December 22nd 2016
Name – Nikolai Gionti
Weight – 125 Pounds
Pro Record – 0 WINS 0 Losses
Team – Griffonrawl MMA
Where are you from and how long have you been training in Mixed Martial Arts ?
I’m from Willoughby, Ohio and have been training for the last five years.
How did you get into MMA ?
I was a journalism major in college at Ohio University and started covering local MMA events. I had always wanted to try the sport, but never got into it. Through interviewing fighters, I became close with a fighter, Eric Gifford. He basically helped give me the start and guidance I needed to begin this journey.
Tell us about your nickname and how you got it ?
I don’t have a nickname I know a couple have been pitched, but for right now I’m just Nikolai Gionti.
What was the defining moment for you when you knew you wanted to be a fighter ?
I think the defining moment for me was as I was graduating college. I had won a couple grappling tournaments and had to decide whether to pursue my major or my dream. I graduated school, but decided to focus on fighting instead.
When you decided to pursue MMA as a career what was the reaction of family and friends where they supportive ?
My family and friends have been great. They’re probably the biggest support system I have.
What is your current record ?
I’m currently 0-0 professionally, but finished my amateur MMA career 6-0.
What is your favorite strike , submission, or combination to use in a fight
My favorite submission is definitely a d’arce choke.
Who has been your biggest inspiration ?
My family is my biggest inspiration. The way they’ve supported me through everything has been huge.
What team do you train with ?
I train out of Griffonrawl MMA with UFC vets Jason Dent, Donny Walker and a bunch of other killers, but have currently taken the month to train down at Jackson Wink in Albuquerque.
When you step in the cage where do you like the fight to take place do you like to keep it standing or take it to the ground ?
I’ll go either way. I started mostly working submissions, but have spent the past year or so getting more comfortable in my stand up game.
What does being a fighter mean to you ?
To me being a fighter is like being any other athlete. Sure, what we do is different, but to me it’s about testing my skills against another opponent.
What weight do you fight at and what separates you from the rest of your division ?
I fight at 125 and think what separates me is my work ethic and attention to detail. I’m not a freak athlete, but I’ll be damned if anyone is going to outwork or out technique me.
If you could have one dream fight who would it be against and why ?
I think everyone wants to fight the best, so the ultimate dream fight and goal is to fight Mighty Mouse when I make it to that level.
Out of your 6 amateur fights who was your toughest opponent ?
My toughest opponent was Joe Riley when I fought at 135. He was a natural bantamweight and I just had to skip breakfast to get down to 135.
What is your mindset going into fight night ?
My mindset going into the fight is all over the place. I’m normally pretty nervous a couple of hours before and suffer with some anxiety, but when I hear my walkout (Possum Kingdom by the Toadies) everything changes to focus on the task at hand. No emotion just focus.
Who are you fighting next ?
I don’t have an opponent scheduled yet, but am hopeful for one January 28 at RFO. It will be my professional debut.
What do you want people to remember you for at the end of your career ?
I just want to be remembered as a fighter that people could be proud to get behind. Someone that didn’t leave anything on the table and gave it his all when fighting.
What is your favorite quote or motto ?
My favorite quote was when I was at Alpha Male training. Urijah said, “whether you want to be UFC champ or have one fight, train like you want to be the best because you know your opponent is.” The other quote is “you gotta step out of your comfort zone. Be broke for a while. Lose some friends. Have some sleepless nights. Most people don’t get it though.”
What has been your biggest accomplishment in MMA so far ?
My most memorable accomplishment is probably the two amateur titles. I viewed it as another fight, but I’m proud because it’s a validation of all the work Jason and all the other coaches put in with me as well as the quality of our gym.
What drives or motivates you to step in the cage and compete ?
My family because of how supportive they’ve been through everything. My dad understands the sacrifices I have to make and my brother has been here every step of the way to help. It’s only strengthened our bond.
Who do you think has had the greatest impact or influence on the sport ?
For me the person who had the biggest influence on the sport is Urijah Faber. He’s the reason myself and others at my weight are able to fight. He did it when no one cared about the little guy.
How would you describe your fighting style ?
I don’t know if I have a fighting style. I like to think I’m well-rounded and technical and can adapt to whatever needs to be done, but I know I have things I need to continue to improve. What drives me is to reach my goals I’ve set forward, not money, but to be a high level fighter and ultimately win a belt.
What is something people might not know about you ?
What people don’t know is that I graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from Ohio University.
When you are not training or preparing to fight what do you enjoy doing in your free time ?
In my free time I do personal training and enjoy helping coach some of our other fighters and sharing some things I learned in my travels. I’m constantly in the gym it’s my sanctuary.
Where do you think you would be today if you had never got involved in MMA?
If I wasn’t fighting, I’d be writing. I wrote for an MMA organization in the past and it was my major so that would be the logical path.
What gets you mentally prepared for a fight ?
What gets me mentally prepared is normally George Comer or Jason Dent slapping me in the face. I’m real even keeled and that helps flip the switch.
Do you have any rituals that get you ready to step in the cage ?
I don’t have any pre fight rituals. I just have the same song every time I enter.
Where do you see MMA as a sport in 5 years ?
In five years I think we’ll see fighters viewed more along the line of other professional athletes and hopefully some sort of union to protect us and allow us to make it more of a career instead of working multiple jobs to support ourselves.
Where do you see yourself 5 years down the road ?
In five years I see myself still fighting and hopefully in a major organization.
What do you think can change moving forward to make MMA better ?
I think the main thing we need to make MMA better is people having a better understanding of the sport as a whole and a fighter’s union to protect us.
Who is your favorite fighter ?
My favorite fighter is Mighty Mouse. He has amazing technique and I constantly look to breakdown his fights and he goes about everything the right way.
Is there anyone you want to thank or give a shout out to ?
I just want to thank my family and friends, my dad and brother, Vincent, especially as well as all my coaches, Jason, Donny, George, Juice, Russ Herbert and Jeff Starr as well as Coach Joey Villesanor down here at Jackson’s for putting in extra time with me while I’ve been here. I’d also like to thank Hooley House, Richie Reece, Dave’s Cosmic Subs of Mentor, Anthony DiBacco, Brian McCrone, Angelo and Kristin at Fitness First, Marco Conti of Marky Fresh Barber Shop and Jacob Pniewski for the continued support.