Image Credit: UFC
UFC Fight Night on Saturday will be followed with particular attention by Italian fans. After almost one year away, Alessio ‘Manzo’ Di Chirico (12-4, 3-4 in UFC) will return to the Octagon in what is arguably one of the most difficult matches of his career.
Di Chrico is coming off of back-to-back defeats so a third one could cost him his spot on the UFC roster. He is set to face Zak Cummings, who has been with the promotion since 2013. The 36-year-old American, Cummings, has amassed thirty fights since 2007 and holds victories over the likes of Nicolas Dalby, Alexander Yakovlev and Trevin Giles. His overall professional record is 23-7 with 5 T/KOs and 12 submission finishes. Cummings hasn’t been stopped since his contest against Gunnar Nelson in 2014.
Euro MMA Hub contacted ‘Manzo’ before his departure for the USA and he granted us this interview.
Hi Alessio. How was your preparation for such an important match during the COVID-19 pandemic?
“Despite the problems of the quarantine, the camp went well. I have worked a lot on athletic training and I feel really fit. Then, with the start of phase 2, I was able to restart technical training and sparring.”
Unlike other Italian fighters, you always do your camps in Italy. Why?
“Because I think that we don’t need to go to the USA to train. We have top level coaches in all of the combat sports. For example, my trainers are Luca Anacoreta for BJJ (one of the first Italian black belts to achieve success at the highest level in IBJJF), Gabriele Casella and Mattia Faraoni for kickboxing (both are world-class fighters in thai boxing and K1), Ivano Titimi for boxing, Valerio Giordani for wrestling, Luca Vidau for athletic conditioning and I also have a mental coach, Alessio Fabbri. I also have my coach, Michele Verginelli, who was the first Italian to fight in MMA back in 1998. When it comes to sparring partners, I visited several teams here in Italy and sometimes foreign fighters flew out to Rome. For instance, for this match, I had Fabian Edwards to work with. He’s a southpaw like Cummings.”
Let’s talk about Cummings…
“He’s the toughest opponent I’ve ever faced. He has fought against very strong athletes and in 30 professional bouts, no one has ever knocked him out despite having faced excellent strikers. Cummings has been submitted only twice by two very strong fighters in BJJ: Gunnar Nelson (II degree black belt under Renzo Gracie) and Tim Kennedy (III degree under Royler Gracie). He is someone who never gives up and also knows how to counter strike. I will have to be the one to set the pace of the fight.”
When it comes to your fighting style, some have suggested you have lost bouts on points for being too ‘tactical’ and not aggressive enough. How do you respond to that?
“I believe that the aggressive attitude should not be confused with the opportunities that come to us. Looking back at my past bouts, I think where I went wrong was letting certain moments slip away. Being too aggressive is dangerous. Those looking too much for the KO eventually get knocked out, especially with 4oz gloves. You must always show maximum concentration and know how to seize every opportunity that is created. This is the change I am looking for now. If, on the other hand, someone wanted to refer to my behavior outside of the Octagon, it’s not my purpose to be successful in the UFC in this way. I am always myself.”