“Business as usual.”
For Chris “The Story” Liguori, business as usual means working a full-time job on the railroad, training MMA full-time and still having enough in the gas tank to be a husband and father of three. Liguori (12-8) is a veteran to MMA and has garnered a substantial following in the Tri-state area. Originally competing as a middleweight on the very first Ring of Combat in 2002, Liguori now fights two weight classes lower at lightweight and is sporting a three-fight win streak as he heads into Ring of Combat XXXV on April 8, broadcast exclusively at GFL.tv, as the co-main event and looks to continue that momentum against opponent Mikhail Malyutin (9-8), a member of the famous Red Devil Fight Team, and whose most recent fight was a victory over PRIDE veteran, Luiz Azeredo.
“From the footage I’ve seen on Mikhail, he has good cardio and is well rounded, like myself. He doesn’t fade in the second and third round so he will be a game opponent. I expect a very high-paced fight from the beginning of the fight until the end. It will be a fight the fans will enjoy,” said Liguori.
A staple of East Coast MMA, Lou Neglia’s Ring of Combat has had some of the very best athletes the area has produced fight for the promotion including current UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller, Dan Miller, John Howard and Mike Massenzio. For Liguori, he is confident one day that he too will be mentioned alongside that group of beasts from the East. A veteran of East Coast MMA, Liguori has witnessed the rise of MMA in the NY/NJ area. Since the UFC and now Strikeforce have runs shows in New Jersey in the last year, East Coast MMA is quickly becoming a hotbed of talent, in part because of the density of the population.
Liguori though has been in the game since he was a teenager, but appreciates the growth of the sport over the last few years. “When I first started MMA I ended up at the local gym which was close enough to ride my bike to.” Now Liguori, like every serious competitor, prepares for his fights with an assortment of specialists and some of the top trainers in the Tri-state area. “I went 1-4 in my first 5 fights and knew after that I needed to make a change in how I approached my training. Now I train with, in my opinion, the best BJJ guy around, Ricardo Almeida at RABJJ for Jiu-Jitsu and grappling and do my strength and conditioning with Brian Blue at All Star Sports Academy and work my stand up with Mark Henry. Along with my training, NJ Fight Shop has looked out for me too.” Also a regular at MMA Legend’s Renzo Gracie’s gym in New York City and a training partner to Edgar, Liguori has earned his respect in the game. “Just being around guys like Ricardo and Renzo and cornering Frankie for his title fights against BJ (Penn) has given me experience in ways that other guys will never have.”
Liguori looks to take the next step forward in his career on April 8 at ROC XXV but holds no illusions as to the nature of the beast that is MMA. “This sport is unforgiving, it doesn’t care about me and it doesn’t care about you. It’s going to keep moving forward with or without you. So if you don’t have your own plan, you’re going to be in somebody else’s plan. I have a plan for my career and right now I am making the right decisions and doing the things necessary to reach my goals.”
And what are those goals? “Obviously I want to get back to the UFC. Those guys over there are the best in the business. They have the best matchmakers and are aware of everything that is going on. They know who is doing what. It’s my job to keep winning and go from there.”
Liguori though knows the reality of the sport and the toll that it takes on all of the participants. “It would be nice to live the fighter lifestyle and only worry about training twice a day, but even then, it’s tough to have a long career. You bang your body up in training, worse than the fight itself actually, and that cuts into your career. It happens to everybody. I’ve already prepared myself for the future. I’m 28 years old and been in the sport since I was 16. I have a great family and a steady job which a lot of guys don’t have to fall back on when fighting is over. But like everybody I’m looking to get to the next level, but the only way to do that is get more wins.”
Liguori is no stranger to the big fight atmosphere. Already a seasoned veteran of the UFC and Elite XC along with several of the top east coast regional shows, there’s not much that The Story hasn’t experienced or witnessed firsthand. “I’ve fought in front of a TV audience before so it’s nice to have the show broadcast on GFL.tv and possibly open up a few more doors for my career. The sport is growing at a fast rate so having this type of opportunity available for the fans is great. Ring of Combat and GoFightLive make a great team and hopefully this way to view fights will catch on with other promotions, because it’s what the sport needs to grow.”