Ahead of his professional boxing debut on the undercard of Tszyu vs Hogan on March 31, Alex Carioti wants to make one thing very clear – he’s not the “MMA guy.”
Sure, he runs an MMA gym and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He has even competed internationally in grappling and in fencing. All of this counts for little when trying to define the fighter known to most as “Quick Draw”, though.
Above all, Carioti is a sweet scientist first and foremost.
“I think of myself as a boxer first, because that’s where I started. In my mind I’m a boxer and then I’ve transferred to MMA after”, he said in an interview with The Inner Sanctum.
“I’ve got a lot of boxers at my gym and a lot of fighters. I want to do them the justice. They’ve put a lot of work in with me for this camp as well.
“I’ve trained in boxing gyms from when I can remember. I’ve had boxing coaches in the past and current who I would owe this to more than my MMA coaches.”
With this being said, Carioti is aware of the stigma surrounding those that cross over from MMA to boxing. That is, that these fighters are unskilled and not committed to the craft.
This does not mean that he necessarily agrees. Rather, he approaches the topic in a rather analytical fashion.
“Sometimes you do get the MMA guys who come across and they look really terrible in there because they haven’t put the time in with a boxing coach in a boxing gym,” he said.
“I think you would be very silly to think we’re not training in boxing gyms with boxers from day one. I don’t know what you think we do in the MMA gyms.
“Look at guys like Cub Swanson, TJ Dillashaw, all those guys are training in pure boxing gyms. There’s nothing they’re going to do that’s going to be that “wow” to us.
“The discrepancy isn’t as far as you think when you get a good athlete in MMA who’s been boxing the entire time and then he focuses on boxing for ten weeks. They’ll be far better than you think he is.
“This isn’t saying they can compete with the best boxers. They can’t, but for your average guy, your amateur turning pro or your guy who has had a couple of pro fights, he isn’t as far ahead of the MMA guy as he thinks he is.
“Even through all of my MMA competitions I’ve always boxed in boxing gyms with boxers.”
With a life time of boxing experience behind him then, Carioti will aim to put his skills on full display come Wednesday night. He admits that the event will be unlike any other that he has participated in, however.
“I’ve competed in some pretty big events in the past. I’ve been to the world championships in two other sports so I’ve done some big events, but I think this one is going to be a little bigger with a little more excitement,” he said.
“It’s kind of a mix of nerves and excitement. I don’t think the size of the show is going to throw me off, but you definitely know there’s going to be some things that you haven’t encountered before that you have to factor in on the night.”
In addition to this, preparing for boxing has been a completely different experience. The camp has involved putting his body and mind through the gruelling amount of conditioning needed to withstand the brutality of the professional boxing ring.
“In Jiu Jitsu and grappling you’re not going to take any physical harm in terms of getting punched. You don’t need to condition your abs and your neck and your shoulders,” he said.
“I need to get ready for maybe eight matches for the day, so I need to look at how I’m conserving my energy in matches and how I’m pacing myself. In boxing I need to pour it out and bring it out in one fight and I’m done and I go home.
“If I pour it out in the first fight and I’ve got seven more to go in my day in Jiu Jitsu it’s a f****** nightmare. The mental capacity to be at a tournament for five or six hours and keep yourself sharp is very, very different.
“I was lucky that I did fencing, where you did 10-12 matches a day. So I’d already come from a sport where you camp out all day at a competition and compete.
“For boxing, you just have to condition yourself to be able to give and receive large amounts of punishment so it’s a really different process.
“You need to do a lot of the same things every day, every week – you’ve got to do your runs, your abs, your neck, your bag rounds, sparring. It’s kind of the same week on repeat.
“I had to learn in boxing to show up, put out.
Standing opposite Carioti will be experienced amateur and fellow debutant, Jason Fawcett. The fact that his opponent will be in the exact same situation has been a form of comfort in a sense.
“I think there’s gotta be a lot of nerves on him too. No matter what he says, we’ve both got to realise the size of this event,” he said.
“Performing in the gym, performing in the local RSL and performing in an entertainment centre are three very different things. A great boxer can look average on a bad night and vice versa.
“He has to be feeling the weight of that too. If he’s not considering that then I’m sure it’ll give him a bit of a slap on the night.”
Despite being in a similar situation, Carioti is sure that those in the opposing corner will have little knowledge of his ability. It will be this element of surprise that he will use to prove that he is more than just another “MMA guy.”
“The benefit for me in this fight is they don’t really know who they’re fighting,” he said.
“I think with him I’ll get exactly when I expect and that’s a good boxer, good solid boxer. I’ve seen he’s got very strong fundamentals and then the things he does well, he does very well.
“I give him all the credit, but I think in a lot of ways they’re going to be surprised by who they’re boxing on the other end.”
Tszyu vs Hogan goes down on March 31, live on Main Event and Kayo Sports. Order here: https://mainevent.kayosports.com.au/