The Northeast is a Hot bed for some of the nation, and even the worlds most talented athletes in mixed martial arts.This weekends Bellator 63 card brings truth to that statement featuring some of the best fighters to grace our local cage for years, they’re given the rare opportunity to showcase their gifted and hard working talents for millions when Bellator brings their well know tournament style brand to uncasville CT. And the Mohegan sun Arena. (more…)
Category Archives: Interview
It’s always fun watching one of our own home town local fighters make it to the big show and fight on National television. Under one week removed from his quarter final, opening round bout in the Bellator lightweight tournament Rick Hawn is already back to the grind of a very intense regimen of work outs and dieting.
Last Wednesday night, Chuck O’Neil suggested on FaceBook that people tune in to The Ultimate Fighter to watch his friends, Charlie Rader and Clay Harvison on the show. Much to the surprise of everyone in his world, Chuck was revealed as an additional member of the cast.
“It was definitely a tough secret to keep from everyone but it was definitely worth it to get that shock value.”
Back in November, Chuck O’Neil tried out for The Ultimate Fighter reality show. He was one of the few first time auditioner’s at the event.
“When you get into that audition process, you’re grappling for two minutes. You sit around for eight hours to roll for just two minutes. If they like you there, you go on to hit mitts. Then it’s either, ‘okay sit down, you’re not going to make it,’ or ‘sit down and you’re going to make it on to the interview.’ I actually punched the mitt off the guys hand and Joe Silva (UFC Matchmaker) said, ‘okay you’re good.’”
As well as Chuck did, he landed in the bubble spot.
“Some of the guys I stayed in contract with told me they were getting calls and some of them were on the show. Finally I got a call from the producers and they said ‘We don’t have good news and we don’t have bad news but you’re the top alternate.’ They flew me back out to Vegas and put me in a separate hotel. Monday was the first day of taping, Monday night came, no one got hurt, and they sent me home. I got home, got my weight back up to almost 190 and they called me saying, ‘I hope you didn’t get to fat’ as I was ordering another pizza and snacking on some candy…”
Chuck went out to Las Vegas and sealed whatever fate that will be revealed to us, bit by bit, Wednesday by Wednesday, for the next few months. As far as everyone else knew, he was off in Thailand for some hardcore training.
“I had to come up with a story. You can’t tell anyone what you’re doing because of the confidentiality rule. I told everyone that it was tough to get fights in New England so I was going to Thailand to train.”
When he got home, the cast list was released and he was not on the list. Chuck did not secure his spot until one of the top fighters, Myles Jury, went down with an injury. He had to keep the entire situation a secret until the show’s premier.
He was successful at fooling us all, but we weren’t the only ones impressed with a little misdirection.
“In the interview, they kind of messed with everyone a little bit by acting disinterested with their heads down on the desk. So I came in, slammed my paper down on the desk, put one leg over the other and said, ‘Gentlemen…’ and we got going from there. By the end of the interview, they did end up asking me if I was gay.”
Be sure to tune in to Spike every Wednesday night at 9 to watch Chuck’s journey unfold and check back to NorthEastMMA.net upon the completion of the show for a follow up interview.
Subject: Ryan Ciotoli
In a small desolate town in upstate Cortland, NY population 18,000 resides one of MMA’s gems. Team Bombsquad trainer Ryan Ciotoli has had one of MMA’s top fight teams and fighters in his backyard. Branded the name “The Barn” for over 3 years Ciotoli’s furnished training center sits quietly nestled in his back yard. Plastered with old metals and fight posters , the smell of sweat still looms in the small dark gym. The lack of footprints in the snow to the door of the gym suggests emptiness and lonesomeness. Ciotoli has retired the gym for his new state of the art training facility now located in Ithica, NY and rightfully named Ultimate Athletics. Sustained memories of the old gym now adorn the walls of The 23,000 sq ft MMA fitness and training center Infested with talented fighters. A former office Depot, the now rejuvenated building sports two 24’ training cages, boxing ring, 3000 sq ft of mat, cardio and strength equipment, locker rooms, showers, supply store andjuice bar.
