This is number thirty-five in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular edition, we’re pleased to feature a special double interview with MMA fighters and brothers, Chris and Brian Camozzi. Chris is well-known as a veteran UFC middleweight and his younger brother, Brian, is just getting his professional career started fighting at lightweight. Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: Chris and Brian, tell me all about each other - the good, the bad, and how your brother’s fighting style compares with your own.
Chris Camozzi: Brian is my younger brother by about five years. He’s really found his calling with Muay Thai and MMA in the last few years. He works harder than anyone in the gym, and it’s really fun to watch him progress. I have a feeling we will see him pass me in the sport, as much as I hate to admit it. He’s always been a tough kid, but I didn’t realize he would get hooked into fighting as much as I have. When we were kids, we used to jump on our trampoline with boxing gloves and shin-guards and smash each other. Me being five years older, I generally got the better of it, but Brian still wanted to fight every day no matter how many times I hit him. I’ll go ahead and take credit for his toughness today.
As far as his fighting style compared to mine, he is more technically sound. Brian started training off and on about the same time I started. He’s really had some years to grow and take it slow and build his technique, and I think that’s great. We were both lucky enough to start working with Kru Marc Montoya at Factory X Muay Thai and he has helped build both of our careers. I would say I’m more of a brawler and Brian is a lot more precise and thinks everything through before taking action. I’ve always kind of been an act first and figure it out later kind of guy.
Brian Camozzi: My brother is probably one of the hardest workers I know and he always has been. He is in the gym every day, multiple times a day. When we were growing up, my brother was always the physical one. He never shied away from contact sports or anything like that. Of course, being the younger brother, he would pick on me a lot, but looking back on it now I am extremely thankful for it. LOL. It helped toughen me up and prepare me for this sport. As far as our fighting styles, I think we are pretty similar. Obviously, we have trained together since the beginning, so we developed a lot of the same techniques.
JB: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
CC: My first "experience" with martial arts was probably when I was seven or eight and my parents signed me up for Karate. Like every other kid, I wanted to be a ninja and wear the gi and jump all over the place and fight people. But Karate didn’t really catch my attention because I wasn’t into doing the Kata or forms (whatever they are called). I just wanted to learn to fight and spar all the time so I never progressed with the belt system. I begged my parents to sign me up for boxing, but they never did!
BC: My first experience with martial arts began when I was thirteen. My brother was living on his own at the time and he came by the house one night and said he started training Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai and that I should come with him. The next night I went to the gym with him and took some basic classes and I was hooked! Unfortunately, it didn’t become more than a hobby until I was about seventeen. I look back and wish I had taken it seriously when I was just starting. If I had, who knows where I would be. LOL.
JB: What do you recall about your first MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
CC: I fought my first MMA fight when I was eighteen (I think). I had been training about seven months at a local gym owned by Brad Gumm (former UFC fighter). Not a lot of people know this, but I started fighting at heavyweight because I was pretty fat at 225-230lbs. I felt prepared but you never know what you’re in for until you have your first (trained/arranged) fight. I got super tired in the fight and after I vowed to condition so much I wouldn’t be that tired again. Nothing is worse than when you would rather get punched in the face than put your hands up. After that, I got in shape and dropped a few weight classes and really devoted myself to training.
BC: My first MMA fight was awesome. I won by anaconda choke about 1:00 into the first round so I didn't get a chance to do too much. LOL. As far as being prepared, I don't think I could have done anything different. I had a great camp and being able to have my brother there and help me through everything made it even easier. I suppose I should mention that it was my first amateur MMA fight, but I had four Thai fights prior to that. So I knew what to expect somewhat.
JB: What does your current training consist of and who do you work with on a regular basis? And, be honest, when you train with your brother, what happens?
CC: Training for me is a full time gig. I’m sure you don’t want to see me post the schedule so I will say this - I train twice a day not, including strength and conditioning. Some days will start with Gi BJJ in the morning and Muay Thai at night. Others can include Boxing, Wrestling, or MMA. I get to work with a lot of great people and my coaches consist of Marc Montoya (Boxing/Muay Thai), JJ Pugsley (BJJ blackbelt), and Malcolm Havens (wrestling). I get a lot of private work with them several times a week. Teammates consist of my brother, Adam Stroup, Brian Rogers, Gilbert (Jamal) Smith, Matt Dorsten (UG), Chris Holland, Chase Hackett, and Chaun Simms (recently). I have a good stable of solid guys to train with at home, but I also do some traveling. Whether it’s to Strong Style with BRog, or Oregon with Chael Sonnen, or many other places, I’ll train with anyone!
