July 4, 2006
Happy Independence Day!
Pellegrino’s Inevitable Shot
By Derek Callahan
If a wrestler doesn’t seem religious, it’s because he doesn’t need anything else to worship: he’s already got Dan Gable. Wrestlers look up to Dan Gable more than the Lost Boys looked up to Peter Pan. There have been so many Dan Gable anecdotes, stories, quips and myths that he’s become as much a fairy tale as he was a wrestler. One of them says that Gable would always work ten or fifteen minutes more a day than his opponent. Kurt Pellegrino (11-1) lives by this idea, and hopes that when he fights Drew Fickett (28-4) at UFC 61 on July 8th, the math will be right.
The math says that those mere minutes of extra work add up to days, or even weeks more training put in than Gable, or in this case Pellegrino’s, opponent. It’s counting pennies to make dollars, and Pellegrino hopes to cash in on his UFC debut.
"I’m not just training for myself, I’m training for my dream," says Pellegrino, sounding as if he were talking to a camera on The Ultimate Fighter. As a local favorite who sells tickets and has an outgoing personality, Pellegrino seems like the type to make his way through the TV show. He got his shot the old fashioned way though, having never lost a fight in the United States.
"I believe my character would have been 100-percent hilarious on that show. But God works in mysterious ways, because I probably would have made a fool out of myself," laughs Pellegrino. "It would have made great TV."
More seriously, Pellegrino has become an East Coast stalwart, getting the chance to take on international opponents while transitioning from his renowned submission grappling career. "My grappling record is very good, and I’ve always believed in my jiu-jitsu," says Pellegrino. A record of 94-3 in grappling left him wanting more.
"I did this sport to get away from the jiu-jitsu matches," he says. Since June of 2001 he’s been inching closer to full-throttle MMA training with Ricardo Almeida, then American Top Team and now Hermes Franca’s school in Jupiter, Florida. Talking about the fight with Fickett, Pellegrino gets excited, and seems eager to show off his game.
"I’m very interested to see where this fight will go. I want it to be on the feet and on the ground," he says. "I want to show the world how good my stand up is. People may think I’m cocky, or maybe arrogant. No one knows that I’m even good!"
Pellegrino, a native of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, comes into this bout with something to prove. Apparently it’s nothing new. "I was always the kid who, ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that,’" he says.
It gives him the desire to work an extra fifteen minutes more after practice and the desire to fight a contender at 170-pounds when he could just as easily fight at lightweight, a division where he’s never lost. However, "my most important thing is I believe in myself so much," he says. In high school, he bumped up from a 140-pound wrestler to 160-pounds, trying to prove that he could hang with bigger competition. As a runner up in the state tournament the year before, he was leaving a weight class that he has a pretty good handle on. His senior year, twenty pounds out of his element, he repeated as a state runner up.
"My wrestling complements my jiu-jitsu," says Pellegrino, referencing that fighting is one of the only things to come so naturally to him. "I have a hard time reading or writing, but if you show me how to do a single leg [takedown] I’ll have it perfect by the end of the night." It’s an ability that has him enthusiastic about fighting Drew Fickett in what is the highest-profile bout of his career. For Pellegrino, his enthusiasm breeds strategy.
"Just kind of play cat and mouse and when it’s time to put them in the trap, I do," he says. "I’m looking forward to fighting Drew Fickett," summing up his thoughts on the bout. As someone who has earned a sterling reputation in grappling, and has sacrificed to find the best training he could, Pellegrino isn’t generally one to let opportunities pass him by.
"I want to show everyone how much work I’ve put in," he says. "This is a dream come true for anyone who works hard."
