One of the reasons Maximum Fighting Championship is the second longest running promotion in MMA today is because they continually put on fights like the co-main event for MFC 39: No Remorse. The Tom Gallicchio and Kurt Southern fight to determine who will the new MFC lightweight champion is the early favorite for fight of the night. It matches up two talented, tough well-rounded fighters with twenty-one finishes between them. One half of this marquee matchup Tom Gallicchio, was kind enough to take a little time out of his busy schedule to talk about his first fight at lightweight, fighting for the MFC title, and his fight against painkillers after a devastating knee injury. He is now the best fighter he has ever been and is poised to bring the MFC lightweight belt back home to Team Quest.
Tom’s trouble with painkillers began as it does for so many athletes with an injury. In his case it was to his knee. “I check a bad kick in practice and it wasn’t hard. It didn’t have bad intentions but I tore my meniscus, my MCL. Basically I had to fly back to Jersey to get surgery. The doctors here weren’t cutting it, and I wasn’t able to work with the surgery. So, I really have to go back to Jersey and live at home. I comeback with my tail between my legs and all that…not on my terms. It sucks being injured you really start to hate yourself.”
There are several things that happen to an athlete when they are injured and cannot train. One the effects of exercise is it releases endorphins in the body. Their effect has been compared to morphine without the physical addiction. It is what produces the “runner’s high” and while you do not become physically addicted to it you do miss that feeling when it is gone. For a professional athlete so much of them is tied to their physicality and the frustration of not being able to move is unbearable for them.
“Especially being on that couch you really hate yourself. You want to climb back up and there is nothing you can do about it. And it sucks. I found myself getting depressed at times not thinking rational, wanting to kill myself. It just sucked. I hated life. I hated who I was. I hated myself and the situation I was in…I tried not taking the painkillers. It was just too much pain, and I had to take them to just deal and not be in pain. To be able to move and not scream…Towards the end I was just taking a little more than I should’ve, and then at the end I started to not need them, but I was still taking them to get that feeling. Then my prescription was up and I wanted more. I then told myself I wasn’t going to do it.”
When a fighter steps in the ring to fight it is just him or her alone, but it is their team that helps get them ready for that moment. The fight is their’s but it is easier with a strong team at your back, covering it and pulling for you. Fortunately for Tom even though he was thousands of miles away he was still a part of Team Quest. He was the one who stopped taking the painkillers and started training again but he had a lot help from teammate Sam Alvey and the rest of Team Quest.
“Sam wasn’t around when I was going through it but he would call me and check on me every couple of months and staying on me…Then Sam flew me out to corner him for a fight because he was facing a grappler. I helped him warm up and seeing him again, seeing everybody again. His staying on me really pushed me back, ‘I’ve got a place, I’ve got your room saved get out here.’ Then before I could even think about it I just booked the flight. I saved up my money, got my war-chest saved up and booked the my flight without asking or telling anybody so nobody could talk me out of it…It was a tough road getting back. I wasn’t the same person I used to be for a long time. The not training, forgetting all of my moves. Having to use my new knee, relearning everything…It was the coaches and everybody being positive that brought me to where I’m at, and right now I’m the best fighter I’ve ever been.”
That support helps him deal with an extremely busy schedule. Tom has to fit his training in around a full-time work schedule bar tending up to six shifts a week at a local casino.
“I hate the 6 a.m. conditioning workouts but I’ve got to get it in before work. So sometimes I have to get up at 5am. I just lack sleep sometimes…I make every practice count. When I make extra money I put it into private coaching sessions with coaches who are watching me personalizing my practices so I am more technical. My team also works with me. Dan (Henderson) lets me open the gym if need to. They have been really great about helping me. Everybody is very close-knit. It’s a nice family atmosphere. Everybody is cool with each other and everybody gets along…We have no poisons on the team no one holds us back…Our head MMA coach Brian Harper mentioned that this is the best Team Quest we’ve had.”
They might not have the big flashy name like a Jason “Mayehm” Miller right now but they have a group of hardworking fighters that are on the verge of making some noise in the MMA world. Tarec Safferdine is a win or two away from challenging for the UFC welterweight title. Michelle Ould will soon be making her debut with Invicta FC and is also a big win or two away from challenging for their flyweight belt, and Sam Alvey is the current MFC middleweight champion. Tom would like nothing more than to join him as another Team Quest MFC champion.
