Jason Parillo on Training UFC 132's Tito Ortiz, BJ Penn, and Career in MMA

Joshua CareySenior Analyst IJuly 1, 2011

Photo courtesy of RVCA
Photo courtesy of RVCA

LAS VEGAS - Jason Parillo has spent the majority of his life competing, studying, and coaching world champions in boxing.

Parillo’s tremendous work ethic and love for “the sweet science” makes him one of the preeminent coaches in the sport.

Nearly 20-years ago, Parillo gradually started making the transition over from boxing and a group of lifelong friends helped along the way.

“Back in 92’, I helped open L.A. Boxing which is like a franchise now,” Parillo recently told Bleacher Report. “I helped open it up when it was just a little boxing gym, but we taught a lot of personal classes and at that time I was an amateur boxer, I was trying to see if I could be an Olympian or something. Justin and Sean McCully, those guys were all into no holds barred back in the day, it wasn’t even MMA yet.

“I was friends with a lot of guys that came down there; I knew Rob McCullough, Tiki (Ghosn) when they were kids, and Tito (Ortiz) when he was younger. I used to work and spar with a lot of those guys just for the boxing, but over the course of time I worked with Muay-Thai guys, boxers, and MMA guys, because I’ve studied martial arts, I’ve been around a lot of different things and I’ve always had a good understanding of the distance of the fight.”

While two severe injuries derailed Parillo’s dreams of competing in the Olympics, the California based coach has used his vast knowledge to assist former two division UFC champion BJ Penn.

“I got out of boxing because I severed the ulnar nerve in my elbow and I had a detached retna,” Parillo who was 8-0 with 6 knockouts as a professional boxer said. “I got laser surgery on it, but I still have double vision on that from the detachment of my retina. I became a full-time coach and Pat (Tenore) the owner of RVCA said ‘I know you help all the guys with their boxing, why don’t you go help BJ (Penn)?’ This was before the Jens Pulver II fight and when I first started training BJ, I was training him with one-hand because I didn’t have my other arm, my ulnar nerve was still severed and only half of my hand has full use of it. I went out there, trained BJ and connected with him right away. He realized that I had something to offer him and I spent a good four-and-a-half years out there (Hawaii).

“BJ became my main guy all together, I was barely working with anybody else because he was so active and I was spending so much time in Hawaii and living there. Just from BJ, I branched out I started training different guys and it exposed to me different guys that knew I had something to offer them in the MMA game. I was just open minded enough to cross over into the MMA game and respect it.”

Respect is exactly what Parillo has given to the sport and he continues to evolve as the sport grows.

Striking in boxing and mixed martial arts is much different from the other. Parillo understands that and his fighters are reaping the benefits of his knowledge.

 “The distance in an MMA fight is completely different,” Parillo said. “In boxing you’re up in the pocket full-time, because you’re not worried about the takedowns, getting kneed, kicked, you step up in the pocket and that’s where you spend the majority of your fight. As where in MMA the distance is different, a fighter is going to be a little more squared off and boxers are more worried about their angles and their positioning. But a lot of those traditional boxing positions are putting you in vulnerable spots to where you can get taken down or where you can get kicked.

“In fairness, I like to think of myself as an old school boxing guy even though I’m only 37 years old. BJ pretty much glued me into the MMA game, I always tip-toed around it and always helped guys from way back into the day. I used to think that I was going to be a world champion boxer myself, so I wasn’t really focused on being full-time as a coach, but through the injuries and BJ bringing me to Hawaii it rooted me into the MMA game. It gave me a foundation to grow along with the sport and try to help improve these guys the best I can.”

While Penn awaits word on his next opponent, Parillo, who coaches at RVCA Sport Center in Orange County, Calif., has been working with former UFC light-heavweight champion, Tito Ortiz who fights Ryan Bader at UFC 132 in Las Vegas.

Ortiz has fallen short in recent times, but with Parillo on his side a revitalized “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” could very well return on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

 “I have Tito fighting and that’s my main focus,” Parillo said. “I’ve been training with him every day. I’ll be working his corner for the fight and this is a fun situation for me, Tito’s an underdog and everybody in the room thinks Tito’s going to get his ass kicked and I like to believe that this guy’s got a good fight in him. He’s got more than what he’s been giving in his last few fights. He’s been going in there against really good competition too and it’s not like he’s been in there against slouches. Conditioning could play a factor in any fight, but Tito trains so hard he’ll be conditioned for this fight, he’s coming in with a better mindset.

“We’re going in to fight, to win and there’s a lot of different angles in this MMA game. I’ve never worked with Tito this close to a fight, I’ve never been in camp through the fight and went out and worked his corner. I’ve known him for years, but never really coached him and I think Tito has the ability to win this fight. We’re going in there to try and win.”

For additional information follow Joshua Carey on   Twitter.