Former home of UFC light heavyweight phenom Jon “Bones” Jones, Team Bombsquad is the home for many of the nation’s best fighters. Living in Ciotoli’s basement apartment alone are two young prospects making a stir on the big scene right now. UFC Heavyweight Christian Morecraft and Bellator featherweight Kenny Foster both share the apartment fully furnished for fighters in Ciotoli’s home. A family man Ciotoli says his mornings are family time and during the week he tries to spend as much time as possible around his wife and kids, but on the weekends he sheds his daddy mask for the serious shade of an MMA trainer and embarks on long rides, and flights to and from fight venue to fight venue for his team.
The life of an MMA trainer is as demanding and difficult as the fighter’s course of action themselves. Ciotoli depicts briefly the 5-6 hours car rides to fights in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Cars packed with sweaty, angry, dehydrated, fighters in route to a weigh-in in no picnic for anyone. With NY still deadlocked on keeping MMA out of the state Ciotoli finds his team fights in PA,NH,MA,NJ,RI and sometimes on the Indian reservations in upstate NY. Ciotoli reflects to his old fighting days “A friend of mine was going to a show in Wildwood, (Wildwood, NJ) I think it was a reality Fighting card…..I loved it and had to do it. There just wasn’t a lot of money even if you won, I think I made $100 my first fight, that’s good for the beers afterward. I still had my job coaching Ithaca college wrestling so fighting took a back seat” said Ciotoli. Ryan later left his coaching duties at Ithica to start CNYMMA where he partnered with the likes of Tamden” Barncat” McCrory (UFC Veteran) and Eric Charles (TUF alumni) a very successful run but they grew apart with CNY’s decision to bring the training to the general public and Ciotoli deciding to go the latter and keep the development on the team and they parted ways in 2009. Moving forward Ciotoli had developed contracted fighters and started his own management group (Bombsquad Sports Management). When asked what makes a fighter a great fighter? What gets them to the big show? “ A combination of everything! A fighters attitude is very important, If he believes he’s gonna win and be successful he will. Having a good manager, you got to pick the right fights, and I don’t mean the easy ones. You don’t want the real easy fights, you want the tough fights. The tough fights are what make you better. . I believe in taking tough fights and pushing yourself, you wanna be successful at the next level. You don’t know how you’re gonna react.”
Today Bombsquad stands high among a few of the nation’s most talented camps. When asked of their absence from the local New England scene recently Ciotoli responded “You know, We developed our guys in the New England area, Massachusetts specifically. Its mostly due to the commission in Mass that we haven’t returned. I mean its not the only reason, we don’t sell a lot of tickets coming from NY and promotions survive on ticket sales around here. They just make everything so difficult, I don’t want to bash anyone, they just don’t have any experience in MMA They have people in charge that just don’t understand the sport. States like NJ and NH and PA are very easy to work with and they have the knowledge of the sport. They’re very accommodating. Before the commission in Mass Was in place promoters had a lot of flexibility with the number of fights they put on, who they fought, and medicals were easy. Now they just make things difficult, now there’s more paper work and more hoops to jump through. I’m not saying we won’t come there anymore, we’d come big or small show. We don’t sell tickets from NY and there are a lot less promotions now with the new commission in place”
I’d like to mention a few fighters Ryan Ciotoli and the Bombsquad have fighting in the next few months that you can keep an eye on. February 28th in New Hampshire Mike Stuart will be fighting for Combat Zone. Mike is a former Reality Fighting Champion and will be fighting a combat Zone main stay in Jesse McElligott 3-1. Among others that night, Dustin Hurtgam 2-2 fights Anthony Loycano in an amateur bout and Corry Murray 4-1am 2-0 pro takes on the very popular and dangerous fighter Perry “Filthy” Filkins of Miletich Fighting Systems. Watch out for the Aforementioned Christian Morecraft March 29th in the UFC vs Sean McCorkle on UFN and Kenny Foster Makes his tournament debut in the featherweight Bellator season 4 tournament March 20th.
