If Pat Gionette has it his way, he'll emerge from his first Freedom Fight: Caged Combat on Oct. 27 bloodied and bruised, with at least one black eye.
“Hopefully, my nose doesn't get broken, because my face is my money-maker,” he said with a laugh during a question-and-answer session at Cambrian College on Oct. 10. “I'm a striker. I prefer to stand and bang it out. I want to give people what they pay to see. I have all my buddies coming out to watch, so I don't want to take the fight down on the ground.”
Fighting for Team Shredder in the upcoming Oct. 27 Freedom Fight in Sudbury, Gionette will face Jarod Robb of Milton, Ont. The local fighter admitted he knows very little about his opponent, but that doesn't phase him, especially considering he carries an amateur record of eight wins and six losses, including a championship belt. Those fights all took place in northern Michigan. Freedom Fight marks his debut in professional MMA fighting.
“This is the first fight where I know nothing about my opponent,” Gionette said. “I know he has a good gym behind him, I know he's going to bring it, but I know very little else about him.
“Having that belt is a great feeling and provides a lot of confidence. I need all the confidence in the world right now, because I know it's going to be a grudge match, and I'm going to be coming out of there beat up, but hopefully on top.”
Gionette has been training with Team Shredder for the past two months. His experience with mixed martial arts spans more than three years, though.
“I was a fan,” he said, explaining his interest in becoming involved with MMA. “I used to sit at home and watch UFC, and after seeing fighters get in the ring and bang it out, I kind of got the itch to try it out.”
He said he started training, and once he had his first fight, he was hooked.
“I like the healthy way of living associated with being a fighter,” he said. “No drinking, no drugs, and it's all about working on my body and skills.
“The training sucks, I'm not going to lie. It takes a lot out of you, but you learn to love it. If I wake up in the morning and my body isn't sore, I know I didn't push myself hard enough the night before.”
Gionette said his biggest weakness right now is his ground game, but it's getting better and better, and come Oct. 27, he said he should have no problems.
“It's a lot to learn, but I'm just trying to cram it all in before the fight,” he said.
Gionette's bout is one of eight currently confirmed for the card on Oct. 27. Pete Rodley, CEO of Freedom Fight MMA, said plans are going as they usually do before a show — it's extremely chaotic and there are many last-minute changes, “but I wouldn't have it any other way.”
“The fighters are training their asses off, and everyone is excited,” he said. “Ticket sales are going extremely well, and this year's fight has already exceeded the total gate of last year's show by 150 tickets, and we still have the last rush to go.”
We've got veterans with 30 fights under their belt, and we've got some newcomers who have tons of potential. It's a well-rounded card.
CEO of Freedom Fight MMA
Gionette is one of two local fighters stepping into the ring come Oct. 27. Josten Tardiff is also fighting for Team Shredder, and Freedom Fight will mark Tardiff's fourth professional MMA fight. He will step into the ring with Mike Sledzion from Orillia.
Also on the card is the second professional women's fight in Freedom Fight history. Valerie Letourneau will return to Sudbury. She fought in the first women's MMA fight last year, stepping into the ring with Tannaya Hantelman and securing victory with a technical knockout.
“(Valerie) loved it up here, and the crowd absolutely loved her,” Rodley said. “We're stoked and proud to have her back. She fought in the first female fight in Ontario, and now she's going to be the second. We're the only organization in Ontario putting on female fights, and I'm really proud of that fact.”
Letourneau will face Vanessa Mariscal, a decorated jiu-jitsu fighter who made the transition to MMA, Rodley said.
“She has one hell of a standup game, as well, so it's going to be a challenge for both gals,” he said.
One thing that lacked in last year's Freedom Fight was “the big boys,” Rodley said. Not this time, though.
“I've got a couple 260-pounders going at it,” he said. “We've got veterans with 30 fights under their belt, and we've got some newcomers who have tons of potential. It's a well-rounded card.”
Freedom Fight: Caged Combat was originally scheduled for April 21 at the Sudbury Arena, but was postponed due to fighter-related issues that compromised the quality of the event. The delay has allowed Rodley more time to promote the event and to analyze the Sudbury market.
“I've put on fights from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, and I'm finding Sudbury is the toughest nut to crack in terms of getting the word out,” he said. “I don't know why, perhaps it's because of it's geographical size, but the time that has passed since Freedom Fight was postponed earlier this year has given me the opportunity to do things like we are doing today at Cambrian College and form even more partnerships.”
Freedom Fight promises to be a “very explosive show,” he said.
“I'm a firm believer in not sweating it when an injury happens or someone screws up their medical,” he said of the event being postponed for five months. “You've got to roll with the punches, and I've learned that 99 per cent of the time, you end up with a better fight anyway.
“Fans can look forward to a lot of knuckles being thrown, and even the ground fighters are workers, so you won't see fighters blanketing for decisions. It will make for action-packed fights from top to bottom.”
For more information about Freedom Fight, visit www.freedomfightmma.ca.