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Christian Brunetti: “I feel like a huge underdog going into this fight” – Exclusive

#3 ranked Christian Brunetti will face #2 ranked ammy featherwight Mike Powell at Fight Lab 16

Fightlab Promotions will be invading Charlotte, NC, once again on August 6th to shine the light on a lot of very good up and comers. There will be a featherweight unification match on this card featuring the #2 and #3 ranked amateur featherweights in North and South Carolina.

Mike Powell became the Fightlab interim featherweight champion when the champion at the time Christian Brunetti was deployed to serve in our United States Army. Brunetti has returned from service so these two rising stars have decided to lock horns to see who the boss is on August 6th.

Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com) was able to catch up with the champion Christian Brunetti, to get his thoughts on the fight, why he serves his country, and why he’s going to celebrate win, lose, or draw on August 6th. Check it out below:

Pro MMA Now-Hi Christian…thanks for speaking with Pro MMA Now. Tell us how you are feeling right now and how has training camp gone for this fight you have on August 6th?

Christian Brunetti-Wow, I don’t even know where to start. As of right now, my training camp has literally stretched across Iraq, and has included working with collegiate wrestlers, world champion kick boxers, and high level jiu jitsu practitioners. 

By the time its done, I will have done work on three different continents with people from all for branches of the military and some of the top ranked fighters in North and South Carolina, including current top ranked 155 pro fighter Jason Palacios. 

When I took this fight, I did it knowing I would have to trust in God’s provision…and I have not been let down. Every place I have traveled, total strangers have stepped up to help me refine different aspects of my game, and I have been amazed by the journey so far.

As far as the fight goes, I am excited. This is going to be my toughest fight yet, and it will be a good indicator of where I stand among other fighters in my weight class.  Win or lose, this is going to be a great opportunity for me.

Pro MMA Now-Now you’ve been in MMA for a while off and on due to military service. I know you are a Sgt. in the Army. Tell us a little about your military career and what exactly do you do in the Army and what influenced you to serve our country?

Christian Brunetti-I knew this question would come up, and it is always a hard one for me to answer.  I’m a little private about my military service, and outside my family and friends who I serve with, I’m usually a bit reluctant to talk about it, so bare with me.

I have been in the Army for about seven years now and have deployed three times, twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and once to Africa.  I began my career as an airborne infantrymen with the 82nd Airborne Division, out of FT Bragg, NC, and have since changed jobs. I am now a member of Psychological Operations, which has been renamed Military Information Support Operations in the past year or so.

It is hard to identify one reason why I wanted to serve my country, like many people I serve with, there are a variety of reasons. The biggest would have to be the family I come from…my father, and my grandfather both served in the military, as did my mother, my brother, and a large number of my extended family. 

I grew up being taught that we as Americans have a responsibility to serve our country, and to earn the rights which we are so fortunate to have. I was also taught that, as a man, it was my responsibility to stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves, which is a big part of what my job entails.  

It is about training people to take control of their environment, to be the stabilizing force or the difference maker in their environment, or what is known as a “force multiplier”, in military speak.

Another big part of why I chose to join the military was because of men like Randy Shugart and Gary Gordon, two Medal of Honor recipients whose story was made famous by the book and movie “Black Hawk Down”.  If you are not familiar with their story, they were assigned to a Task Force that was attempting to capture a Somalia warlord.

During the course of an daytime raid to capture members of the warlord’s supporters, two black hawk helicopters were shot down by enemy forces. One of the crash sites, isolated from the rest of the Task Force, was surrounded and in danger of being overrun. SFC Shugart and MSG Gordon requested permission to be set down to help defend the crash sight.  After several requests were turned down, they were finally given permission to be inserted to defend the crash site.

Going in, they knew it was essentially a suicide mission. Two men defending a crashed helicopter with most it’s crew either killed or wounded, surrounded by a city of enemy fighters…it was hopeless.  But they had to try.

They sacrificed their lives that others might live. They refused to give in or give up, no matter how desperate the situation. Through their actions, they were able to save the pilot, Mike Durant.  He was captured and later released, and survived to tell the tale of the heroism that saved his life.

Their sacrifice represents an ideal that is almost forgotten in our egocentric, consumer driven society.  Honor, selfless sacrifice, to give everything for the sake of some one else.  It is something worth aspiring to, I think.  To do the right thing, no matter what the cost. To put others before yourself.  To give hope to others, no matter how desperate or hopeless the situation.

And, finally, I joined for the same reason any one joins the military…to get to shoot machine guns, ride in helicopters, and blow things up.  I am still a kid at heart when it comes to that stuff.

Pro MMA Now-Well, as I’ve told you before…thanks for your service to our country. Ok, let’s talk about your fight you have coming up against Mike Powell. He’s the #2 ranked featherweight and you are #3. Give us your thoughts on Mike as a fighter and how do you expect this fight with him to go on August 6th?

