Jon Jones’ Heavyweight Transformation: Diet and Training

Jon Jones relied on 4k plus calories and heavy deadlifting to transform his physique for the heavyweight title. 

After taking a break from the octagon for three years, Jon “Bones” Jones returned with some extra pounds and an impressive win against Ciryl Gane in round one at UFC 285. His remarkable comeback had everyone talking — no one would have guessed that stepping back in the ring (and at a much heavier weight) would lead to a heavyweight title after a three-year hiatus.

Of course, Jones had to put on a lot of mass for his bout with Gane. Bulking up can be controversial sometimes, especially for athletes like Jon Jones. While you must eat big to gain size, you must also target muscle, not fat. It can be hard to achieve this with all the calories burnt during training, even when you use a mass gainer or two. Plus, if you’re adding weights, you must ensure that it isn’t detrimental to your skills in the cage.

Well, Jon Jones is one athlete who approaches the sport and his career as a student. The martial arts superstar’s life, triumph’s and career was featured in the bio pic, The Hurt Business alongside Rhonda Rousey and Georges St-Pierre. It is evident that Jones is always reaching out to get as much information as possible and incorporates his findings. So when he wanted to move from light-heavyweight to heavyweight, one of the things he did was contact the outstanding transformation coach Stan Efferding. And boy, did it pay off!

Stan Efferding is no stranger to success — the decorated coach has been recognized for being the strongest pro bodybuilder and, more recently, helping UFC champion Jon Jones achieve unprecedented results with his diet leading up to a fight night! In this exclusive interview, he reveals how his dedication brought about such an incredible bulk-up result in just months of working together. 

Full Name: Jon Jones
Weight Height Date of Birth
220-260lbs 6’4” 07/19/1987
Division Era Nationality
Light-Heavyweight, Heavyweight 2008 – Present American

Jon Jones’ Diet


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When planning to bulk, one of the things to focus on is getting into a calorie surplus. This will involve eating quality calories and using a good mass gainer. When bulking up, taking in more than you burn with your routine is essential.

Stan Efferding crafted a plan tailored specifically for Jon Jones to achieve this. He took four selected nutritious meals every day. Jones consumed 220 grams of protein and 4000 plus calories daily in this plan (1). On days with heavy training, this would go up to 4500 calories. Efferding said: 

“We had to get him into a calorie surplus… especially the quality of calories that you need to gain muscles and not fat… we wanted to get him sufficient protein, about a gram of protein per pound of lean weight… he was 240lbs when I got a hold of him, and we brought him up to 260lbs… so we did about 200 grams of protein a day.”

You must also monitor micronutrients when eating at a caloric surplus, like Jon Jones. A good mass gainer supplement can supply you with the calories you need without relying solely on food, which can be challenging when you’re eating a lot more calories than you’re used to. 

In addition, a good mass gainer has micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). A lack of vitamins and minerals can impact your performance because it’ll put you at risk of health issues. The harder you train, the more likely you will burn through these and be deficient. 

For example, a lack of vitamin D and multivitamins in your diet is linked to obesity, muscle weakness, and bone pain (2). Not having enough omega-3 can affect how your body uses carbohydrates. Potassium is needed for fast reflexes and can affect muscle strength and function. Calcium is required for strong and healthy bones.

For his plan, Efferding helped Jon Jones to focus on the micronutrients essential to his routine and overall strategy. Minerals like potassium, sodium, and calcium were monitored, and foods rich in these nutrients were deliberately included in his diet.

“..Athletes burn through a lot of micronutrients, said Efferding. “So for performance, we’d look at minerals and electrolytes… Make sure he has sufficient potassium and sodium, and we’d get this from food.. fruit, yogurt, which has the extra benefit of being high in calcium.”

It’s also essential to control how much fat you take to build lean muscle when bulking. If you have too much fat in your diet, you could add that fat instead of muscle. And it would be best if you were striving for healthy fats. Efferding said:

“I like to keep the fats a little lower. So, for instance, if we give him 220 grams in protein, I’d like to give him half of that in fats.”

Jon Jones’ Training 


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Every fight that a fighter wins starts with training, of course. Plus, when consuming so many calories, you have to balance it with exercise. So let’s look at an overview of the comprehensive training that Jon Jones did to prepare for the fight and gain weight — by building muscle and limiting fat

Jon Jones’s training routine consisted of his fight training and other strength training routines. Stan Efferding had Jones doing a mix of wrestling, kickboxing, and bench pressing. They were generally divided into high and low-load days to avoid him experiencing overtraining symptoms. He also added heavy lifting to his everyday martial arts training routines.

For Jones, the key was to design a challenging program but not too tasking to cause overtraining. For example, he would have his weightlifting routines before kickboxing or wrestling training. Efferding credits Jones’ insane work ethic for his results.

“There’s just no quit in the guy. And you have to hold him back or design a program that causes less fatigue but is still challenging.”

Jones was also deadlifting over 500lbs and incorporated squats. Moreover, he hit a bench press of over 300 lbs.

Strength training helps to build the muscles you need to bulk up and reduce fat. It also enables you to avoid injury by improving your mobility and strength (3). You’ll also get more robust bones, decreasing your likelihood of injuries by working out. 

With the help of Stan Efferding and the rest of his team, Jon Jones used his diet and training to position himself for his debut heavyweight win. Talent is essential, but you need a structured nutrition, weightlifting routine, and skill to succeed. You may not be a heavyweight title contender or the GOAT of MMA, but you can undoubtedly achieve your bulking goals by incorporating Jon Jones’ training and diet. 

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  1. Bray, G. A., Smith, S. R., de Jonge, L., Xie, H., Rood, J., Martin, C. K., Most, M., Brock, C., Mancuso, S., & Redman, L. M. (2012). Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 307(1), 47–55.
  2. de la Puente Yagüe, M., Collado Yurrita, L., Ciudad Cabañas, M. J., & Cuadrado Cenzual, M. A. (2020). Role of Vitamin D in Athletes and Their Performance: Current Concepts and New Trends. Nutrients, 12(2), 579.
  3. Westcott W. L. (2012). Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Current sports medicine reports, 11(4), 209–216.
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.