Tony Rottari has been here before. He wants a different outcome this time.
The 30-year-old Lorain resident will battle Sandusky's James Pfeiffer for the vacant 170-pound Rocktagon MMA amateur title as part of the Elite Pro-Am 6 MMA show tonight at the North Olmsted Soccer Sportsplex.
It will be Rottari's third title fight. Though he lost his first two title tries in 2008, he's coming in confident following a first-round knockout of Andrew Ricketts in his last fight April 23.
"I've been training for this fight for over two months," Rottari said. "I think I am more prepared this time."
It's been a long journey for Rottari, who's been training for seven years with coach Paul Jordan. He has a 5-5 record in an amateur career that began in 2007.
"Tony started in judo with me," Jordan said. "Once he got the fundamentals down he started training for MMA. Tony has been knocked down but has persevered to get where he is today. He has worked hard to become a good grappler and striker."
Rottari followed an unusual path into the world of MMA. He was a basketball player at Firelands High School.
"I started training because I wanted to stay in shape, then I really started to like it and kept going," he said.
Rottari will be representing Jordan's Chu To Bu West MMA school when he enters the octagon as part of the Elite Pro-Am 6 18-fight card. According to Jordan, there are around 15 fighters who train full time at the school, although Rottari is the only one fighting in Elite Pro-Am 6.
"This fight card is stacked. It's going to be like a night of champions," said Rocktagon MMA president Lorenzo Gentile. "There are some phenomenal athletes on this card. Everyone is ready to go."
This will be the eighth fight show produced by Rocktagon MMA. While the first six shows were all local, Gentile recently returned home from a successful debut in California where he put on a sold-out show in the San Francisco area.
"At Rocktagon, we look to help fighters develop and become the best that they can be," Gentile said. "This is a sport that has appeal to males 18 to 35. There's a lot of room for growth nationally."
While all fighters have the dream of one day fighting in the UFC, Rottari is happy to have the opportunity to fight close to home.
"It's an awesome experience to have your family and friends be able to come and see you fight," he said.
His biggest fan is his wife Gail.
"She was really worried when I had my first fight, but now she gets excited to come out and see me fight," Rottari said.
Jordan and Gentile both said what sets Rottari apart from many MMA fighters is the way he carries himself both in and out of the cage.
"I've never met someone else like Tony in this sport," Jordan said. "The respect he has for his trainers and coaches, also for his opponents and the sport itself."
Still, it's Rottari's fighting style, more so than his demeanor, that has earned him the respect of his fellow fighters. His aggressive style has resulted in eight of his first 10 fights ending with a knockout or submission.
"I try to fight smart but look for an opportunity to go on the offensive," Rottari said. "I'm not looking to try to win on points. I'm in there to fight. That's how you earn the respect of your opponent win, lose or draw."
Fighters from three states and Ontario are scheduled to enter the cage. Three other fighters from Lorain County - Zack Jefferson (170), Josh Escandon (185) and Leon Klee (185) - will also be in action.
There are also four other title fights: Tony DiPiero (6-5) will defend his 205-pound amateur belt against Matt DiCenso (6-0), Mark MacDonald (4-3) and Shawn King (5-1) will battle for the vacant 145-pound amateur title and Rob Miller (10-2) will take on Adam Saal (6-4) in the 135-pound weight class.
The main event will feature Rocktagon MMA Pro 170-pound champion Micah Bender (9-5), who will try to retain his belt against Chris Curtis (5-2).
Depending on the outcome of tonight's fight, Rottari could have the opportunity to turn pro. But he's firmly focused on the here and now.
"This fight is the only thing on my mind," he said. "I'm just trying to enjoy the journey."
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(subject to change)
170 (title fight): Micah Bender (9-5) vs. Chris Curtis (5-2)
125: Bo Coleman (2-3) vs. Julian Lance (1-0)
145: Steve Smith (1-0) vs. Jeff Butkovich (1-0)
135 (title fight): Rob Miller (10-2) vs. Adam Saal (6-4)
205 (title fight): Tony DiPiero (6-4) vs. Matt DiCenso (6-0)
170 (title fight): Tony Rottari (5-5) vs. James Pfieffer (4-0)
145 (title fight): Marc MacDonald (4-3) vs. Shawn King (3-1)
155: Alec Miller (3-1) vs. Kevin Johnston (3-1)
170: Alex Brown (2-2) vs. Jake Anderson (3-2)
170: Doug Christie (2-3) vs. Jacob Rathwell (1-3)
170: John Hicks (0-0) vs. Zack Jefferson (0-0)
155: Steve Joyce (0-0) vs. Perry Thomas (1-0)
185: Joe Harvey (0-0) vs. Josh Escandon (0-0)
185: Leon Klee (0-1) vs. Bryon Carney (0-3)
155: Bill Elek (2-0) vs. Brian Hopkins (1-1)
155: Matt Morris (1-2) vs. Amran Allyev (2-1)
170: Pete Hernandez (1-0) vs. Eric Ogletree (0-0)
185: Josh Himes (2-3) vs. Freddie Musgrave (3-0)
• WHAT: Rocktagon Elite Pro-Am 6
• WHERE: North Olmsted Soccer Sportsplex, 31515 Lorain Road, North Olmsted
• TIME: Doors open at 5. First fight at 7
• TICKETS: $25, $35 and $45
• CARD: 18 fights, five for titles