One of the most exciting acquisitions the Bombsquad has made recently is that of Brazilian Rene Nazare. “He’s an exciting guy to work with, a 4 time world BJJ player and he’s here with us working on his wrestling and striking. He’s the type of guy that he’s ready now to compete at the highest level in MMA. He’ll be an easy sell for me to the UFC.” Commented Ciotoli. Nazare is currently moving to New York from Massachusetts now, leaving his family behind while he trains to achieve his dream of becoming a world champion. Nazare teaches all BJJ and No-gi Jiu Jitsu classes at Ciotoli’s Ultimate Fitness gym.
What was just a barn, a mere past time for the former Ithica college wrestling coach, has now become life as he knows it. Ciotoli is one of just a few gems in this sport.
Dan Bonnell interviews 135lb fighter Josh Bourque.
If you haven’t heard of the Charismatic fighter who dawns a smile with each hit he absorbs as if it’s a breathe of fresh air, Open your damn eyes and watch this kid climb the ranks this year!
The 18-year-old Bourque stands proud and poised waiting in the tunnel before he is announced to his battlefield when most would be nervous as hell, pacing the floor wondering, “What the hell am I doing?” Hard to tell the Triton regional 2010 graduate of full honors and on his way to a successful four years of college where he’ll study Pharmaspuedicals looks nothing like your typical honor roll student. A bright red Mohawk stands sharply across his head and the letters W.I.C.K.E.D. adorn his rib cage.
Sitting in a sauna at about 160 degree’s sits Josh Bourque, with a chipper sound to his voice he takes time for an interview just hrs before he weigh’s in for his 5th MMA fight of his career and his second in just two weeks. Sitting alone, quietly wiping sweat from his phone minute by minute Bourque explains his love for MMA and how he wants this sport to become a lifestyle for him. He tells me of his Fathers support to become the best and his mothers worry of him getting hurt. “Ive had some pretty stressful family shit and built up aggression in my life, getting picked on in school and stuff, some of my friends don’t know how I can hold myself together day to day.”
“My family hates the fighting, my dad and grandfather like it, but my mom hates it more than anyone but she still comes to every fight, they just want me to go to school and do well. My dad is all for it though he loves it!”
“When I was 15 I started boxing and met up with Dan Greene at Cage strikers in Salisbury. Dan is a great guy. He offers training for free and is always there for me, he’s not only like a trainer but he’s a really good friend. Josh Webster and Colton Blanchette are great for me to work with over the past few years and now I have my own jiu jitsu coach JP Kerrigan, he’s the best thing that’s come to our gym by far! I learned more in 2 weeks than in 3 years with him on the ground.”
Dan Greene- “Every once in a while you get that kid that has that burning desire to compete at the highest level. He’s never satisfied, there’s nobody he ever avoids….. nobody. You just know this kid is a fighter, he just wants to fight. “Josh is that guy in the Texas Hold em game that every hand he’s all in. That’s the way he fights. Its all or nothing!”
I always like to ask a fighter what fighting actually means to them. Most fighters stick to the same answer and you can see through them and hear in their voice if they really mean what they say. So I asked Bourque. And with the utmost of certainty in his voice he replied:
“I want fighting to be my career for my life, I want to do it until my body cant take it anymore, I mean the whole pharmaceutical thing is a back-up incase something goes wrong with fighting. It would be a dream if I could get into WEC but that’s down the road as for now I want to work my way up the ladder to get to the top, I don’t care if I take a beating in the process I will get my way to the top!” I hear the door to the sauna shut and the clanging of what sounds like a scale….” Ahh I just made weight!” Bourque says.
Since he opened up an opportunity for me to ask about his next fight I went ahead. I asked Josh what he thought of his opponent and what his plan was. (Josh fights Saturday night in Triumph vs Gracie Barra’s standout boxer Andrew Reeves)
“The kid is 3 or 4 in taller than me and has a good boxing background but I feel like I have more experience and I’ll be the stronger more experienced guy in there. Im not planning on this going to the ground, he’s a boxer….. I wanna beat him were he’s best because im known for my stand-up too!”
