Training StyleDescribe your training routine. Also talk about training partners and your gym?
“We have three two-hour sessions a day. It alternates – either grappling or standup. The grappling includes takedowns, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling. The standup includes sparring and pad work, all Muay Thai. Then, we combine and everything goes – wrestling, stand up and on the ground, takedowns, and a little ground and pound. We alternate between those and lifting weights. We have a two-hour session in the morning, then we go back to the gym and lift for a couple of hours, then we come back in the evening and do two more hours. So, the schedule is 10 a.m. – noon, 3p.m. –5 pm. and 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. six days a week.”
UFC HistoryAt UFC 14 (7/27/97), Tony fought as an alternate in the lightweight tournament.
He defeated Donnie Chappell by choke and then moved into the tournament finals to fight Kevin Jackson. Tony lost to Jackson by choke.
At UFC 37.5 (6/22/02), Tony defeated Rodrigo Ruas by TKO from strikes from the mount in 3:34 of the second round.
More InformationWhen and why did you start fighting?
“I started kickboxing and boxing at 13. I started Karate in my late teens. I earned a black belt in Shotokan. I also earned a black belt in Joe Louis American Karate Systems, which is more street-oriented karate and kickboxing. I later earned my black belt in jiu-jitsu under Michael De Pasquale. I came up as a kickboxer, so I didn’t have that traditional sense that a lot of martial artists have. But, I wanted to be a martial artist too; I felt I needed to get the discipline to be ‘complete’ in that sense.”
“When the UFC was looking for ‘style vs. style,’ I came out of the Michael De Pasquale dojo in 1997 at UFC 14. I was pretty much a striker going up against another striker (Donnie Chappell). I won that fight and went up against Kevin Jackson. At that point, I had never fought against a professional athlete. I had amateur kickboxing experience and that was all. It was a rude awakening for me. I didn’t get hurt but, of course, it was a quick fight – under a minute. He took me down and got my back, and I thought ‘Hey, I thought we were supposed to stand and throw some punches?’”
“I continued to teach at a small school and I changed my training style. I trained more for that professional type of atmosphere – takedowns, submissions, positioning. Coming out to Davenport (Iowa) really paid off. Pat Miletich was able to teach me a lot in a short time.”
What does it mean for you to be back in the UFC?
“I've been hoping for a chance to get back into the UFC for some time. I'm glad I am getting this chance and I will make the most of it. I know I have what it takes to be a force in the weight division and I'm excited about being able to show my skills on Pay-Per-View."
Did you attend college and what degree did you earn?
“I attended Northeastern University. I was in the Coast Guard for two years. I was on the GI Bill and earned some money for college and worked toward a criminal justice degree. I was close to an associate’s degree with just a few credits remaining. I soon got wrapped up in the safety business and I became a safety manager for a construction company. In 1994, I began to work for the company, which offered great hours. I finished at 3 p.m., trained in the afternoon and taught after that. I did that for several years and then decided to train full time. I moved to Davenport where I trained with the Miletich team. Now, I’m in Las Vegas and I train with Ken Hahan at Striking Unlimited.
Who has been your biggest influence in life and fighting?
“In life, my parents. I was adopted when I was three months old. My family has always been there for me; they have always been very supportive. I haven’t made the most normal decisions in life. When I decided to move to New York for three years to train in martial arts, they said ‘Okay, we know you’re into it, but are you really THAT into it?’ When I was 13 and prone to getting into fights (I wasn’t a trouble maker but a bully beater), my parents put me into boxing and kickboxing. That training helped me to grow up a lot; my parents sent me on that path and let me run with it. They’re still happy with it and they keep pushing me to keep doing well because they know it’s what I want to do. They’re always behind me and they love me no matter what.”
“With regard to fighting that’s easy too. The entire Miletich team has been an influence. There are many fighters and trainers that I consider role models. We move each other to train. I’m so lucky. I have Pat Miletich, Matt Hughes, Jeremy Horn, Jens Pulver, Jason Black, Tim Sylvia . . . each day, these men are trying to put a piece of their game in me. To see the way they work together, help each other, bleed and sweat together and then go out to eat and laugh together as friends is amazing. They know they’re all in the same boat. They’re not competing against each other, but against everyone else as a team, even though it’s an individual sport.”