As far as training with my brother, he is definitely one of my best training partners. Though he fights at 155, he’s definitely not small. He’s 6’2” and can walk around at as much as 190lbs. Watching him and I spar, we could sell tickets to it. We are both so competitive that we go really hard and push each other.
BC: My training consists of workouts six days a week, including Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, S&C, and, of course, sparring. Some days we may end up working out four times between morning and night. Training at Factory X, you always have the ability to work with all of the coaches and all of the other fighters on a daily basis. As for when my brother and I train together, I wish I could say that I win every time, but unfortunately Chris still big brothers me most of the time. LOL. It’s awesome being able to train together though. We are never mad at each other, and if we ever were, we’d get to punch each other in the face to make it better.
JB: Chris, your UFC career started on season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter. Though your time on the show was brief, you seemed to make the best of it. How was that experience for you?
CC: TUF was a great building experience for me. I broke my jaw to get in the house and tried to get by without everyone knowing. As you know from watching, that didn’t happen. I learned some things working with Tito that I still use today. I made some friends, some that I’ve had to fight recently, and I got my foot in the door with the UFC. It’s an experience I will never forget. I wish I had more to share, but I was only there about a week. I will say it’s a very weird experience. Cameras everywhere and I even woke up to them filming me while I was sleeping. Ha-ha. I must look good when I sleep.
JB: Brian, how did you and your family react to Chris returning home from TUF so quickly and what was it like for you to see your brother become internationally known as he became part of the UFC?
BC: When we found out Chris made it on TUF, obviously we were all ecstatic! He had been selected as an alternate on an earlier season, so for him to make it on the show was huge. I remember, a week after he left, my mom got a call one night and she said it was Chris. Right away my heart sank. I knew it couldn't be good. He told us what happened and how he broke his jaw and honestly that news gave me a sigh of relief. I know that sounds terrible, but right away I knew that because he was injured that he could heal up and probably get a shot on the finale, which is exactly what ended up happening. It has been truly crazy to see my brother become a recognized fighter, riding a four-fight win streak! I couldn't be prouder of him and am excited to see him continue his rise. I truly believe that the UFC and the public have only seen a fraction of what he is capable of.
JB: Chris, you have already had two stints in the UFC and you have been a very successful 6-2 with a 4-fight win streak currently. What have been the highlights of your UFC experience thus far?
CC: The highlights of my career, other than winning, have to be going all over the world and walking into these massive stadiums with fans cheering and booing. It’s crazy, and I still can’t wrap my head around it! These are things I will tell my grandkids. The UFC has helped me see parts of the world I probably never would have had the chance to visit, and everyone treats you like a celebrity. I still feel weird signing stuff for people after three years. This sport has a lot of highs and lows, but some of the best times of my life have been during these past few years. I can’t wait to see what’s in the future!
JB: Brian, you are very early in your career, only recently fighting and winning your first professional fight. What are your goals and ambitions for your fighting career?
BC: My goal is simply to be the best fighter I can be. I am taking it one fight at a time and am in no hurry. I would rather get experience through tough fights and earn my way to the top than try to figure out some kind of fast track. I want to become not only a great fighter, but I also want to be able to turn the Camozzi name into a brand.
JB: Chris, your next fight is scheduled to be against Rafael Natal, down in Brazil, on UFC on FX 8, May 18th. What do you think of that matchup and fighting in Brazil once again?
CC: A few people have tried to give me the nickname "The Road Warrior" and it’s really starting to make sense. I always fight in enemy territory, but I love it. I feel like all the pressure is on the other guy to perform well for his friends and family. Booing also helps motivate me to win.
I can’t wait to go back to Brazil. I loved it there, and after my last fight there, my fiancée, Sacha, and I, along with two friends, stayed an extra week and got the VIP tour of Rio from a good friend of mine, Diego Moraes. It was one of the best vacations I have ever had.
As far as fighting Rafael Natal, I’m glad he stepped up to fill in for Cezar Mutante. I honestly didn’t care who I was fighting. I’m getting married in July so I wanted to make some extra money as well as get another fight before taking a little time off. I’m not one of those fighters that wants to fight once or twice a year. I’d prefer to fight four times a year if possible. I know Natal is a game opponent so I’m looking forward to the fight. Seems like he likes to stand and bang so we will see if he sticks with the same plan. Either way, I’ve had a ton of preparation for this fight, and I’ve brought in several people to help push me through these last few weeks. I plan on leaving Brazil on a five- fight win streak and hopefully with a bonus.
