UFC veteran John Alessio (29-14) will be back in action for the third time in 2011 at this Friday’s “Superior Cage Combat 3″ event, only this time around, it will be at 155 pounds.
Alessio will be making his lightweight debut in the main event against Pride veteran Luiz “Buscape” Firmino, and he believes that this fight will put him on the map in the lightweight division.
As a welterweight with 46 professional fights under his belt, Alessio has fought in Pride, the UFC, the WEC and Dream. The list of top names that he has faced is too long to list, but includes MMA legend Pat Miletich at UFC 26, and Carlos Condit in the WEC.
Walking around at just over 180 pounds, Alessio recently made the decision to drop down to lightweight. He will be looking to establish himself as one of the division’s top prospects and hopes to eventually earn his way back into the UFC.
As a lightweight, Alessio will be joining one of the deepest divisions in all of MMA, but insists that he’s ready to be the best that he’s ever been in his career. ProMMAnow.com‘s Denny Hodge recently caught up with “The Natural” to talk about cutting to 155, the Dolce Diet, MMA judging, and getting back into the UFC.
PRO MMA NOW: You are less than a week out from your next fight, and cutting to 155 for the first time. How has the cut gone for you?
JOHN ALESSIO: This weight cut to 55 has been awesome man. It’s been a lot easier than I thought. I never really thought it would be too difficult because I was walking around real close to welterweight weight anyways, but it’s actually been amazing. I brought on Mike Dolce as my nutritionist, and he’s worked very close with me on this camp. With the combination of his whole plan, and the nutrition he’s put me on, and my wife’s cooking, things have been really smooth. I’ve had way more energy in this camp than in any other training camp in years because of this diet, so I’ve been able to add 3 or 4 workouts per week to my regiment. I just feel like that it allowed me to get in much better shape, so I think I’m in the best shape of my whole life. I’m feeling happier than I have in my whole life, so all in all I can’t wait to get it on!
PRO MMA NOW: I’ve heard a lot about The Dolce Diet (www.dolcediet.com) and have talked to other fighters that use it and swear by it. What do you think is different about Mike’s plan and how has it worked for you?
JOHN ALESSIO: It’s just getting all the nutrients that you could possibly need, and it’s the right times that I’m eating at now. I’m getting the right fuels for my workout and that’s how I’m able to work out harder. It’s basically a whole food, organic diet. Just eating really clean, good foods, and nothing processed, gluten free, dairy free. You know one thing people always ask me is if I’m hungry all the time or am I eating smaller portions. I’m not, I’m eating like 5 or 6 meals a day, but it’s really good food, so it’s not like I’m hungry. Yeah, every once in a while I’m craving a hamburger, or craving something that’s bad for you, but I’m staying really disciplined and just following this plan, and this game plan for the fight, and once the fight is over I can relax and eat garbage for a couple of days. I’m a firm believer in this diet now. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. I was even a little skeptical beforehand also, I was saying, ‘I’ve eaten healthy my whole life, and 170 is no problem. I don’t need the Dolce diet.’ Then I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to 55 so let’s do it right.’ Mike and I sat down and talked, and sure enough, we did it and it’s been the best thing ever!
PRO MMA NOW: So it has worked for you for sure, but how do you feel? A lot of guys that are cutting weight in the last week leading up to the fight or so are pretty miserable [laughs].
JOHN ALESSIO: It’s been awesome! I’ve been a lot more pleasant, and I’m sure my wife can vouch for that. I just have a lot more energy in general. Not only when I’m getting great workouts but also when I’m at home. Today is my day off from training on Sunday, but I have been wanting to do stuff all day long. It’s like, ‘Man, I should go do this, I should do that.’ Then I tell myself to chill, it’s a rest day. Before on Sunday’s, I couldn’t even walk, and I would thank God that Sunday was there so I could relax and do nothing. Now I’m wandering around the house doing chores [laughs]. I just have so much more energy so that’s good.
PRO MMA NOW: Let’s talk about Luiz Firmino. He’s an accomplished fighter with a lot of experience. What are your thoughts on him as your first challenge at 155?
