Back in 2014, Michael Imperato was 7-1, riding a four-fight win streak and destined for the big stage. Now, he feels he has the chance to achieve that same feat again.
Imperato (9-4) takes on Eric Wilson (7-10) for the vacant Tarps Off Fight Club featherweight belt at the promotion’s inaugural event, Tarps Off Fight Club 1. This goes down on Saturday night at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont.
With the desired outcome being fulfilled this weekend, Imperato would have a three-fight winning streak and a shiny, new championship belt.
In his estimation, a win would equal returning to the earlier career period of momentum where he was 7-1 overall and had just bested Jesse Arnett to capture the XFFC bantamweight title. This is especially impressive with the trials and tribulations of rebounding from a three-fight losing skid, one in which he lost his XFFC title, to be in the position he is in now.
“A lot of things happened and I was in a real low spot. I came back and I said I wanted just to fight one more time, almost like I would retire. And that was just to show that I beat the sport and the sport didn’t beat me. But then I wanted to fight again. I did and then I won. Now it’s like alright, if I win again we’re back in the picture for the UFC,” said Imperato in an interview with MMA Empire.
“The belt is always great to have. This one, I was told Eric couldn’t make 35, so they wanted to do it at 45. But to me I’m not a featherweight, I’m a 35er. I make 35 really easy. The weight has never been hard for me. I enjoy making weight and feel like I’m a better fighter at that weight. I’m world class at that weight. The belt is great, but I’m not going to be a champion at 45. I’ll collect it and I’ll hang it up on my Christmas tree for Christmas or whatever. Great picture, add it to the collection. It’s more about getting the win, erase those three losses and continue from there.”
Imperato hasn’t shied away from tough fights in his career, having shared the cage with opponents such as Jesse Arnett, Xavier Alaoui and Julio Arce.
Imperato said Wilson’s main tools and main stylistic proclivities showcase a confluence of individual focus on technique refinement but also knows what his opponent’s resume overall represents.
“I don’t really watch much on anybody, any of my opponents. I just fight whoever, wherever, whenever. My game is kind of structured to fight anybody. It’s just a mental adjustment I’ve got to make in my head. My whole life I’ve had last-minute replacements or cancellations, so I’ve always trained that way. I don’t train for anyone, I just train to fight. I think Eric has been around for a long time,” said Imperato.
“His record isn’t great, but that doesn’t take anything away from him because I think he’s really talented. I don’t think he’s been finished, or maybe once, but a lot of his fights go the distance and he’s had a lot of championship fights, a lot of five-round fights where I haven’t. There’s a lot of ups and downs, but him directly, I think he brings it. He pushes it, he’s down to throw down, he’s down to grapple. Definitely a tough guy to finish, so it’s going to be an interesting fight for sure.”
Having the opportunity to compete in Ontario, and Canada on a broader scale, is always an enjoyable experience for Imperato.
He said the familiarity is there with the Niagara region on a visitor level, but he’ll soon finally be able to say he has competed there in MMA too.
“I mean, I’ve only been lucky enough to fight twice in Ontario, one being Slammer in the Hammer, which was great. It was only 45 minutes to an hour drive to my house, so to me that’s home. Then recently Prospect Fighting (Championships) in Toronto, which again half-hour opposite direction of downtown Toronto. But again close, that’s home,” said Imperato.
“Niagara, for me, it’s around the corner. I used to go a lot out there. I like the casino out there. A lot of good places to train. I have a lot of family and friends coming out. For me, it’s home. Anywhere Ontario is home. Even traveling to Montreal and Ottawa when I fought there, 14-hour drive. That was kind of home as well. When you start fighting in the States, certain people can’t come. Car rentals, buses, and shuttles start dragging on you.”