Chris Cariaso Ready to Make Run in UFC Flyweight Division: “I Believe I’m a Top Three Fighter”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Often, when a fighter decides to drop down in weight and compete in a new division, the decision to do so comes on the heels of a tough loss or disappointing run. In the case of Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso, however, despite having gone 3-1 in the UFC as a bantamweight, the potential he believes he has at flyweight is just too hard to ignore.
“It’s just that these guys are cutting down from so big that it’s making it unfair for guys like us who naturally are 135 pounds,” said the 5’3 tall Cariaso, who is coming off victories over Vaughan Lee and former WEC contender Takeya Mizugaki. “I think 125 could be a more effective weight for me because I never really a had a problem making 135. It was almost too easy.”
Since Cariaso began competing under the Zuffa umbrella–first with the WEC–the only men to defeat the 31 year-old fighter are top ranked bantamweights Michael MacDonald and Renan “Barao” Pegado. Considering the size and talent of the competition Cariaso has been facing at 135 pounds, it may not take the veteran long to move into the flyweight title mix, if he can string together a few more wins.
“I definitely think that people know that I’m a force to be reckoned with, but I also think I need to go out there and have a couple of big wins,” said Cariaso, whose loss to MacDonald came via Split Decision. “A couple of showcase wins should get me in the title shot picture.”
Of course, it wasn’t long ago that Cariaso had no choice but to compete as a bantamweight, as the UFC has yet to even crown a champion in its newest and lightest division.
“The little guys have been overlooked for so many years,” Cariaso told Full Contact Fighter. “I never saw this coming, but then the WEC started promoting bigger shows and once the UFC started, it was like ‘holy cow.’ It was like a dream come true really. I never thought I would see myself fighting in the UFC.”
Cariao’s (13-3) first test as a flyweight will take place on July 11th, when he takes on “Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 competitor, Josh Ferguson (8-4).
“I didn’t know much about him but I had seen him fight on the show,” Cariaso said about Ferguson, who was tapped out by Roland Delorme at the program’s finale in December. “When they hit me with that name and I knew he had been on the show I was like ‘yeah, sign me up. Just let me know when.”
“I think this is a great fight for me to showcase my skills and showcase me coming into the 125 division,” Cariaso added, when asked if he’s excited to be facing a TUF vet like Ferguson. “I want to show that I’m a top ten ranked fighter at 125 pounds. I believe I’m a top three fighter.”
Ferguson, who is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt, has won all weight of his pro victories via submission.
“Honestly, I know that he has some jiu-jitsu skills and most of his wins have come by submission, so once he starts standing up with me, he’s going to realize he doesn’t want to stand with me and is going to try to take me down,” said Cariaso, who has won various striking titles since he began training in Muay Thai at the age of 11.
Of course, despite his penchant for striking, Cariaso continues to develop other areas of his game.
“I love everyone to know that I’m a stand-up fighter,” noted Cariaso, who credited Fred Lux, Anthony Birchak, and George Roop, among others in Tuscon, Arizona, for helping him prepare for his next fight . “I’ve been really passionate about it for so many years, but I’m also a dangerous submission fighter too. I have a lot of years under my belt doing jiu-jitsu and I can definitely call myself a well rounded fighter now.”