JOHN ALESSIO: He’s a very good opponent. He brings in a good record of 20-5. You know some fans– I call them UFC fans– there’s UFC fans, and there are MMA fans. MMA fans will know who he is from watching Pride, Dream, all over Japan where he has competed at a very high level. His losses are to Kawajiri, and Luiz Azeredo who was once recognized as a very top lightweight in the world. Kawajiri was also, and still is in the top 5, even though he’s now at 145. My point being, his losses are only to very tough guys, and to guys that are where I’m aspiring to be right now in that lightweight top 10. I mean, this weight division is stacked, so there is no lack of competition or good fights for me, and I’m very excited about that. “Buscape” is a great opponent, and people are going to get to see him here in the United States. It’s just too bad that he’s got to fight me here, because this is the best John Alessio in 46 fights that I’m ever going to be. I’ve never been this focused, determined, motivated–all those words. It’s a shame I’m going to have to put him down.
PRO MMA NOW: You talk about his experience, but let’s talk about yours. I mean, Pat Miletich at UFC 26, Carlos Condit in the WEC, the list goes on and on. Do you feel that your extended experience will make a big difference in this fight?
JOHN ALESSIO: I don’t know if it’s going to make a big difference in this fight. Once you’ve gone past 20 fights, you are a pretty experienced guy. But again, you can’t count out 46 fights of experience. I’ve been around the block, been in tons of positions, and like you said, I’ve fought some of the top guys in the world in all kinds of events. I’m very calm out there, and that’s one thing I bring to the table. You can’t really rattle me out there. You can come out and you can throw some flashy stuff at me, you can come running out the gate and throw a flying knee, but none of that bothers me at all. I’m going to stick to my game plan. It’s very hard to get me out of element, out of me dictating the pace of the fight, or where I want it to be. Even if I’m fighting a good wrestler that wants to keep it standing up and I know I’m going to have a hard time getting him down, I will make it a chess match. I will make a move that will get you to the ground. You can’t buy the experience that I have, and I do use it to my advantage when I’m out there fighting. One thing I think will be a big factor for “Buscape” is he hasn’t fought this year yet. I’ve fought a few times this year and I’m always active. I’ve been very active my whole career, and there hasn’t been a long period of time I’ve taken off– A year, six months anything like that. I just compete, compete, compete. So I’m always ready to go. I don’t have much ring rust, ever, if any, so that might play a factor in this fight for him a little bit.
PRO MMA NOW: You mentioned that no matter what a guy does across the cage from you, you stick to your game plan. Does that game plan change from opponent to opponent, or is it one of those things that you focus on yourself more than your opponent?
JOHN ALESSIO: I have this ability to adapt, and that’s kind of what my game plan always is. I feel very comfortable everywhere. I feel comfortable on my feet, and I feel comfortable on the mat. So I’m going to bring a mixed bag of tricks into this. So yeah, maybe I might want to keep the fight standing as he is a jiu jitsu black belt, but am I going to be scared to take him down and ground-and-pound him or try to submit him? Not at all. I train with Robert Drysdale and some great bjj guys everyday, and I’m black belt level, I’m right there, so if he wants to roll, we can roll. So don’t get it twisted. Do I think I have an edge on the feet? Yeah, I definitely think I have an edge standing in this fight. I think I have a longer reach than him, I think I have straighter punches, and I probably hit harder than him. I have more experience on my feet standing, just from training boxing for years and things like that. I will try to use the strengths that I have, and the advantages I have to the best of my ability. It’s an MMA fight, and I want to mix it up and want to keep him guessing at the same time. My game plan is just to go out there and really dominate him in every way, and adapt while I’m out there if need be.
PRO MMA NOW: You were on a 7-fight win streak before losing back in March. You rebounded with a win a couple of months ago, and will be looking to extend that streak this Friday. Is the end goal at the end of the day to get hot again and get another shot in the UFC?
JOHN ALESSIO: The plan is always to get back into the UFC. To get that phone call, and compete on the biggest stage possible. In order to do that, I have a big test in front of me this Friday night, in Luiz Firmino. Do I think I’m going to win ths fight? 100%. I think I’ll finish this fight too, I don’t think it’s going to the judges. I can’t stand the judges and the decisions that they make sometimes. It’s unfortunate for fights that do end up going to decision, because you can’t finish every fight. You have two good guys out there and you can’t always get the finish. They just don’t understand game plans I think. A lot of times they will give the guy moving forward the round just because he’s moving forward and punching air. What about the guy that’s moving backwards that landed 8 out of 10 punches? What about effective counter-fighting? They don’t always look at it that way, because most of them are uneducated. I’m not going to the judges, I’m looking for the finish. I want to leave the fight in my hands, not three dudes sitting ringside.
