Image Credit: UFC
Danilo Belluardo has long been known to Italian MMA fans, having started his career in 2013 when he was only 19 years old.
As a professional, ‘Caterpillar’ has a record of 12-5 with 6 knockouts and 3 submissions. In March 2019, he won the lightweight title in the top Italian promotion, Venator, defeating the Jungle Fight and Shooto Brasil veteran, Denilson ‘Trator’ Neves, by unanimous decision. Three months later, he made his UFC debut losing to Joel Alvarez by ground and pound in the second round. In September 2019, he accepted a short notice fight at UFC on ESPN + 18 in Copenhagen. Belluardo faced the Danish Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling silver medalist, Mark O. Madsen. Belluardo lost the fight by TKO in the first round and was released by the promotion.
Last June, Belluardo announced the signing of a contract with ARES FC, the Vivendì group owned MMA promotion led by Fernand Lopez, the well-known head coach of MMA Factory gym in Paris. However, is was recently announced that ‘Caterpillar’ will fight on August 22 in the co-main event of FEN 29 in Ostròda, Poland. FEN is a Poland-based organisation who stage both MMA and kickboxing bouts.
His opponent will be the home country fighter, Adrian Zieliński (just a namesake of the Olympic gold weightlifter in 2012 London Olympics). Originally a Thai boxer, in 2008 Zieliński was silver medalist at the ISKA world kickboxing championship and gold medalist at ISKA K1 European Cup. He started MMA as an amateur winning the national championship. As a professional, in the last ten years he won 19 matches (7 by knockout and 5 by submission) and lost nine. Zieliński was PLMMA Lightweight champion between 2013 and 2015 before moving to ACB, where he fought for three years.
On June 15 2019, he won the FEN featherweight belt defeating the Brazilian, Fabiano Silva. Last October, he failed to claim the Babilon MMA title (another Polish promotion) losing by unanimous decision to Daniel Rutkowski. Euro MMA Hub spoke with Belluardo about this fight and much more at the Aurora MMA team in Rome, where he is training under former Bellator fighter, Lorenzo Borgomeo (the first Italian to fight in a North American promotion after Alessio Sakara).
Danilo, you announced you had signed with ARES FC at the beginning of June, but now you will fight in Poland in another promotion. How is that possible?
“I can confirm that I have signed with ARES for four fights but I’m not exclusive to them. I have also already made arrangements to fight in Paris on December 4th in their (ARES FC) next event, but I still can’t say my opponent’s name. That bout with ARES FC is a while away so I wanted to fight in the meantime.”
What do you know about this Polish promotion and your opponent?
“Honestly, I didn’t know about the promotion but many are running in the East of Europe. The match was found by my agency, the management factory. I only know that my opponent is an experienced fighter because he has 28 matches in MMA as a professional and before that, he was a good kickboxer. This makes him a very aggressive striker but I’m not worried, I’m training well.”
Talking about your training, many fans will remember that you have changed teams several times over the course of the years, why?
“Yes, it’s true and this created several problems for me. When I started to fight, I was with Filippo Stabile’s team but then our relationship broke down. I was also at Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male for a camp and then at Thunder Gym in Milan. Unfortunately, it’s a top gym for kickboxing but not for MMA. Now, I’m still living in Milan but I joined Lorenzo Borgomeo’s Aurora MMA team so I often go to Rome and I’ve spent the last month in his gym training for the fight in Poland. When I’m in Milan, instead, I train in various gyms with boxing and wrestling teams and also in Lecco (a city the south-eastern branch of Lake Como) with the Bellator fighters Daniele Scatizzi and Alessandro Botti.”
This will be your first fight almost a year after the end of your UFC experience. What do you think prevented you from being competitive in Dana White’s promotion?
“Going back to what I said before, I think my team changes have been decisive. When you get to fight at a top level, you look behind you and you realize that you have no words of support. However, I remain convinced that physically and technically, I was ready. I think the basic problem was the mental side of my game.”
Why did you decide to choose ARES FC for this new phase of your career instead of other top world promotions?
“First of all, it was because they made me the best economic offer but above all, I want to rejoin the UFC. With this is mind, ARES FC is a better channel as in other organizations, you risk having to stay there for a long time.”
You have been fighting for 7 years now. How you have evolved as a fighter?
“I was technically born as a grappler and moving on to striking was difficult. It took a long time for me to learn, but today I think I’m a well-rounded fighter. I think I’ve improved my striking so much that I could even do a K1 fight.”