by Cindy Ortiz (photo courtesy of theultimatefighter.tv)
A newcomer featured on season 2 of Spike TV’s hit reality show The Ultimate Fighter is rapidly attracting new fans and making waves. Seth “The Silverback” Petruzelli is a Cape Coral, Florida native currently living in Orlando where he studies and trains MMA at one of the legendary Gracie Jiu-Jitsu schools, and is also on the Dean’s List at The University of Central Florida with a GPA of 3.0. Seth is ambitious, athletic and academically impressive and is excited about his future in the sport.
Cindy Ortiz interviewed the 25 year-old TUF 2 heavyweight last week. Seth is 6′ tall, weighs 229-pounds and not only does he have the best eyebrows in the business, he’s also one of the funniest and kindest gentlemen in the sport of MMA. In this one-on-one interview, Seth gives us a little bit more insight into The Silverback.
Cindy Ortiz: Hi Seth!
Seth Petruzelli: Hey Cindy! How ya doing?
Cindy: Pretty good. Are you ready to get started?
Cindy: Had you not become a fighter, what do you think you would have become?
Seth: Probably doing what I’m doing now, working in real estate with my family in Cape Coral, Florida.
Cindy: Why and how did you get into the sport of MMA to begin with?
Seth: It was my friend, Carl that introduced me to the sport of MMA. He started telling me about it and took me to a couple of classes because he knew I wrestled and was good in karate so he thought I would like it. I picked up on it really easy and went from there.
Cindy: How long have you been training?
Seth: I’ve been taking martial arts for 19 years and for the past five years, I’ve been training as a pro. My amateur record is 1-0-0 and my pro record is 9-2-0.
Cindy: That’s respectable. Are you part of a fight team or do you represent a certain gym?
Seth: Yeah, I fight under Macio Simas Jiu-Jitsu Gracie Barra in Orlando, Florida.
Cindy: What martial art forms have you trained in and what’s your current level of proficiency?
Seth: Shito-Ryu Karate, 1986-present
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, 1999-present
Kun Tao Kung Fu, 1993-1995
Muay Thai Kickboxing, 1999-present
Cindy: Tell me a little bit about your immediate family (parents, siblings).
Seth: My father, brother and I own a real estate business where we buy property, fix it up and sell it.
My mother works as a title insurance agent and my sister works with her.
Cindy: Are there any fighters in your background?
Seth: No, but my brother (23 years-old), sister (20 years-old) and parents are all black belts in traditional karate.
Cindy: Now that’s a cover for Pro Karate Weekly! Who has been the single most influential person in your career thus far and why?
Seth: There have been a number of people who drive me; myself not wanting to fail at anything I do has been a big part of it. I got that from my karate instructor Bernie Dougherty. He was a huge part of my life growing up and without his teachings, I don’t think I would be fighting professionally. He really went out of his way to guide each student to be a better person, not just in karate but in life and to follow the rules. My family is very supportive, as well, and I want them to be proud of me. That’s important.
Cindy: Now Bernie sounds like an awesome instructor. Is he still around?
Seth: Yeah, he still teaches in my hometown, Cape Coral, Florida. I would highly recommend his influence and teaching methods to anyone because Bernie is just one of those people who make you want to be a better person, and those lessons stay with you for the rest of your life.
Cindy: That’s great, Seth. I have also noticed there seems to be a lot of emphasis on making your immediate family proud of you. Why is their approval so important?
Seth: Oh, wow… let me see if I can explain this. The Petruzelli name… I don’t know; I guess I want to be the first Petruzelli to really get our name out there… you know, like be the first famous Petruzelli.
Cindy: You know Seth, that’s the impression I kept getting, but I didn’t want to “put the words” in your mouth. So, it is a “fame-game!” What gives?
Seth: (laughter) I’ll say it. I want to be famous and I want my family to be proud of me and look up to me!
Cindy: Do you come from a competitive family of over-achievers? Every one of ya’ll have black belts in karate!
Seth: Oh, yeah. My family is really competitive, but in a good way. My grandfather on my mom’s side of the family owns shipyards all over the country and all her family works for them; they’re very competitive they all have their own shipyard and they try to make their business better and more successful than the others, so yeah… I want to achieve something for my family that is a step above anything they can do (laughter)!
Cindy: Well, alright then! Who impressed you the most from season one of The Ultimate Fighter?
Seth: Forrest, for sure! He’s a great person and is funny like me (laughter)! I hung out with him at the last UFC (55) before and after his fight with Elvis and he’s a cool guy and has the same personality as I do as far as goofing off and not taking things too seriously.
Cindy: What was the first MMA event you ever saw and what did you think about it?
Seth: It was a UFC event and I’m pretty sure it was UFC: 1. I was like 12 years-old when I saw it and to be honest, I thought it was dumb because I was a “karate kid” annnnnnnd THAT was the best art form (laughter)! Obviously, I’ve “grown up” since then and appreciate so many of the other styles out there.
Cindy: When you showed up for TUF on day one, besides yourself, who else did you think would make it to the finale in both weight divisions?
Seth: Wow; there were a lot of talented fighters on the show. I’d have to say Keith and Joe (based on my day one thoughts) because I knew they both could fight.
Cindy: What were you doing at the exact moment you got the call and found out you were in?
Seth: (laughter) I was getting wasted (j/k)! I think I was just watching TV when I got the call.
Cindy: What single piece of advice would you give to up and coming fighters?
Seth: Train your ass off and don’t give up on your dreams, even if others tell you to. You’ll regret it later if you do.
Cindy: What do you think fans would be surprised to learn about you?
Seth: I think they would be surprised at how sensitive I am.
