After a breakout year in 2008, lightweight contender Kurt Pellegrino got 2009 off to a good start Saturday night with a second round submission win over Rob Emerson in UFC Fight Night Live.
Both fighters focused on their standup early, with Pellegrino moving and landing well with martial arts kickboxing on the heavy-handed Emerson. Midway through the round, Pellegrino tried to put the fight on the mat, but he was instead taken down by Emerson. While there, Pellegrino locked his foe up from the bottom and got back to his feet to resume his standup attack. Surprisingly, Emerson scored another takedown by the end of the round, turning the tables on the wrestler, jiu-jitsu, and karate kickboxing black belt.
Emerson opened the second behind the jab, and a hard kick to the head got Pellegrino’s attention at the one minute mark. Pellegrino looked to be getting frustrated by Emerson, and looked for the takedown. With two minutes gone, he got it, slamming Emerson to the mat. While on the mat, Pellegrino took over, eventually taking his foe’s back and sinking in a rear naked choke that produced a tap out at the 3:14 mark of round two.
With the win, Pellegrino improves to 19-4; Emerson falls to 10-7 with 1 NC.
Don’t miss this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night Live on Spike TV, and cheer on Premier Martial Art trainer Kurt Pelligrino as he faces off against Rob Emerson. Read this story off the UFC Website:
Kurt Pellegrino – Remember The Name
By Thomas Gerbasi
I didn’t say it. The words came straight from Kurt Pellegrino’s mouth.
“I’m absolutely miserable.”
He laughs after describing himself in the days and weeks leading up to a fight. In this case, he’s getting ready for a Saturday showdown in Tampa against Rob Emerson, and Pellegrino’s chomping at the bit to get into the Octagon and build off his stirring win over Thiago Tavares last September. Now enters the ‘miserable’ part.
“I’ve trained as hard as I could for two months, I’ve put my family through hell, I’ve put my body through excruciating pain, I didn’t go to my six year old niece’s birthday party, I didn’t go out on Christmas or New Year’s Eve, I didn’t drink, I didn’t have fun, I don’t talk to my friends, I won’t answer my phone,” he explains. “When I come and fight, I’m there to get 15 minutes out.”
15 minutes. It may come as a shock to us civilians who would hope that the sooner you get out of the Octagon the better, but for fighters like Pellegrino, an intense training camp full of pain, sweat, and sacrifice can only truly be sedated by a 15 minute fight that lets him display everything he’s been working on for the previous two months at Premier Martial Arts Austin.
That was the case against Tavares, where Pellegrino came out blazing in the first round and almost stopped the Brazilian Martial Arts Kickboxing, only to get caught up in a dogfight for the next two rounds. At the end of the fight, there was no question who the winner was or that the bout was the UFC 88 Fight of The Night, and it was exactly the type of fight Pellegrino wanted in his first bout since moving back to Point Pleasant, New Jersey. And given the return home, he also got the reaction he was looking for from his father.
“I can’t believe you let him take you down,” said the elder Pellegrino.
“That’s New Jersey. And that’s what it’s about – it’s about being tough. I had to beat guys by a certain amount of points (in wrestling) or my dad wouldn’t think I was tough. And me and my dad have one of the best relationships ever right now, but he always tells me before I leave ‘Kurt, wrestle smart.’ I have to tell him ‘Dad, I’m not wrestling, I’m fighting.’ But it’s back to normal again, I’m back to being that tough New Jersey wrestler, and I love it. I have the fighting mentality in New Jersey.”
That mentality extends to his training camp, which includes boxing trainers Mickey ‘Red’ Skowronski and Nettles Nasser, strength and conditioning coaches Kevin Kearns and Sharon Wentworth, and fellow MMA standouts Kenny Florian and Miguel Torres. And while the days are long, Pellegrino wouldn’t trade them for anything.
