Six years is a long time to find your way back home, but that's exactly how long the journey was for John Alessio. With only one loss in three years, and that being to heavy handed Siyar Bahadurzada, The Natural has racked up an impressive record. His upcoming UFC 145 bout with Mark Bocek promises to be a daunting challenge, but one that Alessio feels he is fully prepared to meet, and come out the victor. In a recent interview with TapouT Radio, John discusses his re-emergence back into the big leagues and how he plans to handle Bocek's jiu jitsu.
*Note: Interviewer is Evan Shoman of TapouT Radio, my co-host. When I don't conduct these interviews by myself, I just put "interviewer" to eliminate having to bounce back and forth between three different names.
Interviewer: How do you feel about the fan response to you making your way back to the UFC?
John Alessio: The response has been truly overwhelming. It's amazing. I never realized that I had that many people rooting for me, or that many fans. It's extra motivation. It's just great.
Interviewer: What do you feel took the UFC so long to get you back in, considering your last three years of activity?
John Alessio: You know, for six years, I've been wondering the same thing, but there was a plan for me, apparently. One that was greater than me, that I didn't understand. It was a frustrating six years. I think I had 21 fights, but it was 21 fights to grow and mature and become a better fighter. I really feel like I'm a story for all the other fighters out there. A lot of people would have given up by now.
I've been fighting for 14 years now, since 1998. My first UFC was UFC 26. I've seen people start their careers and end their careers while mine's still going, so I hope that I'm a motivational factor for other fighters that are thinking of giving it up because they can't get back into the big show. I'm just that story, that hard work truly pays off.
More after the jump...
Interviewer: You've got a wealth of experience and almost 50 fights under your belt, yet you're only 32 years old. Do you feel like you're just now hitting your peak?
John Alessio: Yeah, I think that's going to become a huge positive for me. I have all this experience, and have been put in all kinds of situations. I've trained with all kinds of people. It's only going to help me when I get these big fights now, because not only do I have the skills to back it up, I have a ton of experience. My composure is going to be a little bit better than a lot of fighters. I feel like I'm coming into my prime, so everything seems to be aligning perfectly.
Interviewer: Talk about your role in the Rites of Passage documentary.
John Alessio: I was already going to be fighting in Superbrawl, and they couldn't find him an opponent, so I was like, 'I'll do it.' They told me, 'Really? He's a lot bigger than you, and he's a black belt.' I said, 'So, it's a fight, and I'm a fighter. Let's do it. It's Egan Inoue. It's a huge opportunity. What if I go out there and beat him?'
That's one thing about me, I don't turn down fights. I will fight anybody. It's just a fight. Some people get so worked up, but what's the worst that's going to happen? You might lose, but you're going to grow from that, both as a person and a fighter. Take some risks. Take some chances in life. If you're really a fighter, you'll fight. I consider myself a warrior, and I was born to fight.
Taking a big fight like that, even with him having the weight advantage, none of that mattered. Was I nervous? Sure. Was I scared to fight? Not at all.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on Mark Bocek and your upcoming fight?
John Alessio: I'm sure he's a wonderful human being. I've never actually met him, but I have watched all his fights. He's great at what he does. He is awesome at what he does, which is, he wants to get it down, and he wants to grind it out. If the submission is there, he'll take it, but if not, he's happy to hold you down, and work from there. I don't feel like he's a devastating ground and pounder. He's not like Matt Hughes, where if he takes you down, you're going to be worried about eating a ton of elbows. I've said this before, he just wants to do Abu Dhabi, and I'm going to want to make this an MMA fight.
I respect his ground game, but I've been doing jiu jitsu for a very long time, as well. I train under Robert Drysdale, who's one of the most renowned jiu jitsu practitioners in the world. I'm no stranger to the ground game, and I've got lots of submission victories. If it goes to the ground, I will be attacking submissions. Obviously, I will try to get it back to the feet, because I feel I have a big advantage in the striking department, and I plan on exposing that. I plan on putting my fists, elbows and knees all over his chin, and making the ginger a little bit more red with some blood.
Interviewer: You mentioned that he was a grinder. What are your thoughts on those type fighters?
John Alessio: I really want to make this fight as exciting as possible, and I know that's going to be somewhat difficult against a guy that's not the most exciting style match-up for me. I plan on putting it on him and making it as exciting as I can by making him bleed, hitting him at any opportunity that I get, and making him pay anytime he wants to get close to me. If he wants to step into that range, I will be throwing something at him. Will that cost me by getting taken down a few times? Maybe, but that's fine. I'm not scared to go to the ground with this guy at all.
I'm kicking off the pay per view, so I want to set the tone for the main card. I'm going for a bonus. I keep seeing these big money bonuses, and this is a big pay per view, so the bonus could be big. It could be $80,000 or even $100,000. I want that for my family, and I'm going to attack it, but I'm not going to be so careless that I think about it too much, and make a mistake.
Interviewer: Even though you've already been in the UFC, it's been six long years, and the shows are much bigger now. Do you think that octagon jitters might affect you at all?
John Alessio: That's a really good question, but as of right now, there are no jitters at all. It's just pure excitement and a feeling of being blessed. I've worked so hard for this, and it came true. I'm finally here. I'm back. I just want to have as much fun in there as possible, and relish the moment. Come fight day, could it change a little bit? Yeah, it could, but it's been a long time since I've been really nervous for a fight. That's where my experience plays a big factor and helps me out a lot.
I would have loved to have had an eight to ten week training camp. Instead, it was an 18 day training camp, but I stay in pretty good shape between fights. I fought March 16, and had a couple weeks rest, then I got the call. Being a short notice fight, I really couldn't have asked for a much better situation.
So yeah, there's no nerves right now. Hopefully that doesn't change on the day of the fight, and I don't crap my pants on the way to the octagon. I want to try to keep that mat clean for the rest of the fighters [laughs].
Interviewer: Who are you picking in the main event?
John Alessio: I'm taking Evans. I know that sounds a little crazy, but I think he has the power in his hands and some good experience behind him. I think he's a good enough wrestler that he can get Jones down a few times. I also think Rashad has the speed advantage. Jones has the height and reach advantage, with fancier type moves, but fancy doesn't always win. Sometimes, sticking with the basics wins you fights. They're going to both give up a few rounds, but I'm going for the underdog here.
Follow John via his Twitter, @johnalessio79