Again, Bourque opened up an avenue for me to ask a few more questions and since we’re on the subject of his fighting style I asked Josh about his in ring presence and if he’s trying to excite the fan’s or is his style of fighting just appealing to the fans watching him.
“It’s a little bit of the way I fight, but to get recognition you have to be exciting, you can be undefeated and still be unknown and fly under the radar. I always plan on being exciting, I have the greatest time in the world in there.”
“Im all about intimidating you, when you hit me I love it I laugh at you when you hit me. No one will ever be able to make me back down and intimidate me”
Prior to my interview with Bourque I spoke with his long time coach and mentor Dan Greene of the Cage strikers Gym in Salisbury Ma. I asked Dan what his plan was for Josh.
“He’s definitely going turn pro, he just wants to take a shot at golden gloves first. Next week he’s competing in a kickboxing tournament in RI. He’s looking to hone his skills; he’s been working a lot on his ground game. Bourque’s ground has improved a ton local HS wrestlers would submit him and now less than a year he’s submitting these guys now, it’s a process and its getting better and better. Its good that he’s still amateur, he can learn.
“Right after golden gloves he’s going pro.”
“He wants to be a GFL champion “
I turned the interview in the direction of his future and I asked Bourque of his short term and long term goals, people he’d like to fight etc.
“The guy that sticks out in my mind right now, in time for me I’d like to really fight Pedro Gonzalez in my eyes he’s the best 135lb fighter in the GFL and if I beat him I will be the best 135lb fighter. I absolutely think Pedro Gonzalez beats Matt Smith at GFL 9. I cant tell much about Giove for tomorrow night but I think Pedro takes the fight tomorrow too and it gives me more motivation to step in there with him. It’s a goal for me, I’m 18, I have plenty of time to get were I need to be but it’s a foreseeable goal for me so I like it.”
Having taken up an hr of Bourque’s time I thanked him for the interview and wished him luck in his fight in Triumph tomorrow night and congratulated him on making weight. The hard part is over my friend!
In Conclusion, I felt this interview was necessary for many reasons. I’ve noticed something in this young kid that’s special, something im sure Jimmy Pedro and Mark DellaGrotte saw in Rick Hawn, what Joe Pomfred saw in Joe Lauzon and countless others. He’s got the intangible mixture a fighter needs to make it to the next level, the things you’re born with. Keep an eye on this kid he moves fast. There’s no rest for the WICKED.
John Clark (general Manager)
1) How do you go ahead and start this place? Did you just call up Punk Ass and Scrape and tell them you had a good idea?
No there was a guy who has a background in health clubs and fitness clubs and uh this opportunity was actually presented to him and he did some research on who was in the Boston area because he did not have an MMA background and he needed someone with an MMA background and experience, and he kind of found me. And we worked it out from there.
2) How would you explain this place to someone who hasn’t been here
For someone who hasn’t been here, I would say that this place is a one stop shop for Martial arts, MMA and fitness. Um I would say that it is a state of the art facility. The goal of this gym here is to have everything you need to study one discipline or multiple disciplines in MMA under one roof. Including strength and conditioning. A lot if times you would have to go to a bunch of different gyms. One gym for Jiu-Jitsu, one gym for striking, one gym for strength and conditioning. So out goal here is to get you get everything under one roof here. With the best possible instruction and the best possible equipment.
3) Who would you recommend this gym to?
Actually, I would recommend this gym to anybody. Because we have so many different programs because of the hours that we keep I mean we are open from six am to ten pm so… we have classes just for people who want to study a single discipline Ya know for guys who are just Jiu Jitsu nerds, guys who love Muay Thai, and we kind of keep guys who aren’t as interested in competition and combat a little bit separate from the guys who are interested in MMA and a little bit more intense training. Really we try not to alienate anybody here. Because of the size of the facility, and the classes we have we are able to succeed in that. It is not a place that we have two classes a day to choose from.
4) How many people would you say come here to train for competition?
Uh, we have only been open couple months, and the only major competition that has happened since then has been the world championships the IBJJF worlds. And me and three guys here where training for that. But every night we have MMA class with like six to twelve professional MMA fighters in it. And also countless armatures.
5) What different competitive athletes does this gym train?