“This is a big opportunity. This is my calling. It has been a great camp. I am grateful that Mark Pavelich has given me this opportunity with ample time, something I’ve never had before now. It has been great. I’ve had about 8 to 10 weeks to prepare and I’ve done everything right. I’m ready to hit my full potential. If I lose there are no excuses because everything has gone so well…I am mentally more mature. I try not to fight with emotion and just try to let it flow and don’t let emotion cloud my judgement. Try to be like water, I don’t know what that means but Bruce Lee said it so it must be good.”
While he looks to avoid the negative emotional side of MMA he still is passionate about the sport. “I just love it because it brings out the most in you. The challenge, competing, once that bell rings you really bring the out the most in yourself as you push through your adversity…I hate those dark butterflies, but if they are not there it hurts you.”
Team Quest is led by the legendary Dan Henderson who sets the tone for the team and gives them what they need to succeed at the highest levels of the sport. “Dan is a hard worker and he fills the room with good coaches. We’ve got a good grappling coach Ricardo “Pantcho” Feliciano, a checkmat second degree black belt, one of the best striking coaches in the world Daniel Woirin, Anderson Silva’s old Thai coach. A great wrestling coach Ian Millan. Dan covered all the bases.”
When you talk with Tom his sense of fun comes through and it is something he shares with his teammates. “Having fun is a part of my personality and why I fit in with Team Quest.” It is also something that leads to, “Two grown ass men…on one yellow moped with a leopard seat.” This was the result of Sam Alvey letting Tom borrow his car while he was shooting TUF. Here is Tom’s version, “Sam had a car and it caught on fire when I was driving it. To this day I think it was the car’s fault…I remember living in fear of when he would come back from TUF and his car is destroyed. So, then we just had to drive around on my moped. He would have his TUF attire on in back and I would be wearing a suit for work. We got a lot of honks and waves. Pound for pound we were the toughest vehicle on the road.” There is no doubting that statement or the toughness of either fighter.
Sam as MFC champion always brings it, and Tom has been fighting and succeeding at welterweight before this move to lightweight. He was a small welterweight, was always the smaller guy in the fight and has been very successful. This will be his first fight at lightweight and he is ready. “I’m the lightest I’ve ever been and I’m feeling awesome.” This is also his first fight for MFC and sometimes that can be a problem for a fighter. The MFC does not use a cage. Instead their fights go down in a ring. There are many differences in fighting in a cage versus a ring and it alters your approach, and what you can and cannot do in the fight. This sometimes throws fighters, but it will not affect Tom as he has extensive experience from his M-1 days fighting inside a ring. “I love the ring…I’ve had more wins in the ring than Kurt Southern…I like the ring better than the cage. I love the ring. I just know how to work it” This will help him as grapplers often struggle adjusting to the ring from the cage. That is not something you want to do against a fighter like Southern.
Tom’s readiness for the ring is one of the reasons why many people are calling for his fight with Southern to be FOTN. They both are versatile, well-rounded, tough to finish and come to fight. It is exactly the kind of title fight you expect to see from MFC. One of them will walk out as the new MFC lightweight champion. It would make quite a statement for Tom to do it in his first fight at lightweight. After the challenges and adversity he has faced outside of the ring, he is ready for whatever happens on Friday night in the co-main event at MFC 39. Here in the States you will find it on AXS TV. You will not want to miss this fight.
He is ready for this fight due to the hardwork he has put in with the help of Team Quest, and teammates like Sam Alvey and Michelle Ould. “Michelle is my roommate. She took me in and helped me. I owe her a lot. She really helped me out. We help each other out. We just function really well. She’s a cool chick…I just want to thank my coaches, teammates Sam Alvey, Michelle Ould, Jesse Taylor, Virgil Zwicker, Fernando Gonzales, Emanuel Newton, Ian Millan, Tim Quiroga, Mehdi Bagdad and everybody who has stepped up to sponsor me; Mighty Young’s Appliances, E-Street Bagel, Crystal Glass, Allied Foot and Ankle, Dedicated Tattoos, Down 2 Scrap and How2fightnow.com. You can and should follow Tom on Twitter @TomGallicchio.
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