Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) returns to UFC Fight Pass on Wednesday night, and in the main event the vacant flyweight title will be on the line.
Montreal’s Tristar MMA product, and former Canadian national wrestler, James Mancini (6-4) enters the cage opposite New Jersey’s rising star, Santo Curatolo (4-0), both in search of their first professional title.
Mancini, 35, is more than aware of his opponent’s speed and said he’s not going to let Curatolo’s early success affect his mindset when they go to war on Wednesday night.
“Nobody can say they’ve really been in there until they’ve battled adversity and been put through three rounds of war,” Mancini said in an interview with MMA Empire
“And if you haven’t been in that situation, I’m not really intimidated by any first round finishes. For sure I’m ready for fireworks early on, and that’s no problem for me because I’m always ready to go.”
Curatolo fast and confident
Undefeated in his first four professional fights, with all wins coming by finish in the first round, Curatolo, 25, has started to make quite the name for himself.
With blazing speed and crisp combos, Curatolo tends to overwhelm his opponents, and he said he doesn’t consider that quickness to be his greatest asset, however.
“I never realized how fast I am, everybody keeps telling me that.” Curatolo said in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I guess I’m faster than I realize, but I think the number one thing that separates me is my mindset. I’m confident, of course, but I try to keep myself humble. I’m always looking to absorb more knowledge and look at the game like I’m a white belt. A lot of these fighters think they’re the best in the world already.”
Over the last few years, Mancini, an accomplished wrestler, has focused on rounding out his fight game.
He said he has no issues keeping the fight standing up, and isn’t bothered by being on his back, knowing he can finish a fight anywhere.
“Obviously, people are going to pinpoint what my strengths are and what my past fights have looked like. I don’t mind that; I’m a complete martial artist now,” Mancini said.
“If anybody wants to sleep on my striking, I have no problem with that. I invite anybody to try and beat me however they think they can.”
Confidence is key in the fight game, and Curatolo said he has plenty of it heading into fight night.
Curatolo knows he’s put in the work and isn’t the least bit worried about the threat Mancini may pose on the mat, and in the grappling department.
“I test my wrestling on a daily basis. I train with really good wrestlers and I know how good my wrestling is,” Curatolo said.
“I’ve wrestled with some of the best wrestlers in the UFC at my weight class, and above my weight class. Not only do I hold my own, but I get my fair share in too. I don’t think James Mancini is a better wrestler than me at all. I do think he’s great, but I don’t think he’s better than me. I think it’s going to be more of a test for him, to be honest.”
Mancini more than just a wrestler
Whether on the mat or on the feet, it’s guaranteed to be a fast-paced, action-packed fight.
Despite all the talk about wrestling, Mancini said don’t expect him to come out simply shooting for the legs, as he’s come a long way in developing the other aspects of his game.
“I had a lot of submission losses at 135 pounds, and the bulk of it was just because I was training like a wrestler. If I missed a striking class or two, it didn’t bother me as much. I wasn’t focused on my jiu-jitsu and I wasn’t focused on getting in the positions required in MMA specifically,” Mancini said.
“I know a lot of people say they’ve fixed their problems, but I really think you’re going to see Boom Boom 2.0 going forward because now I work specifically for MMA, and I’m still able to keep my high-level wrestling.”
Although the coronavirus pandemic has ensured there will be no crowd in attendance during the coronation, Curatolo, who looks to feed off his usually large fan base, will find that energy and motivation elsewhere.
“It definitely has changed it for me. I draw a lot of my energy from the crowd and I feed off those people. Now that they’re not there, I had to take a little bit of a different approach. So, this fight I’ve really just made it personal in my head,” Curatolo said.
“I never really make my fights personal, but this fight I genuinely want to make my opponent bleed. I want to hurt James, and that’s where I’m going to get my energy from. I had to make it personal. At the end of the day when the fight is over, I’m going to shake the guy’s hand and give him a hug. It really is just business, but I have to put in my head that it’s personal and he’s trying to take everything I’ve worked for. And I genuinely, for the first time ever, want to hurt my opponent. I want to get him out of there.”
“I’d like to thank everyone at Tristar MMA, and my sponsors (Dominion T-shirts, BTC Productions).” Follow Mancini on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM
“I’d just like to thank my mom and dad, my grandparents, teammates and coaches at Nick Catone MMA, all my family, friends, fans, and my main training partner, Paul Capaldo.” Follow Curatolo on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM