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· On The Spot ~ Mario Rinaldi

· Article author: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Posted on 12/03 at 03:41 PM

MMA Spot’s Jesse Denis recently caught up with heavyweight prospect Mario “Big Hurt” Rinaldi (11-4). Rinaldi will be co-headlining Friday’s XFC XIII event at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., where he will take on Christopher Barnett (5-1). The American Top Team product spoke to us about his grappling achievements, his training regimen, and reflected back on the early part of his career.


Denis: You are facing Christopher “Beast Boy” Barnett tonight at XFC XIII. What do you expect from your opponent?
Rinaldi: Well, he came in 13 lb. overweight. He’s been inconsistent. From what I’ve heard, it looks like he’s doing this for fun. He’s a decent athlete, who’s grown up throwing kicks and wrestling, but he’s not taking it seriously. The fact that he’s not making weight demonstrates that. He’s shown that he’s a good fighter, but I think he looked better in his earlier fights. The fact that he’s not taking the fight seriously and missing weight is kind of a slap in the face to me.

Denis: How did the training camp for this fight go? Do you do anything fight specific?
Rinaldi: I had a fight two weeks prior to this, so I’m coming out of that camp. Before that I was competing at Abu Dhabi. I try to fight year-round. I never train specifically for anyone. You know a person’s style, but you never know what they’re going to do. That’s been my thing since I started training.

Denis: How does it feel to be co-headlining XFC XIII on HD Net? Any added pressure?
Rinaldi: It’s okay, but it’s all the same to me. I don’t concern myself with being the main event. I’ve headlined shows, I’ve co-headlined. I’ve been on pay-per-views and television. It’s all the same to me, it’s still a fight. I don’t put more pressure on myself and dress it up to be more than what it is.

Denis: Talk about being a prospect in the heavyweight division. The division is generally considered a little thin, so it seems that everyone is looking for the next prospect at that weight.
Rinaldi: Basically, being a prospect is important but I don’t allow the external stimuli to affect me. I just do what I need to. I bring a lot of heart to the table, but people still haven’t seen the best of me yet. I’m very explosive and exciting. It’s just a matter of time to where people see that and I get the big call. There’s nothing more important than trying to finish guys, I’m always trying to do that.

Denis: You’re a very muscular, yet you’re still really quick on the ground. A lot of guys who put on muscle mass lose speed or flexibility on the ground. What kind of training do you do to stay so big?
Rinaldi: I do a lot of cross fit training. I don’t lift weights, to be honest. I think the type of weight training a person does determines their conditioning. I don’t do heavy weights like a body builder. I try to keep it functional and that’s what works for my muscle conditioning.

Denis: Speaking of the ground game, you’re an accomplished grappler. Tell us a little bit about some of your accomplishments.
Rinaldi: Sure, I was the 2010 FILA Submission Grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. I came in second place in 2009. I won the Abu Dhabi North American Trials in 2007, and again now in 2010. I’ve been freestyle wrestling since high school, and I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Ricardo Liborio.

I come from a strong camp where you can walk onto a mat and find 18 black belts. If your ground game isn’t good in that environment, you’re either not trying or you have a problem learning. You just can’t help but be good in this environment.

Denis: What got you into MMA? Did you decide to make the transition from grappling?
Rinaldi: I started grappling around the same time I started doing MMA. I had a high school buddy training with Din [Thomas] at ATT in Port St. Lucie. So I went to give it a try. I had just stopped wrestling and started a career. From then on, it was just something I had to do.

Denis: You mentioned Din Thomas. Most guys who start training with him say that he’s a huge motivating factor in their career and often sees things in them they didn’t even know were there. Talk about your relationship with Din.
Rinaldi: I got my start with Din. He’s the one who got me into MMA professionally. I eventually made the transition down to ATT in Coconut Creek. I hold Din in high regard since he allowed me to start training before I was even able to make a name for myself.

Denis: Let’s talk about your career thus far. Most notably you hold a victory over former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez, are you happy with your career so far?
Rinaldi: I’m not. I could have been in a much better position had I pushed myself further. Have I accomplished some things? Yes, but I can always push it further. No one has seen the best of me yet. It’s sort of to my own detriment that I hadn’t, it’s really a shame. I’m really excited about showing the world that I’m one of the best, now that I have cleared my schedule and sorted out the personal issues in my life.

Denis: You just said that you “cleared out your schedule.” Can you expand on that bit?
Rinaldi: I was teaching. I’m stepping away from it now. I was teaching wrestling and submission grappling. Then eventually I started teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a gi and MMA classes. Sometimes you get into the habit and start to think that training with students is training. You start to skate by. I’ve accomplished a lot skating by. Now I’m excited because I can focus on myself, which is something I haven’t done since my career started.

Denis: Are there any guys out there that you want to fight?
Rinaldi: I’m interested in any fight as long as the money is right. Another thing to my detriment is that I’ve never not taken a fight. Sometimes I’ve taken fights at the wrong time or wrong stage of my career. I just want to prove that I’m one of the best. As long as it’s a fair purse, I’ll take the fight.

Denis: Well, on the other side of your career, are there any rematches you’re looking for?
Rinaldi: There are two. The first is D.J. Linderman. I didn’t train, I had personal issues, marital issues, and a lot of different things keeping me unfocused. I’ve even offered to fight him for free. I was killing him for the first two rounds. He didn’t even punch me. … but I didn’t put him away, like I should have, and he finished me in the third.

The second is Dave Herman. You know promoters! Gary Shaw told me he wasn’t that good, so I didn’t take him seriously. I feel that fight gives a horrible impression of me as a fighter, that wasn’t me. I really want to get that fight back.

They both boil down to a lack of a focus. I’d taken a couple of big hits in my life, in my marriage, for both. I really want those fights back. I want to clear them off my record and neutralize them.

Denis: You just spoke about your time with Elite XC. Were you still with the company when it failed? Talk about that experience a bit.
Yes, I was still with Elite XC when they went under. Some guys got picked up, some got cut. They just let me go, I only had one fight. I don’t know what happened with that. They cut a lot of the up-and-comers loose. I’ve been with two failing organizations. I was with Bodog, they went up too. It’s like losing a job. We train year round to win fights. When you’re with an organization it relieves a lot of pressure, you know where your next fight is coming from, and when it’s going to be. It’s always a stressful situation, but it just puts you back at the drawing board.

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