There is truly no love lost in the fight game. Fans, promoters, and sometimes even friends have very short memories. Unfortunately, for the fighters working their asses off to stay in shape, fine tune their skills, and maintain fight readiness, they are usually the ones getting the short end of the stick.
In 2021, UFC and GLORY Kickboxing veteran Chris Camozzi had a great thing going. The Coloradan had previously lost four fights in a row, including his final three fights in the UFC, but he was back in the win column with a dominant first-round submission of Tony Lopez in Sep 2019. Due to the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020, it was tough to find fights, but things turned around when he was signed to the Professional Fighters League for the 2021 season.
In his promotional debut, Camozzi fought the 2019 PFL light heavyweight champ Emiliano Sordi and was bested on the judges’ scorecards. But, he bounced back with a win over fellow UFC vet Cezar Ferreira. However, Ferreira had won his first fight of the 2021 PFL season by first-round knockout, and, due to the PFL points system, even though both men were 1-1 after the first round, Ferreira advanced to the season’s playoff round, even though the American won that bout. Camozzi still had one more fight of the season when he faced Cory Hendricks in Aug. 2021. He finished the season tied with his best calendar-year record since 2012. Things were coming together headed into 2022, but that didn’t last long.
“PFL told me, from the end of last season, that I was on the next season,” Camozzi told Combat Press. “They were like, ‘You’re in.’ Yadda, yadda. So, I took some time off, and then I was training, and I was gearing back up for the newest season. About a month out from when the season was starting, I just got a random e-mail that said, ‘You’re released from your contract.’ No reason. No nothing. No phone call. They didn’t answer my calls when I tried calling them. They just kind of left it at that. Ray Sefo sent me an e-mail and then never answered the phone again. Because, I tried calling, and I even texted him, and he never responded. I was like, ‘Can you at least give me a reason? Like, did something happen? What’s the deal?’
“I was super thrown off-guard, and I was already in full training camp for the season. They kind of did me dirty. They kept me for six months under contract, when they could have released me right away. They kept me for six months just to release me right before the tournament started. The weirdest part is they kept a bunch of the other guys, like Cory Hendricks. They kept him even though I dominated him. What’s the deal with that? I don’t even get it. And, you know, Sordi was in again. It was strange.”
Camozzi is not one of those fighters who sits around waiting for something to happen. He has owned business in the past, has always coached athletes, and has multiple business ventures at any given time. He has been fighting professionally since 2006 and knows the fight game inside and out. He always stays ready for any opportunity that may arise, and, eventually, he found out that Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship was coming to his hometown in Denver, Colo on Saturday, Oct. 15.
“After my performance in PFL, I feel like I was kind of hitting my stride as far as the better part of my career,” Camozzi said. “After leaving the PFL, there was not a lot of options out there. Bare-knuckle boxing was something that caught my eye from the first time I watched it. I was like, ‘man, that looks awesome.’ It just kind of lined up, because they’re coming to Denver, and this is the time to do it. I don’t have to travel. I can make money on tickets and sponsors really well here. And, I get to fight at home where I haven’t fought in forever.”
The MMA and kickboxing vet had parted ways with his previous training camp a few years back, and has been training under striking coach Jake Ramos at Genesis Training Academy, as well as with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Steve Hordinski at Katharo Training Center, both in the Denver Metro area. Ramos is a very high-level boxing coach, who used to coach at Grudge Training Center before opening Genesis. Hordinski also is the jiu-jitsu coach for the Genesis Fight Team.
“I’ve been loving it, man,” Camozzi said. “I feel like that really helped my career, honestly. Because, you know, before I used to kind of win by beating guys up and wearing them down. Now, I’m doing damage. He was able to just fix a couple things – put a lot more power in my punches and the way I move – so I’m actually really excited to do it. The gym is so boxing-heavy that I’ve been doing a bunch of boxing for a while.”
The BKFC is not something that just came about because there were no other options. It was something that had always piqued his interest, and he was excited the chips had fallen into place with BKFC 31 landing in his backyard.
“I’ve talked to them on and off for a while now,” explained Camozzi. “It was just going back and forth between money and everything. You know, where I’m at in my career now, I’m trying to get the best deal that makes the most sense for me. I’m starting to realize more and more that we should get paid more. Because, you know, I work full-time too. I’m starting to transition a little bit, so that I have stuff for after fighting, so I didn’t have to, like, fight. That’s why I kind of sat back and waited for a bit and tried to get exactly what I wanted.
“We’re not quite where I want to be for BKFC, but what I did was go sign to a one-fight deal. This is one fight, and then I’m going to look to renegotiate after this. So, it’s kind of performance-based. I’m going in there and betting on myself. They offered me a longer contract, but I kind of bet on myself. I want to see, with a good performance and highlight reel, if I can make more money in the end.”
