Accountability is an idea that some people get and live up to, while others approach the concept like little kids when their parents spell out “b-e-d.” Whether it’s the investment adviser stealing billions of dollars from his clients or the athlete crying in front of the press and claiming he didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), cheaters in any profession have a tremendous lack of accountability. They try to act like the victim when they get caught, and they have an inability to just accept what they’ve done.
Longtime UFC veteran Chris Camozzi is not a cheater. He is 29 years old, 24-10 as a pro, has never been knocked out, and, most importantly, is currently riding a three-fight winning streak, all of which came after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) took over the testing of UFC fighters. While many of the cheaters have gotten caught by USADA, guys like Camozzi, current middleweight champ Michael Bisping, and many others are accepting the governing body with open arms.
“I’m happy that all these guys are getting caught,” Camozzi told Combat Press. “I’m not happy to thin [the promotion] out, because the competition is great, but all these guys that are popping, it makes you question their entire career. How good were they really? Were they ever doing it natural? Body types can be genetic, but they can also be helped out a bit.
“I barely take any supplements – I just started taking protein – not because I’m against them, but I can’t keep a schedule on something like that. For some reason, I just say forget it. I’ve always done it through hard work and training, and I think we’re seeing it pay off.”
Not everyone who has gotten caught recently is truly a cheater. With recent additions to the banned-substance list at the beginning of 2016, many athletes across many sports didn’t realize that some of the supplements they had taken in the past are now banned, and they openly listed the products they were using. However, when guys like Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar pop positive for clomiphene, they are just blatantly cheating. Lesnar blamed it on asthma medication, whereas Jones put on one heck of a PR display, crying in front of the press. This is what strikes a chord in guys like Camozzi.
“I’ll fight somebody if they’re juicing,” Camozzi said. “I don’t care; I just think it should be public knowledge. If you choose to do steroids, you should have to claim it, and own it. If they let these guys do it, I don’t care. It wouldn’t change my mind about fighting a guy, but I’d like to get paid more if I’m fighting a guy using steroids. Make them own it and get in front of the public and do it, so that everybody knows you’re doing it. Somebody said it best, when they said, ‘steroids don’t help your chin.’”
Camozzi will get a chance to test his own chin again on Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 92, live from Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, as he faces off against another longtime vet and former middleweight title challenger, Thales Leites.
Leites, a Brazilian fighter who trains out of the Nova Uniao camp, also has never been knocked out and he has only suffered one submission loss to Camozzi’s five. The Brazilian has also submitted 14 opponents to Camozzi’s seven, but, while on paper, it looks like Leites has the upper hand in the grappling department, Camozzi is very excited for the match-up.
“I love it,” Camozzi intimated. “I’ve been real successful lately, and they’ve given me strikers, so now they want to test me against a grappler. Everybody likes to bring up the [Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza] fights, but people forget that I took both of those on short notice. There wasn’t much time to prepare, but I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this fight and actually have a game plan.
“I think that people forget that Jacare is one of the best grapplers on the planet in jiu-jitsu. Thales is a good jiu-jitsu player, but there’s a ton of guys like him in the world. There’s not many guys like Jacare on the ground. I think that he’s probably thinking that if he takes me down, it’s an easy win, but it’s going to be a lot harder than he thinks to get me down.”
Camozzi’s game has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and he is still under 30. So, even with his 35th career battle ahead of him this weekend, time is on his side, and he owns every minute of it. His recent success has allowed him to identify what areas he’s best in and where he needs to improve, and he has learned a lot in the last year.
“My biggest take-away lately has been getting these takedowns,” Camozzi explained. “For the longest time, I didn’t do any takedowns, I didn’t attempt any takedowns, and we’ve been making it a point to do that more just to mix things up. My base has become striking for the most part, but the striking gets better if guys are worried about getting taken down. So, being able to mix that together better has really given me a lot more success in recent fights.”
The two fights against Jacare were on a two-week notice and a one-week notice, respectively. Camozzi took those fights to let the promotion know that he was all-in, and he gained his most recent contract by taking the last fight against the world champion grappler on short notice. So, even though the fight didn’t go his way, it paid off huge dividends. However, the Leites match-up is not about putting on a show. It’s about picking up another win.
“With [head coach] Marc Montoya and everyone at Factory X, I went to them when this fight was offered, and I said ‘we know he’s a good jiu-jitsu guy, but I don’t want to just focus on what he’s going to do,’” Camozzi elaborated. “So, everything that I’m doing is going to nullify anything he wants to do. I’m not scared to go to the ground with him. My jiu-jitsu’s come a long way, my wrestling’s come a long way, and if the opportunity is there, I’ll take him down. I’m not worried about going to the ground with him. I’m there to make it a dog fight.”
