It’s been a long time coming, but Michael Imperato is back to defend his strap.
Toronto’s Imperato (7-3) will defend is XFFC bantamweight title against Kelowna’s Blake Sigvaldason (2-1) on Friday night at XFFC 21 in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Imperato, 29, said while he hasn’t officially lost his title, he feels like he has to prove himself again in order to be considered the champion.
“I’ve lost two fights, since winning the title, in different organizations, so in my eyes I’m coming off two losses. I don’t feel like a champ. A champ should be able to win world-wide and that’s it,” said Imperato.
“But Darren Cliffe chose not to strip me of the title and I respect that. I’m going to show up like champ, defend it like a champ, and take it from there.”
Imperato said he was able to get a look at Sigvaldason’s last fight against Daryl St. Rose at XFFC 20 and said he wasn’t impressed.
But despite not being tantalized by what Sigvaldason brings to the table, Imperato said he’s going to treat him as the best opponent he’s faced to date.
“I’ve been around world-class guys and I don’t think he’s world-class,” said Imperato.
“He’s definitely a challenge, he’s definitely tough, and anything can happen because it’s a fight. I’m going in there with the mindset he’s the best guy in the world, however, watching his last match, I wasn’t too impressed.”
Throughout his career, Imperato has been known for his elite jiu-jitsu, with six of his seven wins coming by submission.
While he believes his jiu-jitsu is his strongest area, Imperato said he considers himself a well-rounded fighter, and doesn’t believe there’s anywhere Sigvaldason has the advantage.
“My jiu-jitsu’s definitely at a different level than any other Canadian at my weight, and even world-wide I think I have very high-level jiu-jitsu,” said Imperato.
“I’m comfortable everywhere. I’ve never been dropped, I’ve never been rocked, so for a striker I’m hard to stop. And on the ground, good luck.”
For the majority of fighters at the professional level, they’re working towards making fighting their full-time job, or rely on fighting for a portion of their income.
But for Imperato, he said he continues to compete simply because it’s his passion.
“I think I’m a different guy than a lot of people. I do this because I love it. I don’t do it for any other reason,” said Imperato.
“I don’t do it for the fame, I don’t do it to be cool, I don’t do it because it’s a trend or a fad. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I started competing and fell in love with winning. I’ve just kept pushing myself, and all I want to do is win.”
“I’d definitely like to thank Sam Zakula. He was my one and only coach and I owe everything to him. I’d also like to thank Loki Lounge for covering my travel for this fight, The Gambit Barbershop for helping me out with sponsorship, Xtreme Couture for giving me a place to train, Chris Xeureb at X Performance and Wellness for helping me out with a few injuries I had a few months ago, Jason Greco and Paolo Kekezovic for helping me with training and motivating me, and finally my wife for all the sacrifices she goes through to see me accomplish my dreams.”