The Northern Touch: News and Notes from Canadian MMA
Soszynski, Desilets, and Macdonald Victories
Highlight Busy Friday Night
By Kelsey Mowatt
Victoriaville, Quebec hosted TKO 26 "Heatwave" Friday night, June 30th, at the Colisee Des Bois-Francs, and although the card did not feature many of TKO’s more famous alumni, some of the night’s action did indeed feature some notable results. Team Tompkins and International Fight League veteran heavyweight Krzyzstof Soszynski returned to the winning column by submitting tough TKO veteran Yan Pellerin with a Kimura at 1:30 of round one. Although Soszynski has been training with the famous Tompkins’ team that is noted for its strikers, the Winnipeg fighter / MMA promoter went back to his extensive jiu-jitsu background to pull off the win.
"Game plan was to stand up with Pellerin," says Soszynski as he discusses his game plan going in and the end of the fight. "I was told he is a good ground fighter and I have been training with Shawn Tompkins and Bas Rutten so my stand up is improving every day. Once I connected with my straight left I felt that he did not want to trade no more, so he went for the clinch, we exchanged knees for a bit then he dropped for a single and took me down, he immediately put his hands on the side and I right away went for the Kimura, my favorite sub, I waited till he loosened up and I went for it, he tapped."
The win brings Soszynski’s combined pro-am record to 12-6-1, and ends a five fight winless streak for the heavyweight. Although some of Soszynski’s recent losses are against reputable opposition like Matt Horwich, Brian Schall and most recently, against Miletich fighter Ben Rothwell at the IFL in April, the win will go a long way to restoring Soszynski in amongst Canada’s heavyweight rankings.
"It feels great to win again, it has been a while," Soszynski tells FCF. "I did very well against Rothwell, everyone thought I would loose in a minute to Ben, but I did very well and had him hurt on a couple of occasions, just did not finish. It was a great learning experience for me and a confidence boost, Pellerin is a very tough fighter, it was my biggest win to date."
Soszynski will have plenty of opportunity to build upon his TKO 26 victory, as the Winnipeg fighter continues to prepare for several cards, both in Canada and south of the border, that he will be fighting on over the next few months.
"I have been spending a lot of time in LA with Bas Rutten and Shawn Tompkins," Soszynski says. "Having those two guys as my coaches is amazing, I am very lucky to be in the situation I am in now. Next is TKO July 29th, IFL Sept 9th, and UCW (Ultimate Cage Wars) Battle for the Belts, Oct 29th."
In the night’s main event fight, lightheavyweight Martin Desilets made short work of David Medd, stopping the less experienced fighter with strikes at 3:45 of the first round. The win keeps Desilets record unblemished at 5-0, a record that also includes a TKO victory over the aforementioned Soszynski at TKO 23 last November. One certainly gets the feeling that Desilet’s placement in the main event and subsequent prominent positioning in TKO posters as of late, may reflect the organization’s wish to groom Desilet as Quebec’s next MMA export.
On the injury front, Team Tompkins fighter Chris Horodecki was unable to fight Samuel Guillet due to injury; Guillet stopped Horodecki’s replacement, Jimmy Tat, with strikes at 3:06 of round one.
Macdonald Defeats Spiegel At Extreme Cage Combat 2 "Collision Course"
Jason "The Athlete" Macdonald stopped Jerry Spiegel in the second round at 0:33 by TKO Friday night, in the main event of ECC 2 "Collision Course" in Moncton, New Brunswick. The win is Macdonald’s second in a row, as the Red Deer fighter recently defeated Gideon Ray in April by unanimous decision at the ECC’s debut event. Unfortunately for Moncton MMA fans, Macdonald’s scheduled opponent, Canadian BTT member Stephan Potvin, was unable to compete after incurring injuries in his recent loss to Luigi Fioravanti, June 10th, at Apex "Evolution." The win brings Macdonald’s record up to 14-7, while the loss drops Spiegel’s record to 4-18-1.
In other action at ECC 2, Victor Valimaki defeated Craig Sloan by unanimous decision, Jesse Bongfeldt submitted Eric Beaulieu with a rear naked choke at 1:16 of round one, and Dave Scholten earned a TKO win in the opening round by stopping Tim Tamaki at 2:17.