“It’s all worth it,” he said. “If I lose, I don’t want to say to myself ‘did I do everything I possibly could have done?’ I was a two-time Jersey state finalist, and after every time I lost in the state finals, to this day, I’m 29 years old and this was over ten years ago, I wake up and say, ‘did I do everything I could to win? I lost by a point; did I get ripped off? Did I work hard enough? Should I have cut to another weight class?’ Now, when I fought Thiago I wasn’t able to work out at night because I was too exhausted from working with Kevin Kearns on new programs and working out with Mickey Red. Now, I’m so used to it, I work out when I would never work out before.”
He’s also continued the evolution of his style, one that saw him go from strictly a grappler, to a fighter with some dangerous hands that isn’t afraid to use them. The result has been a fighter that is quickly growing an enviable fanbase among MMA aficionados. But it wasn’t always that way for the 29-year old at his kickboxing school.
“I never stood up with anyone ever,” said Pellegrino of his early days. “I took them down and grounded and pounded. My nickname was ‘Decision Dave.’”
But in his UFC debut against Drew Fickett at UFC 61 in 2006, Pellegrino took a chance he had never taken before.
“In that fight, I don’t know what happened, but I just stood up,” he said. “And ever since I did that, I was like ‘wow, that was fun.’”
Fun for him and fun for the fans. After two submission wins over Junior Assuncao and Nate Mohr and a hard fought decision loss to Joe Stevenson , Pellegrino got a hole put in his lip by a kick from Alberto Crane, but roared back to stop his foe in the second round. An April 2008 loss to Nate Diaz was just as exciting, and he capped off his run with the win over Tavares. Now when he steps into the Octagon against the hard-hitting Emerson, he’s expected to perform an encore.
No worries, says Pellegrino.
“I really don’t pay attention to that,” he said. “I’m going out there to fight. I’m an east coast wrestler and I was the best – look at my New Jersey state record. But I don’t wrestle, I fight. And Rob Emerson doesn’t have to worry about my wrestling; I’m going in there to fight. I don’t want to
take him down. I wouldn’t want to take down a Muay Thai fighter. The UFC pays us to be mixed martial artists. I’m not gonna have the crowd boo me, fall asleep, and say ‘this kid sucks.’ I got fight of the night two times and submission of the night because I go out there and fight.”
“If I see a takedown, I’m gonna take him down, but I’m not going in there thinking ‘oh my God, I’ve got to take this guy down, I’ve got to submit him and get out of there.’ No, I don’t mind punching. I’ve been wrestling my whole life and I was always a tough kid, and now they taught someone who has a good chin and a hard head how to punch, so I say ‘let’s rock and roll.’”
It’s hard not to like Kurt Pellegrino, in or out of the Octagon, due to the fact that in a world full of talkers, he delivers, win or lose. But don’t mention losing to the Garden State standout. It’s something he can’t spend one moment thinking about.
“There’s pressure from me to win,” he said. “I owe it to my family and I owe it to me. I’m 29 years old – I don’t want to lose to Rob Emerson and start back over again. I don’t want to fight on the undercard. I’m tired of it. I’m Kurt Pellegrino, and people are gonna remember my name.”
The main event for the upcoming UFC Fight Night 17 in Tampa, Fla., just lost one of its participants as main eventer Hermes Franca has been forced out of his match-up against Joe Lauzon due to what is believed to be a torn ACL. The injury was confirmed by sources close to the fight on Monday night.
Franca was stepping into the bout against Lauzon after a win over Marcus Aurelio in October of 2008. His next fight will now be at a later date following the knee injury.
With the injury to Franca, the UFC will now seek out a new participant to face Lauzon on just under two weeks notice. A number of lightweights are already on the UFC Fight Night 17 card, Mac Danzig, Josh Neer, and Kurt Pellegrino among them. Kurt Pellegrino, like Franca, is a Premier Martial Arts trainer and fighter.
With the Feb. 7 date of the event quickly approaching, Matchmaker Joe Silva will likely burn up the phone lines to find a qualified candidate to fill the slot as soon as possible.
Joe Lauzon was returning to action after a win in his last fight against Kyle Bradley at UFC Fight Night 15 in September. The Massachusetts native has been working at his gym alongside his brother Dan, who competed and won at the Affliction card over the weekend.