Christian Brunetti-Man, where to begin?  The guy is a wizard on the ground, has explosive takedown power, and can take a punch.  He has finished in just about every way imaginable, just short of getting a standing knockout.  I feel like a huge underdog going into this fight, and know he is a threat where I am at my strongest…on the ground. 

I expect this to be a very dangerous fight, where one mistake could prove the difference between winning or losing.  I expect him to try and punch  me really hard, try and take me down and submit me.  And I will try and punch him in the face, avoid the takedown and submit him.  I figure that’s generally how these things go.

Pro MMA Now-Now it’ll be over a year ago since you’ve fought when you guys go at it on August 6th. Do you expect cage rust to be a factor and what have you done to try and minimize that factor?

Christian Brunetti-It is hard to say if ring rust will be a factor, but I think I will be pretty comfortable in the cage.  I’ve been training with some very talented guys, and a fight really isn’t much more than a hard sparring session.  I’ve had my head split open, been submitted, and nearly knocked out in the training leading up to this event, so there’s not much else that could happen in the cage.  Just as long as I’m not getting shot at and no one is trying to blow me up, I think in comparison this should be a welcome change of pace.

Pro MMA Now-Indeed. I know your background is primarily in jiu-jitsu. You’ve won all of your fights via submission, ALL of them with the rear naked choke. Obviously that’s a submission you like, but is it something you actively look for in your fights? Like do you try to put yourself in positions so your opponents will give you the opportunity to take their back?

Christian Brunetti-I won’t say I like the rear naked choke, but I’m like a poor man on a street corner…if you give me a salad I won’t complain about it not being a cheeseburger.  In three out of four fights, I get mount and start throwing punches, and my opponent rolls to try and escape the mount.  The rear naked choke is the easiest submission to sink in once you have the back and your opponent is face down.  I’ve tried to finish with every thing from kimura’s to gogoplatas, but like I said, beggers can’t be choosers. If it gets me the win and finishes the fight before I have to let the judges decide, I am a happy man.

Pro MMA Now-Scenario question…if you are able to take Mike Powell’s back on August 6th…on a scale of 1-10…what type of trouble would he be in on that scale?

Chris Brunetti-I would say some where between a 4 and a 5.  Mike’s jiu jitsu is pretty slick, and any position is only dominant if you can maintain it.  He is good at creating scrambles, and I’ve never seen some one get a truly solidified dominant position on him or threaten to finish him, except with a guillotine in his fight with Salah. 

If I do take his back, that’s making a lot of assumptions, as well. That I have passed his guard, avoided the triangle, and kept him from getting mount and punching me in the face…which I really haven’t seen to many people do successfully.  So, if I can manage to do that, and keep him from escaping from the rear mount, then maybe I might push it to a danger scale of 6 out of ten. Maybe.

Pro MMA Now-So this fight is a unification bout. I have to ask…who will be the Fightlab featherweight champion at the end of the night on August 6th?

Christian Brunetti-Trick question.  Of course I should say I will and brag about how awesome I am and how this will be my night to shine, but that’s just not me.  This will be my night to shine, but it’s to shine a light on myself…how good am I against someone who is a mirror image of myself?  When you take away the one advantage that has gotten me through most fights, will I still be able to win? 

I will be the first to tell you I am not invincible or unbeatable…if anyone has any illusions about that, come train with me at Team ROC.  I am probably a mid to low level talent among the other amateur fighters there.  One of my closest friends and training partners, Jesse Hertzog…he puts a hurting on me every time we spar or grapple.  There is always some one better.

The winner will be who ever gets their hand raised at the end of the fight, and if that’s me, then it will be because I worked harder for this fight than any other in my life. If it’s Mike, I’ll be the first to congratulate him for being the better man that night. That’s just how the game is played.

Pro MMA Now-Man, I thought I had you! Humility is a great trait to have in this sport. You recently told me that you were working on improving your striking and wrestling. Who in particular are you working with on those aspects of your training?

Christian Brunetti-Here’s a secret that most casual fans may not know…MMA breeds bad habits.  The first UFC events, for better or worst, pitted “pure” martial artists against each other, with jiu jitsu proving to be the most dominant.  Now, the game has evolved…you have to be well rounded to win. Unfortunately, that usually means that you are strong in one discipline, and undisciplined or sloppy in others.  

My striking and wrestling are both “MMA” level.  Every thing from proper foot work, to head movement, to setting up combinations…to transitioning correctly from a single leg to a double leg, or knowing proper head placement, to following through and controlling an opponent….in both sports my fundamentals are flawed. I’ve worked a lot on the basics, and I have had a lot of help from other service members here who are skilled in one discipline or another to help refine some holes in my game.

