On December 7 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Anthony Leone will meet former Bellator 135-pound champion Zach Makovsky in a featured bantamweight fight. The card will be broadcast live on MTV 2.
I interviewed Leone earlier this week as he was nearing the end of his preparations for this high-profile clash. The fight with Makovsky will cap off an eventful year for the Long Island native and Ithaca, New York-based member of the Team Bombsquad camp.
In February, Leone beat BJJ brown belt Paul Gorman by second-round armbar on a card in Lewiston, Maine. In May he returned to action for Bellator, taking a split decision from Claudio Ledesma.
Almost immediately after that fight Leone departed for a five-month stay in Thailand. While a trip to Thailand for most 25-year-old Americans would represent an expatriate diversion, for a professional MMA fighter like Leone it was every bit a business trip.
He trained with Phuket Top Team, joining his brother Andrew, who lives in Thailand full-time and fights for the 1FC promotion. "I was training at least twice a day, six days a week," says Leone. "I did a lot of work on my BJJ and of course my Muy Thai."
It was clearly a very positive experience for the young up-and-comer. "It's really relaxed there," he explained. "And everything is very cheap. The food is very healthy and because it's so cheap you don't have to make all your own food at home to save money. It's just very convenient lifestyle for a fighter."
Leone returned to the States just in time to compete at the IBJJF World No Gi championships in Long Beach, California, where he placed third in the purple belt division. Then it was back to Ithaca to prepare for the Bellator Card.
His first fight since returning stateside will be a tough one. A former Division One wrestler at Drexel University, Makovsky is an explosive athlete with a huge gas tank.
"I think I'm moving on the right path in my career," says Leonne. "I'm happy where I am. But right now I'm just thinking about winning this fight I have in front of me."