How did you fall in love with this discipline?
I am a former handball player and I have always liked competition, it makes me feel alive. Love for kickboxing arrived by chance. I moved to Florence from Sicily in 2008 and after a few years, as I was unable to train with the handball team in Pontassieve with which I had started playing, I decided to try an individual sport. Kickboxing “scared” me rather, but I decided to try it out and see if I would be able to do it.
So I wrote an email to my current trainer, Paolo Morelli, to ask whether at the age of 21 I was too old to start. He answered no straight away, so I went for a trial session. I immediately fell in love with this sport, but I admit I was lucky to find a master who was able to transmit his passion for martial arts.
How did you reach the top? Workouts, first victories and even defeats?
As in all things, to have the results you wish for, you have to start from the bottom and go at it 100%, believe in it to the end but without being afraid to aim high. This is what I tried to do together with my teacher. I started fighting in 2011 in light contact kickboxing, then I moved on to full contact kickboxing in 2012 and I made my debut as a pro in 2013.
Let's say that to achieve these results perhaps I moved too fast and we also took a risk, facing stronger and more experienced opponents, so I had to train hard, for several hours a day and make many sacrifices. But this is the reason I love this sport, if you sacrifice part of your life to achieve certain results, sooner or later achievements arrive.
My sporting career began with a full contact defeat by technical knockout. But that match was decisive, because it made me decide to take up this sport seriously, never giving up. I decided to really start fighting thanks to that defeat. It is said that it is not difficult to win but to 'continue to win' and you achieved success at the Oktagon in 2015 and 2016.
What did these two successes mean for you?
Winning the Oktagon twice in a row, particularly by technical knockout in 2016, certainly exceeded my expectations. As I said, I skipped many stages, therefore every match is always a great test for me. I often think back to when in 2014 the teacher and I were watching the Oktagon as spectators and he jokingly told me: "next year you'll be there on that ring", and I laughed a lot, unaware that a year later I would actually step on one of the most important rings in the world.
Is there a secret behind these two victories?
I think that the second victory at the Oktagon is also due to the fact that I did not get too full of myself after the win the year before, taking part in such important events can often have negative implications on the minds of athletes. When I won the Oktagon for the first time, my teacher and I considered it an excellent starting point for the future, we worked hard and in 2016 I was able to prove this again.
My goal now is to fight abroad and this Oktagon, given its size and international guests, was an excellent opportunity to make myself known. We have already received several offers from various promoters that we are evaluating.
How important are physical and mental training?
50/50. I look after the mental aspect a great deal as well, as it is strictly connected to my physical performance. For example, I cannot miss out on my mental training sessions with Lapo Baglini during my pre-match preparation. With my coach, we often set up the matches with constantly different tactics, and mental clarity is essential to be able to accomplish what we have set ourselves.
My teacher is very good at this and he also supports me a lot in relation to the mental aspect. As for the physical training, I have had to double the training both in terms of time and of intensity. I do specific workouts according to the type of opponent or of my physical preparation or the time available before each match.
Is it possible to recover quickly and at the same time in the best possible way from an injury?
It is possible, but it requires dedication and commitment. We need to rely on the right people and to avoid, in my opinion, home remedies which are very common in the combat sports world.
It is very easy to suffer traumas of any type and entity in my sport, after every match I also have to calculate a time frame for recovery, as I fight without any protection, I only use gloves.
Can you tell us about your experience with the Red Coral machine?
In 2013 I was kneed during a fight which caused a large tear in the thigh muscle. I was forced to walk with crutches and I limped. My doctor advised trying to schedule some sessions with the Red Coral machine, so I started doing them on a daily basis.
Combined with very simple and fast rehabilitation exercises, these sessions helped me to recover much faster than I thought. Within 30 days of the injury I was able to train regularly and I never had any kind of relapse.
Upcoming commitments / goals?
I’m sure that my next appointments will be international. We are in contact with the US and China, as I said the Oktagon was a good opportunity to make myself known. I hope that my sacrifices, like those of many sportspeople who train hard and give their life for sport, will be rewarded.
So far, I cannot complain, I'm very happy with the results and I will go on like this, always keeping my feet on the ground and trying to be an example for all those athletes who put their heart and their soul into this sport.