PRO MMA NOW: What do you think can be done to improve MMA judging?
JOHN ALESSIO: One thing they should be doing is looking for retired MMA fighters. Guys that completely understand the sport. Guys that have been doing jiu jitsu for years, guys that have been in the cage fighting before. They understand this guy’s game plan, that he’s fighting a wrestler, and he’s a striker so he wants to keep it standing. So he would understand that the fighter is going to be moving backward for a reason, to not get taken down. He’s going to understand that the fighter isn’t going to come forward to score points and just get taken down over and over. You have to know the difference between someone running backward and somebody that is landing punches as he’s moving backwards. There needs to be guys that truly understand what fighters use for game plans, and I think that the best guys to do that are retired MMA fighters. I would love to be a judge when I’m done fighting because I think I’d do a way better job. Do I think it’s a hard job? Yes, it’s a very hard job. Not everybody is always going to be happy with the decision you make and I understand that. They have these referee schools now so why don’t they have all of these judging schools?
PRO MMA NOW: I know that your son had some words for you at your last fight and is really getting into MMA. What does he think about you being a fighter?
JOHN ALESSIO: He likes it a lot. He now totally understands what it is. He tells me some way out stuff sometimes, these moves to do, that you obviously would never do in a fight, but that’s just a little of his imagination [laughs]. He’s really starting to understand it, he’s like a fan now. He’s actually going to the Dos Santos/Velasuqez fight in California. He’s a big fan of the sport although he thinks John Cena is the world’s toughest man [laughs]. So he still has a little work to do. I wouldn’t let him judge a fight just yet [laughs].
PRO MMA NOW: Let’s talk about your trainers and training partners. Who were the guys that really got you ready for this next fight?
JOHN ALESSIO: We have Tyson Griffin, Evan Dunham, Jay Hieron, so many guys. Kurt Pellegrino came out this last week and was here for my last week of hard training. It was awesome getting to work with Kurt. He’s a great dude first of all. He’s a funny guy and was great to work with. He gave me a few pointers on some stuff and we got in some great sparring. There are a lot of guys at Robert Drysdale’s gym. Some brazilian guys, and bjj guys whose names I could list that no one has ever heard of as far as fighting is concerned, but they are high level jiu jitsu guys. Xtreme Couture is packed full of good guys, so there was no lack of training partners between Drysdale’s gym and Xtreme couture. Of course my trainers, they are one of the biggest parts of everything. Gil Martinez for my boxing, Jake Bonacci my S&C coach, Robert Drysdale my jiu jitsu coach, and Mike Dolce with the nutrition. I really feel like I have team Alessio behind me. Obviously I’m Xtreme Coutuure all the way, and those are my training partners, and I just feel great. I feel blessed to be able to train with all those partners at those amazing gyms. Just to have these coaches monitoring me and working one-on-one with me, it’s just amazing. They are coordinating stuff and it really makes me feel like a professional athlete.
PRO MMA NOW: Let’s talk a little more about the UFC. If you get that call from the UFC, you will be joining a stacked division. What are your thoughts on that?
JOHN ALESSIO: I jumped into a division of sharks but I’m excited about it man! There are so many good guys. We could sit here all day and list them. You have Gil Melendez that just moved over, you have Gray Maynard who is my buddy, and hopefully I’d never have to fight him. You have “Showtime” Pettis, and Ben Henderson– that guy is a stud now! Frankie Edgar is the champion and he’s the man. “Cowboy” Cerrone is as tough as can be. There are also a lot of guys flying under the radar. First I have to get through “Buscape”, and I think once I whoop his ass, everybody is going to be opening their eyes and shutting their mouths. They will realize there is somebody new on the block! I am always maintaining my conditioning and am always in great shape now, even between fights, so when I do get that phone call, I’ll just step on that gas pedal and be ready to go!
You can follow John on Twitter at @JohnAlessio79. John would like to thank the following people and sponsors: Sports Performance Institute of Las Vegas, my teammates, my trainers, Gamma Labs, Nation Clothing, and Knockout Fight Wear.