Sunday, June 3, 2012
Mocco makes move to MMA
As I sit here writing this column my feelings are bittersweet. That is because I am lucky enough to have a personal connection with the fighter at hand. That fighter is Steve Mocco, former 2X National Collegiate Wrestling Champion, 2008 U.S. Olympian, current MMA heavyweight and my soon to be former neighbor.
I say "soon to be former neighbor" because Steve is currently in the process of packing his bags and moving he and his family to South Florida. It is there that he will embark on his next career path of professional mixed martial arts fighter, competing at heavyweight under the American Top Team banner. He will train at their main location in Coconut Creek, Florida under the tutelage of head trainer Master Ricardo Liborio.
While it shouldn't come as a surprise to me, because Steve has hinted at this path for the last couple of years that I've known him, it did come as a surprise at how quickly this all materialized. It was just in late April that he was competing for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team at the U.S trials. After a stunning and disappointing third place finish, a phone call he received didn't give much time to relax and ponder his next move.
He was invited to ATT in Florida to assist heavyweight Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva with his wrestling as he prepared for his fight last month at UFC 146 against Cain Velasquez. While down there for two weeks, the itch that had been pecking at him for the last couple of years finally got scratched. The training, the atmosphere and a little Florida sunshine all contributed to his decision.
As he told me of his decision when he got back, he admitted himself, "This decision was a whirlwind. I was down there training and all the guys were great. Once they discovered I was interested in fighting, everything fell into place." Explaining he had a job coaching back home along with a family to support, including a wife and three kids, apparently American Top Team "made him an offer he couldn't refuse;" to quote Marlon Brando from 'The Godfather'.
Steve told them he was interested in keeping his job coaching at Lehigh University and Athletic Club, but they explained to him that to make a serious go at this, he needs to commit to it full-time. So, even though there is an ATT affiliate school right here in Bethlehem, PA run by UFC vet Carmelo Marrero, which is where Steve's initial contact with ATT came from, he had an important decision to make.
However, as he explained to me, the decision was simple once he broke it down. "I'm 30 years old, so my window as a pro fighter is now, not later," he said. He also went on to say, "I told them what I needed and they met all my demands without question, so they made the decision easy for me." That said, he gave notice at Lehigh, left on good terms and is looking to move down to Florida as early as this week sometime.
Why so fast? "I'm ready to go; I'd like to be ready to take a fight in three to four months," he said. So, after two years of living two houses down from one another and getting together at each other's homes to watch MMA fights on TV, I'll have to get use to cheering for and not with my friend. As I told him this morning when we spoke, "Just keep your hands up Steve, because I know once they can't knock you out, you'll grab a hold of them and take care of the rest." Good luck buddy, I'll miss you.
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