Since being released from Zuffa’s promotions in 2008, John “The Natural” Alessio has had only one thought on his mind, getting back there and proving that not only does he belong there, but that he can be someone to be reckoned with in the company.
So when he was contacted to replace Matt Wiman at UFC 145 on April 21 in Atlanta, you can only imagine how excited he was.
“It was just an unbelievable feeling,” Alessio told MMAWeekly.com. “I’ve been working so hard for years and I saw this email with Joe Silva’s name on it and I thought to myself, ‘This guy doesn’t email me for nothing.’
“I was at the dentist office getting my teeth cleaned, and I wanted to get out of the chair and run to the gym,” he laughed. “It was just an unbelievable feeling.”
For Alessio it doesn’t matter how he got his shot, it’s that he got it at all after four years of working to get back.
“Ideally it would be great to have eight to 10 weeks to prepare for any fight, but I came off a fight on March 16, so I just had about two weeks of rest and got the phone call, so it kind of worked out on short notice pretty good for me,” he said.
“I wish Matt Wiman all the best and a quick recovery because he’s a great fighter, but I’m glad I got the call to step in. I would have taken it on less notice (to get back in to the UFC.)”
Having made wholesale changes in his personal life since last fighting for the company, Alessio’s biggest move may have been his decision to drop to lightweight, which has produced wins over two very tough opponents in Luiz “Buscape” Firmino and Pat Healy.
Alessio’s UFC return won’t be any easier as he takes on Mark Bocek on April 21.
“There’s no secret what Bocek wants to do: He wants this fight to be on the ground, be on top, controlling the fight, and constantly looking for submissions,” said Alessio. “He’s not a vicious ground and pounder, but I’m sure he’s improving on that and improving on his stand-up.
“With that being said, I feel I’m a better striker and I’m going to try like hell to exploit him on his feet. I’m sure the fight will go to the ground eventually, but I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu for a very long time as well and neutralize his game there.”
For Alessio, being back in the promotion isn’t enough, he knows he’s got to stand out if he’s going to remain there and make a run in the 155-pound division.
“We all know my record in the UFC isn’t great, so my whole plan is to go out there and get the win by any means necessary,” he said. “But most of all, I want this fight to be exciting. I want to put on a great show and impress the fans and the UFC so I can guarantee staying in the company.
“I’ve been working hard, but it gets a lot harder from here on out. The competition is stiffer. Let’s be honest, the guys in the UFC are the best in the world, so if I want to stick around I have to get even better, so it’s a whole new motivation.”