It’s not very often that the UFC will give a fighter a second chance, let alone a third, after that fighter has been released for failing to turn in enough adequate performances resulting in victories. Yet, that’s the unfortunate and inspiring story of current UFC middleweight contender Chris Camozzi.
The first time UFC fans probably heard Camozzi’s name, it was on the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. He wasn’t able to finish his stint on the show after sustaining an unfortunate jaw injury, but UFC President Dana White gave him a second opportunity — well, technically, a first opportunity — inside the Octagon at the The Ultimate Fighter: Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz finale event. Camozzi defeated fellow TUF alum James Hammortree via unanimous decision at the June 2010 show. Camozzi has gone on to compile a record of 11-7 in the promotion while experiencing several different bumps in the road up until now.
After his debut victory over Hammortree, Camozzi split his next two fights, with the loss coming against Kyle Noke. He was subsequently released from the UFC, which seemed weird since he had won two out of three fights. After one fight under the Shark Fights banner, Camozzi returned to the UFC to take on Francis Carmont, which resulted in another decision loss to start off his second Octagon stint.
Following that rocky 14-month run, Camozzi went on a nice little tear, winning four UFC fights in a row, but only one win came by submission and another by doctor’s stoppage. The other two were close decisions. Unfortunately, that was when the troubles started for Camozzi. He lost his next four fights, beginning with a loss to top Brazilian middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza via arm-triangle choke submission in the first round. The following three fights were also decision losses, two of which were fairly close on the scorecards, but it was enough to convince the UFC to release Camozzi once again.
After two impressive stoppage wins and a title reign on the regional circuit, he was signed yet again by the UFC. He replaced an injured Yoel Romero, who was set to face Jacare, the man who had previously sparked a four-fight skid for Camozzi. Camozzi was getting his chance at revenge against a fighter who easily beat him two years earlier. Albeit, the fight was on short notice, but a fighter has to take any opportunity they can get in this sport.
Camozzi’s second crack at Jacare had a very similar result to their first meeting. The Brazilian submitted Camozzi with far less difficulty, this time with an armbar. It looked like Camozzi’s third run in the UFC was headed in the same direction as his previous stints with the organization. However, that has turned out to be anything but the case.
Camozzi has won three fights in a row, this time beating Tom Watson, Joe Riggs and Vitor Miranda. His win over Riggs was one of the most impressive performances of his career, as he basically kneed him to oblivion, landing nearly a dozen shots to the head and forearm of his opponent. That win earned Camozzi a “Performance of the Night” honor.
Fresh off of his decision win over Miranda, what’s next for Camozzi? Is he ready for a big fight against a serious contender in the division?
It’s tough to say, seeing as how he hasn’t even performed that well against middle-of-the-road contenders that still have yet to crack the top 10 in the rankings. Camozzi needs better performances, like the one he posted against Riggs, and that will definitely catapult him higher in the rankings and get him the respect that he feels he deserves.
One thing you cannot take away from Camozzi is his toughness, though, because that’s definitely something he has been shown to have. Here’s an interesting stat to back up that point: In his entire MMA career, spanning 34 fights, Camozzi has never been knocked out. Of his 10 losses, five have been submissions and the other five were decisions. So, at worst, you can just fault him for not having the ability to defend submissions well enough, but you can’t question his chin, which has held up so far even against the toughest of competition.
This is a pretty important silver lining for a guy who wants to remain in the biggest promotion in the world. In fact, I would venture that UFC execs are probably impressed by the fact that Camozzi has never been knocked out, which shows that he will always come to fight, regardless of who he fights. Anybody who is willing to take on a five-time world champion jiu-jitsu ace on nearly a week’s notice is someone that has no fear of his opponent and is looking to prove himself. You have to be as game as possible to take on that mountain of a task. Camozzi appears to be game.
The question now is who the UFC will pick as his next opponent, so he can prove himself. Should it be a top-15 contender, or maybe someone just out of the rankings? Hopefully, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva can put together a good fight so Camozzi can finally get on the consistent run he’s been looking to get on for nearly six years.
Luckily for Camozzi, the UFC sees the determination in him. While he may not be the most consistent performer, he doesn’t seem to give up on fulfilling his dream of being a champion one day. If you’re able to get three chances in the UFC and they still keep calling you back, then they must have some level of confidence in you as a fighter. Many don’t even get that second call back, let alone a third, so for Camozzi to get it and still be able to stick around, well, that is pretty impressive.