We train guys for all of the combat sports: BJJ, boxing, MMA, Muay Thai. Our strength and conditioning director also trains guys for wrestling, scholastic wrestling, he has a couple of football players e works with in the off season and does strength and conditioning programs with, uh, strongman competition, also he does a lot of work with FBI, law enforcement people for SWAT competitions. U, it’s a pretty wide range of people.
6) That percentage of people would you say come here for fitness?
I would say, probably 70% people come just for fitness and do not intend to compete. If you had asked me how many people think they are going to compete and never will, that number would probably change.
7) TapouT is a very large, well known name… would you say that the fact that this gym started cooperate creates a different atmosphere than a gym that started small and grew?
I think it is defiantly a bit different, and it will be in the beginning for a little while here. Uh, part of it is TapouT is a very mainstream name, and people who are into a lot of the combat sports are really true to their kind of thing, ya know they are diehards. And they automatically reject things that are mainstream. The goal here is to have people look beyond the cooperate name of TapouT and take a look at the product and not just the name on the product and the instruction here is so high lever that the most hardcore guy is going to get good training. And so we kind of want people to realize that the mainstream name on the front of the gym does not mean that it is a watered down product at all. We have some pr3tty hard core instructors and training sessions here. In Vegas, at the TapouT gym in Vegas, it s one of the best gyms in Vegas in terms of learning each art and MMA so, eventually we are going to grown into that.
8) Martin Rooney wrote in his most recent book “Ultimate Warrior Training 2” wrote in his prologue he expressed his concern that MMA gyms are popping up all over the country and they are starting a trend of gyms that have fighters training “MMA” and they replace fighters that hold an expertise in a certain area of the fight game. Would you say TapouT is doing this?
I would say that what Martin Rooney says is correct. I would say that TapouT does not fall into that category of an “MMA” gym because we have the ability and specialize in so many different programs. The gym itself does not specialize what we have done is hire individuals that specialize in areas. So we have a synergistic uh effect here. We have really really specialized Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing and kickboxing. And we have a synergistic program where people want to train in all those arts and come together, and train in MMA then yes, they would do that. I think that what Rooney is talking about there are gyms that just train “MMA” I agree with him they are taking over, and because of that the specializations in MMA are getting watered down. And people are becoming a jack of all trades. And a master of none rather then specializing at one thing, and being really dominant in one aspect of MMA, and kind of supplementing in al the other ones, which was the way that it was in the beginning, and it is going to come full circle. Ya know, people a re spending all their time training in this art and that art, and the other thing, and putting it all together. But really, sooner or later, someone like Damien Maia who is so good at Jiu Jitsu, his standup is going to get good enough to complement his Jiu Jitsu. And people will think, “oh man, Ya know you’ve got to get so good at one thing in order to beat a guy who is kind of a jack of all trades” if you have a superior skill set in just one piece of the MMA pie, and another your opponent has just average skill sets in all of them, I mean you a re probably going to win if you can put the fight where you want to. So, it is defiantly watering things down. I mean the Jiu Jitsu is not that good. I mean its also being dictated by the rules of modern MMA, I mean the unified rules are really just creating, all MMA is now is a tough man competition with takedowns. Terrible standup with good takedowns. And they don’t give Jiu Jitsu guys enough room to work on the ground, and break you off the fence in the clinch. It is because the American fan is uneducated and they boo at everything.
9) This is a pretty big gym. Do you think that students run the risk of getting lost here?
No. although we are a bigger gym, we have many classes a day so the class sizes are actually smaller than a smaller gym that would only have one or two classes a day.
10) What would you say TapouT brings to the table that other gyms in the Boston area can not?
First off, we have Training partners that cover every aspect of MMA. Along with some of the best strength and conditioning in the area. Second, we also have a huge facility here, there is always a pro fighter training here. Finally, we have the best instructors here all under one roof.
11) If there was one thing that you could say to the readership of NortheastMMA.com, what would it be?
I would say that without a doubt, if you came and spent a couple of days here you will be hard pressed to find better instruction and better value. Oh, and we validate parking… seriously write that down.