Story of a... Mixed Martial Arts Fighter

When SETH PETRUZELLI, 32, says he’s fighting for his very survival, he’s being brutally honest.

Norma Lopez Molina


“When I was 6 years old, I started martial arts and I’ve been in it my entire life. Fighting professionally just seemed like a natural transition, to do something I love for work.”
Petruzelli, 32, has fought professionally for 12 years, compiling a record of 14-6-0, with 12 of his victories coming by knockouts. He previously fought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and now fights in the Bellator Fighting Championship. Both feature almost-anything-goes (kicking, wrestling, elbowing, punching, choking and leg scissors) matches staged in caged rings. Petruzelli says he makes about $40,000-$50,000 per fight. He also owns a gym in Orlando, The Jungle MMA and Fitness, that trains fighters. 
“I’m primarily a stand-up fighter. I love to stand up and throw hands and kick, just because that’s what I did as a young kid growing up, that was my base style—karate. So I definitely use the stuff that I learned when I was younger, and my speed to my advantage because I’m a lot faster than a lot of the guys that I fight.” 
“All of my knockouts are always just a straight right hand. It’s pretty quick, and at the end I do what I call my ‘monkey punches’ where I grab both of my hands together and I start pouncing on my opponents. I’ve ended about three or four fights like that.”
“Obviously, I feel bad hurting someone because I never want to hurt anyone. But when you get in the ring, it’s a business. You’re going into the office and that’s what you do. You both understand that’s what you’ve got to do.”
“My mom, every single fight, goes in the bathroom and hides. As soon as she knows I’m OK, she comes out. First she asks if I’m hurt, then she asks if I won or lost. She’s a nervous wreck when I fight.”
“The worst injuries come from training just on a day-to-day basis. That’s where it really wears on your body. I’ve got tendon problems in both elbows. My knees are horrible. I’ve got torn MCLs in both knees. This training is the toughest training for any single sport. It sucks.” 
“Before I go out, I almost feel like I’m going to cry, but like a happy cry because I’m so emotional over just the entire thing of what I’m about to go do in front of all these people. As soon as the bell rings, it’s almost like a tunnel vision that happens. All of that goes away. I don’t hear anybody screaming really, and I’m just all focused on what I’ve got to do. It’s all reaction speed from there. I don’t think about the moves. I just react. All of the eight weeks of a training camp combine into this one moment, and it’s either do or die. It’s such a crazy feeling.”
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