Despite my distaste for generalizations about our crazy, unpredictable sport, one thing that is omnipresent in most fighters is a surreal amount of confidence. After all, it takes a lot of cojones to step into a cage to fight another man. With some fighters, their belief in themselves is so apparent that it gives them an almost regal demeanor. Some others may lack the grandeur, but the confidence is there nonetheless.

Rico DiSciullo is of the latter category. Behind his sheepish smile is a man possessed on making a name for himself in the MMA world. Even with only one professional fight on his resume, his eyes communicate it all: he’s ready to lay someone out.

DiSciullo (bottom) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

DiSciullo (bottom) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“I know I don’t look like much, but I’ll hold my own,” said DiSciullo in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner.

It all started when the 27-year-old bantamweight was still a boy. There were many cases back home in Peabody, Mass., where DiSciullo and his friends would get into scuffles with the older kids in high school.

“I was quick to defend myself. Let’s put it that way,” he recalled.

Later in life the setting may have moved from the schoolyards to a bar, where someone might have thought it was a good idea to pick on the skinny-looking kid. Big mistake. DiSciullo doesn’t advertise the fact, but his experiences growing up have undoubtedly helped with his career as a professional fighter.

“I’ve been in bad situations,” DiSciullo admitted. “Fighting one guy in a cage is not going to scare me. It’s just not going to happen.”

While admittedly not the best student in school, DiSciullo was always passionate about competing in sports. Besides playing lacrosse in high school, he also started training in karate at age six. It was an interest that was sparked by his older brother.

“I was the little brother just trying to tag along,” said DiSciullo, recalling his first experiences at Bruce McCorry’s Martial Arts. “As [my brother] got older, he got pretty good, and, you know, I was just trying to copy him, pretty much just follow him, and I was one of the youngest students they ever had. They would pretty much just let me go, because I didn’t want to be away from my brother.”

After high school, DiSciullo moved to nearby Somerville, just outside of Boston. He was out for a run one day when he heard the familiar sounds of punches and kicks against heavy bags. The gym turned out to be Sityodtong, where DiSciullo still trains today under the guidance of Kru Mark DellaGrotte, the former Muay Thai kickboxer who went on to train numerous fighters, including UFC veterans like Kenny Florian, Jorge Rivera and Marcus Davis.

“I knew this was the type of gym where you couldn’t just come in and fight out of their gym,” said DiSciullo. On that fateful run, he had come into the gym and stated his intention to fight immediately to the late Kru Eric Armington, who in response let DiSciullo know that it wasn’t as simple as that.

“Sityodtong is a very reputable gym, and I knew you had to put in work,” said DiSciullo. “Plus, I wanted to. I didn’t just want to be a street-brawling crazy man. I wanted to have some skills to back myself up with.

“I started to take some Muay Thai classes. I was the kid that just came in, was real quiet, and took it pretty serious, because I knew I wanted to fight. I don’t think they even knew who I was for a while.”

That all changed the day DiSciullo fought in a smoker that was held at the gym. A smoker is a sparring session, typically held between different gyms, but with an added intensity to make it as close as possible to actual competition. DiSciullo’s opponent walked right into a right hand and got knocked out for his troubles.

It seemed that DiSciullo had a certain knack for putting people out, and his coaches quickly took notice, leading him to a 10-3 amateur record with six of those wins coming by way of knockout and the other four by submission.

DiSciullo (top) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

DiSciullo (top) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Even though the plan was to go pro and work his way up to bigger promotions, he didn’t feel that much pressure when Bellator contacted him to make his pro-MMA debut there.

“You’re not going to say no to something like that,” said DiSciullo.

It only took a whole minute and 21 seconds for DiSciullo to knock out Glenn Allaire at Bellator 98. DiSciullo, who was so excited to get his first professional win, didn’t even realize the damage he inflicted at first.

“It was crazy, too, because, you know, it’s a sport [and] you don’t want to hurt anybody,” said DiSciullo. “I was just so pumped, and I was so jazzed up. I remember hitting him with elbows, and the ref jumped in, and I didn’t even realize he was out. I knew he was hurt, but I didn’t realize he was out.

“I was jumping around going nuts, and everybody’s kind of telling me to calm down, and I felt bad.”

What DiSciullo did not realize was that Allaire was still unconscious and had to be carried out of the ring on a stretcher.

“I didn’t really put it together,” he confessed. “Then I looked around and I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ I kind of felt like a jerk, but it comes with the sport. It is what it is.”

DiSciullo is scheduled to fight this Friday, Feb. 28, at Bellator 110, where his opponent, Jake Smith, is making his professional debut. Although the roles may be reversed from his last fight, DiSciullo does not intend on letting Smith have the same satisfaction he felt in when he won his debut in September of 2013.

“I feel like I’m the most prepared I’ve ever been,” said DiSciullo. “I’m stronger. I’m faster. I’m better at jiu-jitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai. My whole game has improved.

“A lot of my fights have been really fast. I haven’t got a chance to showcase what I can actually do, so I’m kind of looking for that fight. I think this fight is going a couple rounds, and I’ll be able to show what I’m capable of.”

DiSciullo joked that of course he’d be happy to get another first-round finish, but his eyes said it all. He had envisioned himself with his hand raised hundreds of times, and he’s willing to do anything possible to make that scenario come true on fight night.

Rico would like to thank all his coaches and training partners at Sityodtong, his family, Ryno Power Sports Supplements, Revgear, 4M Fruit Distributors, Mike Perry at SOS, and Chucky’s Fight. Follow DiSciullo on Twitter: @RicoDiSciullo and on Facebook.

About The Author

Zach Miller
Staff Writer

Zach is a Boston native and has had a fascination with martial arts since playing Mortal Kombat at five years old. He was introduced to MMA after watching The Ultimate Fighter 5: Team Pulver vs. Team Penn. A recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Zach seeks to one day become a full-time MMA journalist. In addition to watching the sport, he has also trained in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and tae kwon do. Zach has also written for NortheastMMA.