Camozzi is ready to beat Leites and is willing to take the fight wherever it ends up. But, there is one important note that someone pointed out to the Coloradan recently. And, for someone who is a very outspoken opponent against PED use, this is a very important note to make.
“I had a person point out to me online a couple weeks ago that Thales has never been tested by USADA, ever,” Camozzi said. “I’ve had three now since USADA, and he’s never been tested. That blows my mind. We don’t have to point fingers, but we know you can buy that stuff anywhere in Brazil, and people are using. I don’t know if he is or not, but I’d like to see him tested. At this point, he’ll get tested before the fight, but everyone but Jones is known to be clean the night of. That’s why USADA does me no good in this fight. They failed to test him in the middle of camp, when most guys would be using.”
The fact that Leites has not received an out-of-competition test does bring pause, but, at the same time, like Camozzi said, the juice doesn’t help the chin, so the young vet has 15 minutes to own it. If he wins, he is expecting another step-up in competition, but he does have some concerns around the current state of the division. With the UFC middleweight title changing hands twice in less than a year, it seems to be up for grabs, but Bisping recently winning the strap is not ideal for the guys climbing the ladder.
When past champs Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold held the strap, it was sort of business as usual. Guys who were next in line were getting their shots, and if a guy kept winning, he would get his chance soon enough. Then came Bisping. The Brit stepped in as an injury replacement for what was set to be a Rockhold-Weidman rematch, knocked out Rockhold in under four minutes, and became the underdog champ. The problem now is that Bisping had some unfinished business with Dan Henderson – he was at the wrong end of one of the worst knockouts in history – and Henderson is on the verge of retirement. Bisping wants Hendo next, and everyone else has to wait. Camozzi is not exactly next in line, but he does have a bright future in the division, so Bisping’s win was sort of bittersweet.
“There’s not many people out there that are fans of Bisping – I was shocked – but, good for him,” Camozzi stated. “He showed up and he fought his fight that night. It just goes to show, in MMA – and I know it’s cliché to say – but, anything can happen. I didn’t think Bisping had much a chance, so I was just one of those people that was shocked, but, again, good for him.
“I love Dan Henderson, but I hate the fact that Bisping’s wanting to fight the No. 13 guy. I think the champion should be fighting the top contenders. Even though there is a story behind it, that just shows that it’s just more of sport entertainment than the official rankings, as they say.”
Camozzi tries not to get too concerned with the things he can’t control. For now, he is just focused on advancing into the top 10, which is the next hurdle before getting his own title shot. He is very happy with his current match-up, and he’s training accordingly.
“The higher up the rankings I’m getting, the more technical we’re getting as far as planning out camp,” Camozzi explained. “Everybody knows at my gym that we train as a team, and I will always do that. But, Marc and I sat down and we scheduled a day-to-day training camp, specifically for Thales. Everything I do now is focused on one guy. I haven’t done that as much in the past, so I’m loving it this time. I’ve seen things that we started drilling it in the beginning that we saw on video that he’s good at. When you change anything up, you have trouble with it, but as the camp has gone on, I’ve had eight weeks to do this stuff. Now, I’m crushing it. I’m doing all kinds of things that are different, but they are specific for my opponent. I couldn’t be happier with where I am at right now.”
Camozzi knows exactly where he stands in the division at this point, barring any weird outcomes like the Bisping glitch. He is a bit concerned about things like a Henderson title shot or the fact that Gegard Mousasi is ranked above Urijah Hall, even though Hall knocked him out, but none of that really matters at this point. Unlike the cheaters, Camozzi owns his career and holds himself accountable. He feels he is two to three fights away from a title shot, and the next step is Leites, whether he’s been tested or not.
Outside of training, life has been business as usual as well, with his No. 1 focus being his business, Performance MMA. Through a recent collaboration with a popular apparel brand, his business is moving up the ranks, right alongside his fighting career.
“We’re always expanding,” Camozzi explained. “We started doing exclusive prints with Bad Boy. Bad Boy started sponsoring me recently, and as part of that deal, we worked in some things that I can sell exclusively through Performance MMA. One of the first things we did was those Mile High Militia shirts. It will sell more to Denver people than it will to anyone else, but we just thought it was a cool concept. It was a hashtag that me and my teammates have used for a while, and Bad Boy noticed it and thought maybe we should collaborate on some shirts and stuff with it. I’ve made it my official fight camp shirt.”
Business is good for Chris Camozzi, and whether speaking figuratively or literally, he truly owns it. He’s not a cheater and is taking great strides to show hard work really does pay off. On Saturday night, he will put his hard work back to the test as he faces one of his toughest opponents yet at UFC Fight Night 92.
“This has been a great year for me. I’ve been working my ass off, and I’ve had some ups and downs, but this last year of being able to string this many wins in a row and stay busy, it’s been great. It’s going great and I’m only getting better. I feel like I’m hitting my prime now.”