Rising Tide: Chris Camozzi Making Every Moment Count Inside the Octagon

Duane FinleyContributor IJanuary 6, 2013

Every fighter dreams of competing on the sport's biggest stage. The roar of the crowd and the thrill of battle inside the Octagon help a competitor feel the validation of having finally arrived.

It has a unique way of making all the sacrifices along the journey worthwhile, but what happens when that dream is realized, only to be lost and then found again?

For UFC middleweight Chris Camozzi, the experience isn't one he'll soon forget.

After setbacks and a release from the UFC, the 26-year-old has stormed back into the most prominent organization in mixed martial arts and is making statements every step of the way.

Camozzi is firing on all cylinders, as he's collected three consecutive victories with his most recent coming at the expense of former light heavyweight prospect Luiz Cane at UFC 153.

The win has things looking up for the California native, but the hardships he has overcome provide all the motivation needed to push forward.

"After being released, I was pretty down on myself," Camozzi told Bleacher Report. "Even though I'm young, I thought I missed my opportunity. But after talking with my manager Jason Genet and my management company Ingrained Media, they got me going again.

"My manager and my coaches assured me I was young enough to fight my way back. It gave me time to get better. It's really hard to learn inside the Octagon.

"Most guys have to get their experience outside and they come in ready to go and ready to fight anybody. I took it as a learning experience and it only ended up being one fight outside the UFC against Joey Villasenor. In that fight, alone I learned a ton. It also helped me gain some confidence back after my loss to (Kyle) Noke.

"Making it into the UFC was always the goal. Back when I started it was either the UFC or Pride. Those are the places everyone was trying to get and I'm included on the list of those people. Fortunately I made it to the UFC. I'm here now and I'm getting to live my dream."

Camozzi made his initial introduction to the UFC fanbase when he was selected to compete on the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter. He had an impressive showing in his preliminary round matchup with Victor O'Donnell, but the back-and-forth battle came with consequences. Despite earning the victory and showcasing his hard-nosed style, Camozzi suffered a broken jaw which forced him out of the tournament.

"Looking back, there is more I could have done," Camozzi replied when asked about his TUF experience. "I could have fought better and not gotten my jaw broken. My hands were down quite a bit. I went in there with the mentality where I wanted to be one of those guys who impressed Dana. I wanted to have the best fight there.

"The main goal is not just to win the show, but to impress the UFC, Dana White, and Joe Silva in the process. If you won the entire show just by laying and praying on guys, you are not going to impress anyone. I wanted to go in there with a bang. I feel like I did that, but in turn, I fought sloppy and broke my jaw. 

"I'm a huge fan of the sport and I know what kind of fights I like to watch. I try to go in the Octagon and mimic that. I try to go in there with a bang and put on exciting fights. I would rather be known as an exciting and fun fighter to watch, rather than be undefeated and a guy where people see my name on a card and want to fast forward through my fights.

"Chris Lytle and Wanderlei Silva are great examples of this. They may not always win, but when they are on the card, people are excited."

Upon his return the UFC, Camozzi came up short against Francis Carmont at UFC 137. Determined to get back on track, he returned to the Octagon with guns blazing and found redemption in his 2012 campaign.

The Factory X-trained fighter was successful in all three of his showings, two of which came by way of finish. For a fighter who has experienced his fair share of setbacks, running the table in 2012 offered a sense of redemption. 

"It definitely is validating for me," Camozzi said. "I know now I can compete with anyone inside the Octagon. I've hit my stride and everything is coming together for me. During my initial time with the UFC after the show, I was in the process of switching gyms. Now we have a new gym, and while I'm not the owner, we built it up from nothing.

"In my first fights with the UFC, I only had two training partners. Now we have a huge gym, a full weight room, and 40 to 50 guys who I can train with. When I have a camp, I can get the work in that I need and have the coaches to help get me ready.

"Initially during my transition, I only had a stand-up coach. I wasn't working on jiu-jitsu or wrestling. I wasn't doing anything to make my game stronger in those areas. Things are different now and I train the right way. I travel and train with guys who give me different looks. I feel I'm getting better each time and that only makes me more confident.

"I have to keep evolving my game, getting better at wrestling, and improving in the areas I need to work on. Confidence is key and with each fight I feel more confident in there. For me as a fighter, once I get confident and comfortable, I can start showcasing a lot more things.

"I've got a few things that are a little bit flashier I like to do and I think people will see them come out in 2013. Hopefully, I'll be catching people off guard.

"I was happy with winning three fights, but there is always more I can do. I know I can do better. I finished two of those fights and wish it had been three. That is something for me to work towards. I didn't finish Luiz Cane and feel like I should have."

As Camozzi's career progresses, his scrappy style is sure to help him with the growing UFC fanbase. Working behind a rangy, in-your-face attack, Camozzi has used pressure in his past fights to break the opposition down.

"While Camozzi is never opposed to a toe-to-toe throw down, he understands his success will ultimately depend on his ability to evolve as a mixed martial artist. With every aspect of his game coming together at the right time, Camozzi is excited to keep the momentum building.

"Everything is great right now, but there are always improvements to be made," Camozzi said. "My head coach Marc Montoya is great about switching things up for me. He brings in new guys and different coaches. I'm going to continue to get better and better. I'm not in a position where I'm going to just sit here comfortable for the rest of my career. We are going to keep switching things up to make sure I never get too comfortable. 

"I want to put on exciting fights. I feel I have found my killer instinct again and maybe I lost that in some of my earlier fights. I'm going for the finish every time. I'm coming forward and looking to push the pace non-stop. I want to start running over people and making my way up the ladder.

"Any time fans see my name on a card, they can expect to see excitement. I'm going out there and I'm chasing those bonuses."  



Following the interview, it was announced Camozzi will face Nick Ring at UFC 158 in March.


Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes, unless noted otherwise, are obtained first hand.