Last ditch replacement or not, hats off to Chris Camozzi


For a while there, it was beginning to feel like balance had been restored to the UFC universe and that the calamities of 2014 were behind us. As the first 11 events of the new year went ahead with only minor calibrations, it seemed as though the injury hex was lifted.

Such wide-eyed hubris apparently angered the fighting gods, and they vented their displeasure by decimating UFC 186 beyond all previous recognition. Aim was then taken at UFC on Fox 15, or more specifically Yoel Romero’s knee. And, with just eight days to go, the co-main event middleweight showdown between he and Jacare Souza was in tatters.

With Luke Rockhold and Lyoto Machida closing out the show at the Prudential Centre, in Newark, New Jersey, and Romero and Souza the penultimate act, Saturday night was, superficially at least, resembling a four-man tourney to establish the next No. 1 contender at 185lbs.

With that no longer a possibility and the day of reckoning fast-approaching, the UFC would have been forgiven for paying Souza his show money and win bonus, and possibly bumping up Patrick Cummins and Ovince St Preux from the preliminary card.

Instead they went a different way. Now, as Luke Thomas from recently pointed out, there are seasoned fighters in the middleweight division that would balk at facing Jacare on six years notice, let alone six days.

It’s a valid point. As his moniker suggests-Jacare is the Portuguese word for Caiman or Alligator-the Brazilian is an apex predator. A remorseless, suffocating grappling Phenom, who just so happens to hit like a sledgehammer. Arguably the most imposing man on the roster; even when smiling he oozes menace.

So, while those middleweights actually contracted to Zuffa were apparently indulging in extra-curricular activities, Chris Camozzi got online, offered his services and Joe Silva made it happen.

Of course, those perpetually disgruntled trolls of MMA fandom had their gripe. Even if it was somewhat justified given the fact Souza submitted Camozzi in less than a round in his promotional debut at UFC on Fox 8 in May 2013. However, as is their wont, the keyboard warriors allowed myopia to cloud the overall narrative.

Saturday’s bout, in which Camozzi is at best a heavy underdog, will herald his third stint with the UFC. This opportunity is exactly the lucky of turn of events which have been conspicuously lacking in the 28-year-old’s decade long professional career.

After winning his fight to enter the house on TUF 11, he was immediately forced to withdraw due a broken jaw sustained in the bout. He then won his first two bouts with promotion before being released after a solitary loss at the hands of Kyle Noke in February 2011.

A little over six months later he was back; losing his return bout to Francis Carmont, before going on four-fight streak which was abruptly ended by Souza. Incidentally, that bout also arose on extremely short notice for Camozzi. Three painfully-close losses would follow and he was duly pink-slipped late last year.

In the interim, he’s put together two wins with Prize FC and, fortuitously, was near fighting weight when Joe Silva’s text came through.

In reality, Camozzi’s chances of capping off this whirlwind week with what would be deemed a ludicrous upset, are somewhere between miniscule and stupidly-improbable.

Yet, the contract he just penned with his sometimes employers, is just reward for a man that had every right to throw in the towel long ago.

Fighters, often for the sake of preserving their own sense of self, are at pains to proclaim they will face anyone, anytime, anywhere. At this stage, it sounds trite, and is untrue in many cases.

Which is why for Camozzi to once more volunteer his modestly-priced services – with less than a week’s preparation- for among the most unenviable of tasks in combat sports is both refreshing and admirable. Kudos, Chris, kudos.

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