It’s not every day you can punch your idol in the face, but that’s exactly the opportunity Michael Chiesa has when he faces Carlos Condit at UFC 232 on Dec. 29. The Ultimate Fighter Season 15 winner posted this photo shortly after the matchup was announced and didn’t kept it a secret that he’s a fan of the “Natural Born Killer:”
— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) September 16, 2018
Now in his 18th professional fight, Chiesa has pushed his fandom aside to take on one of the people he’s always looked up to in the sport.
“It means a lot, I’m not just saying this because I’m matched up against him,” Chiesa told MMA News. “This is a guy I have a lot of respect for. I actually have a picture from when I was 21-years-old of me wearing a Carlos Condit Natural Born Killer Sinister t-shirt’s. I’ve been fan of him his whole career. I’m getting in that veteran status of how to push that aside. I’ve learned that fighting guys like Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller. Fighting guys I’ve looked up to. I’ve learned how to put the fandom aside. I think this will be my toughest test to date. I’m expecting the best version of him we’ve seen in the last few years. With that said I’ve prepared very hard, I’ve done 95% of my camp in Spokane. It’s paid its dividends for sure.”
Chiesa (13-4) heads into this matchup off back-to-back losses for the first time in his career. After missing weight in a losing effort against Anthony Pettis at UFC 226, the Sickjitsu product knew the timing was right to change weight classes.
“Dude it’s been great. I’d be a liar if I said I’m not a fat kid. I love food, I’m a foodie. I mean you saw what I ate on my birthday. I had three double doubles from In and Out Burger. But just like you said I’m a big guy. I’m getting older, my bones are getting denser. The weight cut doesn’t get any easier. I mean I’m in phenomenal shape right now but I’m still at 187-pounds. To put that in perspective I have to really push myself to make that weight cut. That’s really taking away from what’s most important and that’s the fight. It’s good to just be focusing on my skills. The weight’s just coming off on its own. I’m still with Lockhart and Leith, following the program, everything is going smooth. Just the current trend of the UFC, we see these guys going up a weight class and having a lot of success. That was a big motivating factor for me. Seeing Kelvin Gastelum, Dustin Poirier and even Thaigo Santos he’s rolling out light heavyweight. I don’t really like to follow trends but I’ll follow this one. Just have more fun fighting. I’ve been doing this sport for 10-years and I’ve got this resurgence, like this is fun again. I really enjoy training and this whole process. It’s just refreshing and it prolonged my career a lot longer.”
Some added inspiration for Chiesa ahead of this matchup was seeing teammate Austin Arnett pick up his first UFC victory last month on short-notice. Like Chiesa, Arnett also had his back against the wall coming off three-straight losses. The 27-year-old defeated Humberto Bandenay by unanimous decision and gave his team a much needed boost.
“When Austin comes up to Spokane he stays at my house. It was a short notice fight, he kind of just had to hit the ground running in terms of his training. People don’t realize how young he is, but he’s a veteran of the sport. Just to see his rise is awesome. I still don’t think we’ve seen a fraction of his potential. I think the kid is destined for a world championship. Maybe this will be the start of his Cinderella story. I think Austin’s in a really good place now.”
UFC 232 takes place Dec. 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The main event is a rematch between Jon “Bones” Jones and Alexander Gustafsson for the interim light heavyweight title.