By Mike WhitmanJun 2, 2012
Mike Chiesa may be a winner, but that doesn’t mean he is satisfied.
The newly-crowned “Ultimate Fighter” earned his UFC contract Friday night at the reality show’s Season 15 finale, choking out fellow finalist Al Iaquintain the co-main event at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. His first-round submission of Iaquinta now official, “Maverick” says he has much more to accomplish in the Octagon.
“I’m happy I won the show, but within a half hour, I already had my next goals lined up. I’m ready to go to the UFC,” said Chiesa at the post-fight press conference. “I want to become a contender. Now that I’ve got the glass [‘TUF 15’ trophy], I’m on to my next goal, and that is to start winning fights in the UFC.”
Chiesa suffered a serious emotional setback during his time on the reality series when his father passed away shortly after he gained entry into the ‘TUF’ house. Chiesa’s path to the finals was not a smooth one, as the Washingtonian looked to be all but eliminated at points during his quarter- and semifinal bouts before overcomingJustin Lawrence and James Vick to earn his spot opposite Iaquinta at Friday night’s finale.
“Everybody who watched the season, they know what I was going through,” said Chiesa. “Everyday, I had to just pull myself up and push through and keep fighting. I know I’m not the most technical guy, but just like Martin [Kampmann], you can’t count me out in a fight. I’ll stay in there and find a way to win.”
Chiesa admitted during his post-fight interview that he felt Iaquinta held a mental advantage over him prior to their contest. Mental edge or no, Iaquinta could not prevent his bearded foe from taking his back midway through the first round, as Chiesa dragged the New Yorker to the canvas and sunk in both his hooks.
“I had a couple of rough sparring sessions with [Iaquinta] this season. He is a very tough guy and very well-rounded. I saw no holes in his game, and I thought this thing was going to go three rounds and be a war. Fortunately, things went in my favor,” said Chiesa. “I was just ready to move and react. I kind of had a feeling he was going to try to take me down at some point. I will have to go back and look at the fight. I don’t remember too much of it, but I’m pleased with the outcome.”
Season 15 of the reality show marked the first time “TUF” had gone live from week-to-week, meaning that as the season wound down, fighters were required to compete more frequently. As a result, Chiesa fought thrice in a four week span, while Iaquinta competed in three consecutive weeks to conclude the season. Though the experience undoubtedly proved taxing for both men, Chiesa says that he knew what was in store when he joined the show.
“The guys who first struck dirt in this sport would fight three or four times in a night. We all knew what we signed up for. That’s the price you pay, but you have to trust in your skills and trust your body,” said Chiesa. “We were a little beat up, so you just want to rest your body and maintain your cardio. There’s not a lot you can do in a week as far as improving your performance and coming up with a game plan.”
The 13-week season now behind him, Chiesa says he plans to take some time off to let his body recover from the rigors of competing on the show. Though he did not make any demands in regard to his sophomore UFC appearance, Chiesa did state that the UFC’s upcoming trip to Nottingham, England, had caught his eye.
“I’m definitely going to take a little time off. I can tell my body needs a little break,” said Chiesa. “I wouldn’t say no to fighting on the [Sept. 29] card in Nottingham with [cast mate] Andy Ogle, but that’s up to the UFC.”