Bare-knuckle boxing is a completely different animal than MMA, or even kickboxing, in the sense that there is a lot more danger from self-sustained injuries, like broken hands, to fight ending cuts. In fact, in BKFC, fans have seen some of the most seasoned fighters literally quit after just a few clean shots. However, for a vet like Camozzi, he doesn’t really view it that way.
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s that much of a difference,” said the former pro kickboxer. “Because, if you look at it, people are like, ‘Oh, it’s bare-knuckle boxing.’ But, if you think about it, for my entire career, you could knee people in the face. You can elbow them. All these things that do way more damage than a bare fist. It’s not going to be the first time I’ve punched somebody with a bare fist or been punched with one. There are more cuts, but I’ve been cut in almost every fight. I’ve been cut in GLORY fights. I heal pretty quick, though, and I don’t scar too bad. I think, now with working with Jake, the goal is not to get hit as much, because I move my head more.
“For me, looking back on fights, I’ve always been real accurate with my punches. I don’t throw them just to throw them. Accuracy has always been in my head, and I think that if you watch a lot of my fights, I usually hit what I’m aiming at. Going to the body can be a little bit tougher, because, if you catch an elbow, you break your hand. At the end of the day, we think about that kind of stuff now, but, when I’m in there, I’m not going to be thinking about that stuff, or worried about it. I’m just going to look to put my punches exactly where I want them.”
For his BKFC debut, Camozzi will be facing UFC and Bellator veteran Bubba McDaniel, who is most notable as a previous contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 17. After his three-fight stint in the UFC, which ended in early 2014, McDaniel went on a 9-2 run over a four-year period, which included a 2-1 record in Bellator. However, after going on a four-knockout winning streak through Apr. 2018, McDaniel’s son was tragically killed six months later, and he hasn’t fought since. Since then, he has continued to train, but has also had a couple legal transgressions. He has not been in a pro fight in over four years. Camozzi knows that McDaniel could still be very dangerous and is not overlooking his opponent
“He’s been out a little bit, from what it looks like and what I can see,” said Camozzi. “So, I don’t really know as far as what he’s doing and where he’s training or anything. But, he’s always been a pretty tough dude, and I think it will be a good fight.”
While Camozzi is purely focused on his upcoming boxing match this Saturday night, he has definitely been focusing on that with his training. However, while Ramos is always running the show in terms of striking, he also appreciates Hordinski’s input as well. After all, the black belt has been around the fight game for a long time.
“I’ve pulled back on doing as much jiu-jitsu lately,” said Camozzi. “Steve is still my jiu-jitsu coach, and, to give him some credit, he’s still the jiu-jitsu coach at Genesis as well, and he comes to our sparring days. There are times, if we’re doing just striking, that he’ll stand outside the ring and kind of let me know what I’m doing when he sees me with one hand low or anything. He’ll always admit, ‘I’m no expert,’ but here’s what I see. And, it’s always good advice. I like having him there. And, with Jake, he’s a specialist with boxing. There are a lot of guys with real good hands at Genesis.”
As previously mentioned, Camozzi always has several irons in the fire. At 35 years old, he still has some good fight years left in him, but he’s also looking at the horizon. Along with the many ventures he takes on with his girlfriend and fitness coach Whitney Johns, he has a few other gigs going on as well.
“I’m the brand manager for a company called Koios,” Camozzi elaborated. “Basically, we make Fit Soda. We’re primarily known for Fit Soda. They’ve been a sponsor of mine for a long time, and, then, I took a job with them, which is great. I can work remotely – make my own hours – but it’s my job to build the brand, so I get to be kind of on the other side of things. I work with athlete contracts and influencers – stuff like that – where now they approach me for sponsorships. You know, with my experience on the other side for so long, I feel like it translated really well into helping me do this job.
“I also teach kickboxing at Katharo, and I do the memberships at Katharo. I have my app, Jiu-Jitsu On The Go, that Steve and I partner on. It’s not just jiu-jitsu. It’s got striking instructionals on there, and it’s an app that you can get on mobile and learn from anywhere. You can download videos, and there’s coaches from all over the world teaching on there.”
Camozzi is a busy guy, but his current fighting future starts with BKFC 31, which takes place this Saturday night, live from the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo. His fight with McDaniel will be a feature fight on the main card. He will be looking to make a big statement, and, from there, it will be time to negotiate a contract with the promotion. Regardless of the outcome, it should be a great fight.
“Whether you tune in or come out, I always put on a show here in Denver, and I think this one’s going to be pretty savage,” said Camozzi. “I’m sure he needs the money, and he’s going to come to fight. He’s going to start hard, but I’m going to have to sit him down quick. With BKFC, you can’t take a lot of damage. You can’t sit back and be as technical. It’s about as exciting as it gets.”
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