One of the great things about a combat sports career is that it gives athletes a chance to meet their idols... and to utterly destroy them. That’s the opportunity that Michael Chiesa is hoping to take advantage of, when he meets former WEC champion and UFC title contender Carlos Condit at UFC 232.
Never mind that Condit and Chiesa are practically the same age (Condit is still only 34), the ‘Natural Born Killer’ has been a feature action fighter since jumping off the New Mexico regional scene in 2005. His two year stint with World Extreme Cagefighting saw him win and defend the welterweight belt 3 times. And he’s been a mainstay for the UFC now for the better part of a decade.
In a recent interview with Submission Radio, Chiesa talked about getting the opportunity to fight Condit and what kind of fight he’s expecting from a fighter he’s looked up to in the past — and who also happens to be riding a 4-fight losing skid.
“To really prove that this was the best choice, it’s really important that I go out and win,” Chiesa said, referring to his decision to move up to the welterweight division. “And it’s easier said than done. I got a freakin’ tough ass fight ahead of me. It’s against a guy that I respect a lot, Carlos Condit. I mean, I still have some of his walkout shirts, his Sinister walkout shirts.
“You know, when I was an up and coming fighter, you know, I was buying his shirts and I was always watching his fights. And I’m a fan first and I’m a fighter second, but I’ve learnt to put the fanboy aside and go out and perform and beat these guys that I grew up watching. I’ve competed against plenty of guys that I’ve looked up to, and I know that I’ll be able to put that aside and go out and do what I gotta do to get the win. Whether it’s a three-round war or a quick submission, I know I’m gonna be ready for whatever Carlos throws at me and I’m excited for the opportunity to compete against him. I got a lot of respect for the guy.”
“I’m preparing for WEC Carlos Condit,” Chiesa added. “I’m preparing for Dong Hyun Kim, Dan Hardy Carlos Condit. That’s the Carlos Condit I’m preparing for. And I don’t look at him… he is a legend of the sport, but I don’t look at him like that because I just don’t think… this is a sport where people are quick to be written off, you know what I mean? A guy can be on a four-fight win-streak, get his butt kicked one time and everybody’s writing him off. But four fights before, that guy was a hero. So, I’m not looking at Carlos like that. That’d be a huge mistake.
“I mean, this guy is from a great camp, he’s very well coached, I have a lot of respect for that team. You know, the guy trains side by side with Jon Jones. That’s a pretty good training partner right there. So, I’m expecting the best Carlos Condit. And I don’t think this is the toughest match-up for me, but it is a tough match-up. I mean, Carlos is a gamer, so I gotta be sharp, I gotta be on my A-game that night. And I think I’m giving myself the best opportunity to win a fight like this by going up a weight class. At 155 it’s hard to rebound from that weight cut. You gotta just go out and just kind of - Anthony Smith said it best, you’re kind of in a fog, so you just go, put the gas pedal to the floor and go for the best. Whereas with this fight, I feel like I can be a little more cerebral, I feel like I can make a lot better choices and I feel like I bring my best game to the table. I think I can make this a pretty good win for me.”
The Sikjitsu-based talent (who has spent a lot of this camp bouncing around between a few different gyms) also talked about the decision to finally leave the lightweight division behind. A move he had hoped to make following a big win over Anthony Pettis at UFC 226 in July. He lost that fight, but he’s still headed to welterweight.
“The best way to describe it, is it almost makes me feel guilty that I don’t have, that I’m not stressed out the whole camp,” Chiesa admitted. “I’m so used to being super stressed out the whole training camp, and it always stems from my weight, you know what I mean? I start stressing about my weight, then once that starts rolling, then I start stressing about the fight, I’m stressing about winning, I’m stressing about everything. And this camp has just been like, dude, I can just focus on my skills.
“Like, especially in the last three years, the camp has always just been revolving around cutting weight. Everything is always like, aside from sparring, everything is in sweats and I’m always running. I’m always just like, it’s just not… it’s been stunting my growth as a fighter. The time that I grow the most as a fighter is when I’m in training camp. I train year-round, I’m very adamant about that. But when I don’t have a training camp, I’m just training to have fun. But when I’m in training camp, that’s where I’m really dialing my skills, really focusing in getting better, and I’ve been robbing myself of that these last few years. So, this training camp has been just all about getting better. I’ve been happier, I’m stress-free.”
UFC 232 goes down on December 29th in Las Vegas, NV. The event will be headlined by a light heavyweight rematch between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson for the vacated title. A featherweight ‘superfight’ between Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes is scheduled for the co-main event.