Michael Chiesa: 'My Road Back Starts with Colton Smith'

Z.G. HarrisContributor IISeptember 9, 2013

Photo by ZG Harris
Photo by ZG Harris

The Syndicate Gym is an unassuming building when viewed from its entrance. It is nestled away behind business fronts and an open lot of rocks and dirt.

However, upon entering the gym's open doors, one realizes what a mistake the first impression truly was.

Inside the gym is much of what one would expect from a professional camp. There are amateurs and pros stretching, chatting and sparring in various groups across large mats and against cages. Some athletes utilize the many punching bags, while coaches discuss maneuvers with students in one-on-one sessions.

All is standard for a quality gym, but what one does not expect to see at the Syndicate MMA is TUF season 15 winner Michael Chiesa.


Chiesa is not a regular in the Las Vegas camp, but he decided to drop by to take part in some between-camp sparring with veterans Mike Pyle, John Alessio and others under the direction of coaches John Gunderson and John Wood.

Still pouring sweat after nearly an hour of light-contact sparring, the UFC lightweight contender answered questions regarding his visit, his upcoming fight at Fight for the Troops 3, as well as his recent loss to Jorge Masvidal at UFC on Fox 8.

“I told Mike Pyle and John Wood I would stop in one of these days. So I'm here,” he said plainly.

As seen in the video, Chiesa spent time sparring with longtime MMA veteran Mike Pyle. When asked how working with the 14-year MMA veteran is, Chiesa responded:

I've always looked up to Mike as a fighter. He's a very tall, lanky guy like myself, and he's very crafty. I'd like to think that our styles are kind of related. We're crafty grapplers and both long. There's a lot of things I can learn from him just by getting into the gym with him. I'd like to think that's who I can be when I get into my thirties.

Chiesa also talked about being submitted by Masvidal in the final second of the second round of their bout and how that experience is now motivating him.

Chiesa upset some fans by his post-fight reaction to his first loss—a move he himself described as “Forrest Griffin-esque” as he left the cage.

“First and foremost, it was unsportsmanlike of me to storm out of the cage. (I was) just frustrated. I trained really hard for the fight,” he said.

He admitted it was especially difficult losing a fight he was so close to winning a round prior.

I made a mental mistake. No disrespect to Jorge in any way, but I do not feel I was beat by a better fighter. I just feel like I started thinking too much. Usually I'm a very instinctive fighter. I black out, fight—and next thing I know, it's over. I started thinking in that fight, and I felt like I was falling a step behind. That's where him being such a veteran came into play—I think I gave him one of his toughest fights to date. I haven't seen someone else drop him, so I think I gave him a good go.

Chiesa spoke about the sting of tapping with one second remaining in the round.

Can you blame somebody who lost his first fight for being that frustrated? I lost by a second. The first thing the ref said to me was "Man, you know you only had one second?" and I was like “Screw you, Dan Miragliotta!” Right after I heard that I just left.

It should be noted that the "screw you" comment was said with a smile.

The experience was not without a silver lining, as he felt prepared to take what he learned into his next bout. Chiesa is set to face Colton Smith at the UFC Fight for the Troops 3 Nov. 6 in Kentucky.

“My focus 110 percent is Colton Smith.” he said. “Coming off that loss—like everyone says, sometimes a loss is good for you. It has reignited my fire. I think that I needed that. I needed that loss to get me on track and get to that title.”

When asked how he saw the matchup playing out, Chiesa felt his experience at the division was his strongest asset before the match even began.

Colton is a tough guy, and he's coming down (to 155 pounds). I think he is going to have the advantage being in front of all the troops since he served. It will be an honor (for us) to go out to perform for them, and I think Colton will be pretty pumped up from that. But the advantage I have is that I'm as big as Colton, and I've been fighting at 155 pounds my whole career. He hasn't. I'll have the advantage knowing that he will have to come to my division and fight me and know what its like to go into that fight not 100 percent because you can never recover fully from a weight cut.

Chiesa is still ranked well outside the top 10 in the UFC's always-stacked 155-pound division. But a win at UFC Fight for the Troops 3 will garner Chiesa much needed momentum.

As he put it: “My road back starts with Colton Smith.”


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.