Vegan Diet

For athletes, the good fats found in nuts and oils are desirable, but saturated fats should be minimized. The reason is that saturated fats and trans fats clog the arteries and spike cholesterol levels, resulting in nasty complications in the future. The vegan diet is perfect for avoiding saturated fats, because saturated fats strictly come from animal-based foods. In summary, saturated fats are bad, but mono and polyunsaturated fats are vital to your health.  

  • Feel Cleaner and Less Clogged

There’s no doubt about it - you FEEL different when on a vegan diet. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables ensures that you’re getting a substantial amount of fiber in your body. Fiber is excellent for cleaning out your digestive system and helping you stay healthy. For bodybuilders and other athletes, this means you’ll be feeling light and clean while engaged in your favorite physical activities.

  • Easily Maintain the Physique you Want

Whether your sport requires you to be bulky or slim, you’ll be able to easily maintain your figure as a vegan. With no saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol in your diet, there’s nothing that can ruin your physique and take you out of your game. So long as you’re sticking to the fresh, healthy, foods of the vegan diet, you’ll stay in fighting shape with ease.  

Let the Vegan Lifestyle Bring Out the Warrior in You!

You don’t have to choke out Conor McGreggor or become Mr. Universe to reap the benefits of the vegan diet. Whether you’re the type to go for a 5 mile run at sunrise or your idea of exercise is walking to the mailbox, going vegan can help. By reducing the saturated fat in your diet and virtually eliminating cholesterol, you can take charge of your health and give yourself the nutrients you need to crush your goals, whatever they may be.