JB: Brian, your next fight is scheduled to be against Ian Stonehouse, in Colorado, on Sparta Combat League's AVM V, April 20th. What do you think of that matchup and fighting in the local promotion?
BC: I am extremely excited for this fight. Ian is a tough guy and has a lot more experience than me. He is coming in with twelve pro fights while I only have one. However, like I said before, I would rather my career be based upon fighting the toughest guys I can. Fighting for Sparta Combat League has been great. This event will be in a large arena and this promotion is quickly making a name for themselves here in Colorado.
JB: Chris, looking around the UFC, who are some of the other fighters in your division that you would like to fight and who are some of the ones, in any division, that you respect the most?
CC: I’ve always said that I want to fight top-ten guys. I know I can be there. I just need the opportunity to fight them. As far as names, I don’t care. Whoever’s name is on that list. I respect a lot of fighters out there. A couple that I have had the opportunity to meet and that made an impression on me were Chael (you saw him speak on TUF) and BJ Penn. I met BJ when I fought in Australia and he seemed like a great guy. It’s always cool to meet athletes you have seen compete for years and find out that they are cool guys too. As a kid, I was disappointed to meet several people I looked up to, only to find out they were a------s.
JB: Brian, looking at the UFC and other major promotions, who are some of the other fighters in your division that you would like to fight and who are some of the ones, in any division, that you respect the most?
BC: I am going to plead the fifth on who I would like to fight. LOL. I am still young and green as far as experience, and I know my name doesn't belong anywhere near any of the UFC vets. I respect almost all the fighters, but there are a few that stick out. Chael Sonnen, because the man is a genius, through simply talking he has been able to establish his own brand and brought such extreme value to his name that it is insane! It may not exactly be the way I would do things, but you have to respect the man for what he has been able to do. Another fighter that sticks out for me is Anderson Silva. I know it probably sounds weird that I like both Sonnen and Silva. The reason I like Silva is just the sheer amount of skill that man brings.
JB: Chris, before your most recent fight at UFC 158, you went out on a limb and took a stance about sponsor pay. Can you explain your position and what the reaction has been to your stance from fans, peers, sponsors, and others?
CC: As far as my blog on sponsor pay, it seemed to get a lot of criticism. Money was one of the points, but not the entire point. I don’t like being turned down by certain sponsors when I first get a fight, and we're not sure where I’m placed on the card, and then for them to see me on the main card and want to work together. If you want to sponsor me, sponsor me. Sponsor me because of the way I represent myself, the way I advertise, the way I use social media. Don’t sponsor me just to put a patch on my shorts. I feel like I go above and beyond most fighters when it comes to taking care of sponsors. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t plug them or sell something of theirs.
Going into quite a few fights I had companies (big ones) offering me as low as $100 to sponsor me in the UFC. Most people’s rebuttal to my blog was to say, "It’s the UFC tax." What if I told you these weren’t all companies that fall under the tax? Several of them weren't. I don’t want to complain about money. I just think I needed to take a stand, and instead of accepting offers and letting these sponsors know I’m desperate and would take anything, I would just say "No thanks." I’ll make my own shirt and sell it and keep the profits. What would happen to these MMA clothing companies if everyone said, "No thanks" and didn’t wear their stuff? They would go under or decide to pay guys what they’re worth. I look forward to the discussions on this question.
JB: Brian, given that your brother is at a more advanced point in his career, how much do you look to him for advice and what type of advice has he tried to give you?
BC: I look to my brother for everything in my career. He has had twenty-five fights and knows what he is talking about so I take full advantage of that knowledge. He is always helping me, whether it’s with technique, dieting and cutting weight, or even teaching me how to market myself. One of the biggest things he taught me is how to turn myself into a brand by using Facebook and Twitter.
JB: Last question, Chris and Brian, and thank you both for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
CC: Being a fighter is who I am and I love it. I’ve always enjoyed competing in anything and fighting is the most pure form of human competition. Man vs. Man in a cage and only one person can win. I’m taking in the experiences and enjoying myself because it doesn’t last forever. But I hope when I walk away from MMA it’s because I choose too and it’s my time to hang them up. I can’t imagine my life if I didn’t find Mixed Martial Arts. I really enjoy it, and getting paid for it is icing on the cake.
BC: Being a fighter means a great deal to me. It is the only job I have ever loved. The best part of being a fighter is being able to pass the knowledge on. I currently teach both adults and children Muay Thai, and being a fighter helps me to become a better teacher and allows me to pass the knowledge of our beloved sport on to the next generation.
Thank you so much for reading and please follow @ChrisCamozzi, @BrianCamozzi, and @Jackjohnbrown on Twitter.
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