Fight until the final bell. That’s a common instruction in the world of MMA. But for some fighters, it means more than fighting until the referee interrupts the action.
Take Colorado middleweight Chris Camozzi. The 25-year-old has scored back-to-back third-round finishes inside the Octagon in fights that he may have been trailing on the scorecards.
Now, as he prepares to welcome Brazilian Luiz Cane to the 185-pound division on Oct. 13 at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, his focus is on getting out of the gate faster.
“One problem I need to fix is that I’ve been a slow starter,” Camozzi admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I always finish well, but I need to start a little quicker. I plan on starting fast and keeping the pace for the entire fight. Hopefully I’ll end this fight before the third round.”
Camozzi’s desire to get going sooner comes on the heels of a TKO finish of Nick Catone at UFC on FX 4 in June. In addition to the vastly improved takedown defense showcased in the fight, the Factory X MMA product was much more self-assured from the moment he stepped into the cage.
“It was really weird; I had so much confidence going into that fight,” recalled Camozzi. “I didn’t feel nervous or anything. I told my coach in the corner before the third round that I was going to finish it. I don’t always have that much confidence, but in that fight I just knew it was going to happen.”
Following the win over Catone, Camozzi was hoping to flip the script on his usual fight arrangements. After battling four out his last five opponents in their own backyards, the Coloradan asked UFC President Dana White and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva for a slot on the UFC 150 card in Denver on Aug. 11. His wish was granted, but a shoulder separation derailed that plan.
“It was devastating, crushing,” Camozzi said of having to pull out of the fight. “I really want to fight in my hometown. That’s still one of my goals, to fight in Denver for the UFC.
“I got hurt so close to the fight that my management, coaches and I decided not to fight. I would have been out of training all the way up until fight week.”
Thankfully, the extra time between fights allowed Camozzi to properly rehab his shoulder—something that has given him problems for quite some time.
“My shoulder used to get sore even when it didn’t pop out,” he revealed. “I did everything I needed to—physical therapy, swimming every week—just trying to strengthen it. I think it’s worked. Now I’ve got more flexibility and I don’t get sore anymore.”
With his injury all healed, Camozzi can turn his attention to Cane, who was also slated to compete on the UFC 150 card but, like Camozzi, suffered an injury. The pair’s injury woes may explain why the two veterans have been relegated to the Facebook portion of the undercard.
“I was a little bummed [about the placement on the card], but they’re giving me a big opportunity against a big-name opponent,” said Camozzi. “I’m just happy to fight for the UFC.
“I just need to keep finishing fights. If I finish this one, hopefully I’m back on the main card.”
A return to the main card would speak volumes about how far Camozzi has come in a few short years. In his first (and only) appearance on a pay-per-view card, he was submitted in 95 seconds at UFC 127. But that international experience is something that Camozzi is drawing from as he heads to Brazil for the first time.
“I had never traveled that far for a fight before,” explained Camozzi of his past disappointment. “I learned a lot from that fight. Even though Brazil is not quite as far, there are a lot of things I’m going to do differently.
“When I went to Australia, I was training two to three times a day. I got there ten days early and I think I burned myself out. I was so focused on being prepared that I overtrained. I’ve planned things out and relaxed this time, like I normally would [for a fight in the U.S.].”
One big change that Camozzi will face in Brazil is a more hostile crowd. In the UFC’s past visits to South America, the fans have greeted foreigners with a “Vai morrer!” chant, which translated from Portuguese means: “you’re going to die.”
“That won’t bother me because I’m not going to understand what they’re saying,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t really hear a lot of that stuff, boo’s, etc. [If anything], it’s just more motivation to win.”
With that added motivation, Camozzi is ready to spoil Cane’s middleweight debut and make a name for himself when the cage door shuts on Oct. 13.
“I don’t think I’m a small middleweight,” declared Camozzi. “So if he’s dropping to middleweight to fight smaller competition, he definitely didn’t get that in this fight. We’ll see how the weight cut affects him.
“I have fought a lot of tough guys. I feel like I’m on my way up and this is my chance to pass him in the rankings.”
A fast start on Saturday night may help Camozzi climb the ladder and earn a third straight UFC win.
Also, Chris would like to thank Instituto Recao, a charity that will be receiving a percentage of his fight purse. Chris will be auctioning off his fight gloves, shorts and other items to benefit them as well.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisCamozzi
Top Photo: Chris Camozzi (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)