Now in his second stint with the UFC, light heavyweight Seth Petruzelli (14-6) knows that the stakes will be higher than ever when he faces Karlos Vemola (7-1) at UFC 122 on Nov. 13 in Oberhausen, Germany.
After appearing on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, Petruzelli lost a unanimous decision to Matt Hamill in 2006. Petruzelli had some success with his striking, but Hamill used his wrestling to grind out a win.
“My first fight in the UFC I was out of the cage for close to two years, so I had ring rust bad,” Petruzelli told ProMMAnow.com. “I feel like I could have KO’d Matt Hamill if I let my hands go in that fight, but I didn’t.”
Petruzelli picked up a win outside the UFC before returning in 2007 to face Wilson Gouveia. He lost by submission in the second round and then found himself on the outside looking in at the world’s biggest MMA organization.
Still, Petruzelli picked up some notoriety from his time on the reality show and has some fond — and not so fond — memories of the experience.
“After season two, I left with heart palpitations, ringworm and an extreme case of cauliflower ear that I had to go to the hospital for,” he said. “Besides that, I made great friends and I learned to swim better.”
All kidding aside, in a strange twist of circumstances, leaving the UFC may have been the best thing for Petruzelli’s career. Eventually he took a fight with the now defunct EliteXC organization, and thanks to a training accident the night of the fight, Ken Shamrock had to pull out of the main event. That gave Petruzelli a chance to step in at the last second and face one of the biggest names in the sport at the time, street fighting phenomenon and Youtube sensation Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson.
Petruzelli needed only 14 seconds to end the Kimbo hype with a TKO.
“Yeah, I knew he had street cred, [laughs], but that’s it,” Petruzelli said. “He is a good puncher but I knew I could expose him. That felt real good KO’ing him like that!”
Including the victory over Kimbo, Petruzelli put together a four fight wining streak and eventually earned an invitation back to the UFC.
On July 3, he faced newcomer Ricardo Romero on the UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin undercard. Petruzelli stunned Romero multiple times with strikes, but Romero survived the onslaught and scored a come-from-behind submission win in the second round with a straight armbar.
“Well I thought I had him KO’d like 3 times!” he said. “So I was going in for the kill, and doing that so many times burned me out. I was in great shape for that fight; it was just blowing my wad three times [going] for the KO that killed me. This next time I will pick my punches more carefully.”
Now 0-3 in the UFC, Petruzelli knows he how badly he needs a win. “This is huge for me,” Petruzelli said. “I know they cut people after two losses, so this is make or break for me.”
Asked about how he matches up with Vemola, Petruzelli responded, “I’ll have the advantage on my feet with striking and on ground with my BJJ…but his size could offset that. So I’m going to avoid his takedown and go for the KO!”
To prepare for Vemola, Petruzelli has worked out his Orlando, Fla., gym The Jungle MMA, where his training partners include UFC middleweight Tom Lawlor. But Petruzelli has also done some traveling to work with other fight camps, including a trip to Denver to train with Nate Marquardt, who will face Yushin Okami in the UFC 122 main event.
Having worked with Marquardt, Petruzelli expects him to prevail over Okami and earn a shot at the UFC middleweight title. “I think Nate has this,” he said. “I see the way he has been training and he is a true athlete and fighter.”
Petruzelli asked to thank the following:
Thanks to my training camp for this fight…Dave Baggs, Matt Horwich, Conner Huen, Nate Marquadt, Mike Lee, Jamie Levine, Tom Lawlor, all my training partners at the Jungle….and I’m sure im missing a bunch so thank you! Twitter.com/silverbackseth and my Facebook fan page “silverback seth petruzelli.”