If you look at my coaches and people I’ve worked with, you see they focus on doing the little things right in every aspect, just not the areas they are strong in. In the two years since I’ve started training, there has been huge improvements, but I still have a long way to go.

I’m also working on my interviewing skills. Anyone who was at my first fight with CQC in the Cage…I was not expecting a microphone in front of me after going three rounds of back and forth, chaotic fighting.  I’ll promise to keep it g rated from now on.

Pro MMA Now-What’s next for you after this fight? You’ll have the required five fights to turn pro…do you plan on doing so or would you like to get a few more fights under your belt first?

Christian Brunetti-Let me get through this fight first.  Like I said before, I need to work a lot on my basic fundamentals before taking that leap.   I have no illusions about how good I am, or more accurately how good I am not. My goal is to go pro in another year or so, but really it depend on my coaches and skill level at that time.

Immediately following the fight…I plan to celebrate. There are a lot of fellow soldiers who were with me in Iraq that will be there cheering me on, and we have a lot of lost time to make up for.  Win or lose, there will be a party, I promise you that.

Pro MMA Now-Haha…sounds like a plan. I know you like the competition in MMA. What’s the ultimate goal for you in this sport?

Christian Brunetti-Not to get knocked out?  Is that a legitimate goal?  All joking aside, I would like to improve and be able to compete at a professional level, and ultimately be good enough to coach and train other fighters some day.  This is a cerebral sport that brings out the best (and sometimes worst) in people.  It can teach discipline, self control, confidence, and build character in ways that are unimaginable. I have been amazed at the caliber of people I’ve met and train with, from Tim Kennedy, who fights with Strikeforce, to Jason Palaciosand Greg Thompson, who is the  head instructor at Team ROC and a senior black belt under Royce Gracie, to Brandon Garner, to all the men who others may or may not know…Ses, our boxing coach, who drove to Elizabeth City on one days notice to corner me for a fight, 1LT Rick Thompson and CPT Brian Horvath, who introduced me to the sport and helped me get off the ground, Rob Smith, who has been at everyone of my fights and always pushes me to prepare…the list goes on and on. I hope to someday be in there shoes, helping others find a passion for a sport which has given me so much.

Pro MMA Now-Let’s switch gears for a second. What’s something about Chris Brunetti that people don’t know but would be surprised to find out?

Christian Brunetti-I hate the rear naked choke…all kidding aside, I love jiu jitsu, but I would love to finish a fight with my hands, either by TKO or knock out.  I’ve put in a lot of work in my stand up and would like to be more versatile with my ability to finish.

I am also kind of boring. I like hanging out with my kids and wife, training for fights, and keeping a pretty low profile. And getting drunk with my Dad and playing Rock Band until four in the morning….when I’m not getting ready for a fight, of course.

Pro MMA Now-Sounds like a cool dad. If you could combine the skills of two fighters, who would they be and why?

Christian Brunetti-Wow…that’s a tough question.  Randy Couture, for his ability to continue to compete at a high level late into his forties, and Forrest Griffin, for his ability to write books that are both entertaining and informative?  The sheer athletic ability of Jon Jones with the wrestling of GSP and the counter striking and jiu jitsu of Anderson Silva?  (I know you said any two fighters, but I took a two thirds of three fighters which still equals two whole individual fighters. I think.) I really don’t know, that’s a tough question to answer.

Pro MMA Now-Haha..fair enough. Do you have any sponsors you would like to thank or any shoutouts?

Christian Brunetti-I have a couple of people I’m in talks with for sponsorship right now, namely Ranger Up and Max Muscle.  I would like to give a huge shout out to Bill, from Max Muscle Fayetteville, who supported us while we were deployed and has always been there for fighters in the Fayetteville area. Ranger Up is a huge supporter of troops and sponsors many fighters who are currently in or served in the Armed Services.  Mark Degraw, Xavier, Graham, and Danny, who helped me work on my wrestling, and Rupe and Nate, who helped me work on my stand up while I was overseas, Gary, who granted me the gift of the five finger choke, Ugg, Tortuga, and the men from 940 who put up with me while I was deployed…and the two most important shout outs…God, because when I started this journey three months ago, I told Him I was going to step out in faith and trust that He would provide, and He never failed to provide in ways I never could have imagined, and my wife, for sticking by me, for better or worst, and allowing me to take this fight even knowing it was only two weeks after I would return form Iraq.  She is and always will be the best part of me, and she is and always will be the best part of our kids.

Last, but not least, Fight Lab, for working with me and giving me this opportunity, Team ROC and every one on my team who has helped me prepare for this…there are not words enough to thank you.

Be sure to check out Christian Brunetti and Mike Powell as they do battle at Fightlab 16 on August 6th, in Charlotte, NC. You can get your tickets right here if you haven’t done so already.

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