Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso weighs in for WEC 49. Photo credit: Zuffa

Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso (10-2) is a rare breed of a man. There are few individuals in this world who from an early age grow up knowing what they want to do and how they want to live their lives. And then there are even fewer who actually do it. But Chris Cariaso is that man.

His life has always been about martial arts. He began training karate at the age of five and Muay Thai at the age of 11. He has won championships in SanShou, Sport Karate and boxing. He has never had another job outside of martial arts and today he owns one of the most successful Muay Thai gyms in the country.

Chris began his professional mixed martial arts career in 2006 at the age of 25. He has fought for Strikeforce, Elite XC and most recently, the WEC. After going 1-1 in the WEC, he was one of the fortunate fighters to make the transition to the UFC, and this Saturday night he will make his Octagon debut opposite Will Campuzano (8-3) at “Fight for the Troops 2“.

ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) caught up with Chris Cariaso this week to talk about how he matches up with Campuzano and how it feels knowing he is about to make his UFC debut as a bantamweight, something that was not even possible until recently. We also discussed what he took away his last fight and if he was at all intimidated facing an opponent with a 24-1 record. Chris talked about his gym in downtown San Francisco, his BMX background and much more.

Chris Cariaso is victorious at Rumble in Richmond in 2009. Photo credit: Vincit Magazine

PRO MMA NOW: Thanks for speaking with us at ProMMAnow.com, Chris. How are you feeling now as we near your fight against Will Campuzano at “UFC Fight for the Troops 2” this weekend?

CHRIS CARIASO: I am feeling great. My weight is perfect. It is going to be a super easy cut. My team is coming for the fight. Everything is great. The stars are aligning for me in this fight.

PRO MMA NOW: As a 135-pounder coming up through the ranks, how did it feel when you first learned you would actually be fighting in the UFC, and did you ever think this day would come, considering they did not even have a bantamweight division when you were coming up?

CHRIS CARIASO: I never thought I would see it happen during my career. The lighter weights have always had the most exciting fights, so I always knew that bantamweights would eventually end up in the UFC, so now I am going to embrace this moment and show the world the exciting fights that the bantamweights can offer. I am going to put on a dominating performance this weekend.

PRO MMA NOW: Now your nickname “Kamikaze”, you got that from your days as a BMX rider. Were you just hell on wheels or what? How did that name come about, how long were you into BMX, and how did you make the transition into MMA where you knew you wanted to focus your time on fighting rather than riding?

Yes, he can grapple too. Chris looking for the armbar at WCSC May 2009. Photo credit: Vincit Magazine

CHRIS CARIASO: I started racing BMX when I was 8-years-old. I am not sure how the nickname came along. I think my dad came up with it when I was young and it fit with my racing style. I started Muay Thai when I was 11-years-old and I had my first fight six months later and I just got hooked. When I turned 16 I had a bad fall in BMX and couldn’t race for awhile. I lost all my sponsorships during my recovery. At 18, I tried to make my comeback in BMX racing. To get strong again, I started training Muay Thai again. I started fighting again and dropped the BMX racing. I guess my interest had just changed and I focused on fighting instead of racing. Everything took off from there.

PRO MMA NOW: You’ve been doing Muay Thai most of your life and you come from a very strong striking background. What has your transition into a full well-rounded MMA game been like and do you feel just as comfortable now on the ground as you do standing?

CHRIS CARIASO: I am always going to be a striker, but I train everyday on the ground as well. I am not one of those fighters that thinks I can just do Muay Thai and win an MMA fight. I have totally focused on becoming well-rounded for the last 5 years. I have a great team of grapplers to train with. So when it come to the ground game, I am pretty comfortable.

PRO MMA NOW: As someone who can appreciate good striking, what did you think of Anthony Pettis’ “Showtime Kick” – would you ever try something like that in a fight?

CHRIS CARIASO: I thought the Pettis kick was awesome. I would love to try something like that, but it is not really my style. I do what is efficient. I have never really concentrated on being flashy.

PRO MMA NOW: You fought a very tough Brazilian, Renan “Barao” Pegado in your last fight at WEC 53. The guy was on a 24 fight win streak coming in. Was that at all intimidating going into that fight, what is your assessment of your performance in that fight, and what did you take away or learn from it?

Chris laying on the ground and pound at Strikeforce, June 2008. Photo credit: Sherdog

CHRIS CARIASO: I admit that his record did bother me a little bit and all the hype about him. In addition, I had a bunch of stuff going on in my personal life before that fight. I had a baby three weeks before the fight (so no sleep). I was going though some unfortunate drama with my business partner and I was getting business calls in Arizona about other problems at my gym. I was really distracted while I was in Arizona trying to focus. I am not trying to discredit Barao’s win but those things were definitely factors. Since then, I have cleaned stuff up. I have worked out a new schedule, hired new employees so that I can balance family time with training and be able to dedicate myself to compete on the UFC level.

PRO MMA NOW: Now you are fighting Will Campuzano this weekend. Can you talk a little about how you guys match-up and where do you feel he is most dangerous?

CHRIS CARIASO: I feel this is a great match up for me. I am a more technical striker and a more technical grappler. So where the fight goes, I feel I have the advantage. I feel he is most dangerous if I let him get to his game by keeping me on the outside. I am confident that I will be able to break that distance and control the fight. Everyone thinks that his size is a disadvantage for me, but it is not. I am used to fighting tall guys. I think I would have a tougher time with somebody my height.

PRO MMA NOW: Do you like the idea of fighting in front of the troops, does that hold any special meaning for you?

CHRIS CARIASO: I am glad to be able to fight for the troops. They are out there fighting for me, my family and my country. Now I can give back to them. I feel honored to entertain them and it is a small way that I can thank the men and women serving our country.

"Kamikaze" head kick from Chris Cariaso at ShoXC in 2007. Photo credit: EliteXC

PRO MMA NOW: You are actually a gym owner in the San Francisco Area, right? Tell us a little about your gym and how people can find you if they want to learn more or come check you out?

CHRIS CARIASO: Yes, I own Fight and Fitness (www.fightandfitness.com). We have a great 5500-square-foot facility located in the heart of downtown San Francisco. We offer Muay Thai, boxing, jiu jitsu and MMA. Classes are all taught by world champion trainers. You don’t have to be fighter to train here, but be prepared to train hard. 75% of our members are there to get healthy and fit; the other 25% train to fight. You can check us out on the web: www.fightandfitness.com or give us a call at 415 255-9443.

PRO MMA NOW: Chris, I really appreciate your time and best of luck on Saturday. If there is anyone you want to shout out or any sponsors you would like to thank, go right ahead.

CHRIS CARIASO: I would like to thank my biggest supporters, my family: Jen, CJ, Kage, everyone at Fight and Fitness, FTCC, Ralph Gracie, Barra Brothers Jiu Jitsu, Hayabusa, Ultimate MMA, Shoyoroll, and Blow Out Cards.

By Jack Bratcher

Founder

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