EXCLUSIVE | UFC veteran Luigi Fioravanti focused on return to action after layoff
Don’t look for his name and face on the back of a milk carton just yet.
Diehard fans of the UFC remember welterweight Luigi Fioravanti for his run in the mid-2000’s but a handful of instances have kept him away from competing as of late. Fioravanti, a veteran of over 30 professional fights, is stepping back into the cage on Saturday after a year-and-a-half away from it.
He will square off with Edwin Aguilar as the two will take part in Flawless FC 3 ‘California Love’ in Inglewood, Cali.
Since relocating to St. Louis from Florida, where Fioravanti was a staple of the original American Top Team, he has dedicated his time to teaching, coaching, and training while nursing some nagging injuries.
“I wanted to fight last year but it wasn’t coming together,” Fioravanti said. “I was getting hurt a lot and I wanted to wait until I was feeling really good. I want to stay busy for 2013. I’m not past my prime. I feel pretty good and do pretty well with the younger guys that I train with.”
Fioravanti (22-11) last fought in October, 2011 when he lost to hard-hitting Brit Paul Daley by decision in Canada.
“He broke my fingers in the fight when I caught a punch because he hits like a Mack truck,” Fioravanti added.
The nine-time UFC veteran has fought some big names throughout his career in Jon Fitch, Diego Sanchez, Chris Leben and Anthony Johnson among others.
In Aguilar, Fioravanti, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, will lock horns with a striking specialist. Aguilar is 23-17 with 18 of those wins coming via knockout.
“He’s pretty much just a muay thai guy,” Fioravanti said. “I’m sure he has a little bit of ground and a little bit of takedown defense. He’s going to try to keep it on his feet but I like to stay on my feet too. I will have to see how it goes from there. If I feel like I am in any danger then I will take him down and I think I can submit him pretty easy. It’s a tough fight but I definitely think I can win this fight.”
By looking at their number of fighter, their experience may seem close to similar but the “Italian Tank” doesn’t see it that way.
“He has a lot of fights but a lot of those fights were in Mexico against guys he shouldn’t have been fighting. A lot of it is padded record,” he said. “And the guys he has fought that have a little bit of a name he has always lost to. He hits hard, he kicks hard but I think that my level of experience and where I have been before is really going to help me out. Not to mention that the guys I have trained with in the past down at American Top Team, is very high-level of training. There were just so many black belts from Brazil to train with. I think I’ll be OK.”
Fioravanti has gone as far to question his career path should he lose on Saturday.
“If I can’t beat this guy… he’s not on my level,” he said. “I’m not trying to sound arrogant or cocky. If I lose to this guy then maybe I shouldn’t be fighting.”
With such a long time between fights, the issue of ring rust has to come up.
“If you take more than two years off and you haven’t been sparring or training in the gym then it can be a factor,” he said. “I’ve been getting hit. I’ve been training and sparring. I don’t think it is going to be a problem.”
Though he has been away from the fight game for a little bit it hasn’t all been by his choice. You would think that a nine-time UFC vet with a decorated fighting pedigree would be the apple of any promoter’s eye but that is not necessarily the case these days.
“The thing is with the popularity of MMA and how it has gone mainstream there are a lot of UFC guys now,” he said. “Before, it used to be ‘Let’s do a seminar,’ but now it’s getting harder and harder because it’s not a big deal. Bellator is coming up and other shows are getting big and starting to be on TV. Right now it’s kind of hard. You used to get better pay days for being in the UFC but not so much now. There are more people who want to compete, there are more people involved. It’s not like it used to be five years ago where they will fly you out to Canada to fight. Now they’re just like, we’ll get a local guy that’s done the same thing.”
Fioravanti signed with a new management team, Flawless Fighting Management, who hosts regional shows throughout California. Fioravanti has stepped away from his gym in downtown St. Louis to focus on his fighting career and bounced around a plethora of places including St. Charles MMA, Finney’s MMA, as well as rolling with Army Combatitves from Fort Leonard Wood.
While for now he is concentrating on what he needs to do inside the cage, Fioravanti hasn’t turned his back on coaching. Watching and helping up and coming fighters and grapplers develop has been a source of pride.
“It’s something I will definitely continue to do,” he said. “Right now I’m stepping away from my place and concentrating more on my career and try to get back in the UFC or bigger organizations. I love watching guys improve.”
Saturday’s fight will be at middleweight while Fioravanti will drop back to welterweight for his next fight against Chris Heatherly near the end of June in St. Louis.
He has fought at both weights throughout his career.
“In the past guys weren’t cutting as much then as they are now,” he said. “At middleweight, you see guys coming from 220 or even 230 and are 6-3, 6-4, just humongous. It’s hard. It’s ridiculous. You can’t really do anything against guys like.”
He has also come to the realization that now, over the age of 30, there is no such thing as out-training poor diet choices.
“I need to focus on a good training regiment and a healthier lifestyle,” he said. “I like to eat and drink the good stuff and lead the good life. I hate cutting everything out. Now, at my age, I need to start doing that. I was up to like 220 but I was having beers and eating good St. Louis food. Now my weight is coming down by just cutting out the crap. I’m like 195 and I’m not cutting hard. I feel great.”
Fioravanti said that if things go well he would love to get another fight, maybe in early fall.
“In the past, I’d fight five or six times a year,” he said. “I never had serious injuries until a couple of years ago when I broke my foot in a fight in Russia. That hindered me in the fight right after that.”
But that’s then. Saturday and Aguilar are now and for him, getting back up on the fighting horse is something he is champing at the bit to do.
“I always get nervous. I would lie if I said I didn’t,” he said. “Every fight I get nervous and I have over 30-something fights. But when you get in there, the body takes over.”
Flawless FC features Igor Araujo vs. Nic Herron Webb in the main event with lightweights Chris Tickle and Chris Giagos in the co-main event. Fioravanti and Aguilar is the fight before the co-main event.