Cindy: For the record, is Seth Petruzelli available?
Seth: (laughter) No, he’s not… he’s not. Seth has a girlfriend.
Cindy: Do you want to share anything about her?
Seth: Her name is Leslie and she’s a really cool girl. I think we make a good team; we both shoot for the stars and we’re both pretty independent. She’s one of the top mortgage brokers in the company and she graduated from UCF a few years ago.
I definitely want to put it out there how much I appreciate all the support and understanding she gives me. She’s a really great girl and she makes me want to be a better person and (laughter) I don’t know anyone else who would put up with me like Leslie does!
“Take It From Me” Feature
The best overall advice anyone can give to potential TUF competitors is to “expect the unexpected!” Unfortunately, the generalization doesn’t shed any light on what the experience is really like. Having gone through it yourself, what would you tell potential TUF hopefuls they should expect from these key areas?
Cindy: What should they expect from the housing environment?
Seth: The house will break all the time. The A/C and electric suck! The A/C was constantly broken and the power would shut down all the time. If you were cooking and someone tried to turn something on, the power would shut down.
Cindy: From the coaches?
Seth: To beat you till you puke… then beat you some more (laughter)!
Cindy: From the trainers?
Seth: Same as the coaches… and Ganyao to make you do 10,000 elbows. He’s big on throwing elbows and he taught me a lot. What’s funny is I’ll be cornering a fight and in the background I’ll hear Ganyao yelling for the guy to throw some elbows from clear across the ring! He’s cool, though! So is Marc Laimon and Peter Welch!
Cindy: From the Spike TV crew?
Seth: To make you do retakes. There were times (a lot) when Dana would get mad and start yelling about something and we’d start smirking or Randy would be trying to explain a challenge and we couldn’t keep a straight face! I don’t even know what was so funny about it all but it would just happen and they’d make us do the scene again… and again… and again, until we weren’t smiling!
Cindy: From Dana?
Seth: To tell you aren’t tough enough! Dana was messing up, too. He’d say something wrong or start laughing and would say, “Oh shit!” and have to shoot it again. Nothing that would change the outcome or anything, but like someone would make a noise or something that would make him laugh when he was trying to be cool or mean and it would mess him up! Dana’s actually a great guy and he’s just like the rest of us were… until you pissed him off!
Cindy: From the fellow competitors?
Seth: To probably make friends, even if you try to avoid it… and to see them naked… even if you try to avoid it!
Cindy: From the public after the show starts airing?
Seth: To be in love with you! ha-ha! Seriously though, people have been so supportive when they recognize me and that’s a good feeling. I appreciate it.
Cindy: TUF is not a reality show meant for every MMA fighter out there. What type of fighter should NOT consider doing the show and why?
Seth: A shy fighter with no personality because you won’t get any air time. A fighter in need of privacy… well, obviously that’s not possible. Fighters unable to make adjustments, like with their training regimen or schedule.
Cindy: We often hear about a fighters “heart.” What is your definition of heart?
Seth: To never give up no matter if you are winning or losing. Never quit.
Cindy: How do you prepare mentally before a fight?
Seth: I meditate and think to myself “no one has been training as long as I have, so I am better and more prepared.”
Cindy: Do you get nervous before a fight?
Seth: Yes, I get very nervous, like huge butterflies in my stomach all day long; about winning, not about getting hurt.
Cindy: Tell me the names of a few fighters you wouldn’t mind “mixing it up with” in the octagon and why.
Seth: I’d love to fight anyone… especially any of the light-heavyweights from season one. All of my pro fights were HW and I fought guy’s way bigger than me. I knocked out Bob Sapp, fought Gan McGee, so if I’m destroying the big guys, I’m thinking I’d like to take on some of the 205’ers from season one.
Cindy: So, you’d be interested in stepping down a weight division and challenging some of those guys?
Seth: Yeah, I’d like to.
Cindy: What are some of the sacrifices you have made in order to compete in the sport of MMA?
Seth: Let’s see… I have been in college for seven years because of fighting and I can’t go out all the time because it’s not good to when you’re training. I have done nothing but eat, sleep and train hardcore for fighting for the past five years. I have been around the world fighting and have met some great people and have beaten a lot of good fighters because of it. It’s all worth it.
Cindy: How many more credits do you need to complete your degree?
Seth: Let’s see, I need five more classes so that’s 15 credits.
Cindy: Which is stronger: your mental or your physical game?
Seth: I’m mentally and physically equally tough.
Cindy: Do you keep in touch with any of the other fighters from the show (if so, who)?
Seth: I keep in touch with all the season 2 guys. They are all good friends of mine. Great guys!
Cindy: What is the biggest misconception the public has about the TUF or the sport of MMA?
Seth: That we are all bad-ass guys with no respect; we’re actually quite the opposite. Most of us fight for the competition; it’s not out of hatred for another person. The sport of MMA is like a human chess match. I think the UFC and Spike TV are doing a lot as far as educating the public about the sport of MMA so it can gain real mainstream acceptance because martial arts is something just about anyone can get involved with and benefit from.
Cindy: Who are 3 established fighters you would like to train with?
Seth: Cro Cop, Sakuraba and Randy Couture. Actually, I got to train with Randy during the show and it was great.
Cindy: But there are a couple of Pride fighters you’d like to train with?
Seth: Yeah. When I fought my last K-1 fights in Japan, it was such a great experience. That was the time of my life in Japan, I loved it there and me being in karate since I was six and exposed to the Japanese culture and I love everything about it. I’d love to fight in Japan. Maybe the UFC will have a show there eventually.
I love Sakuraba’s crazy fighting style and I try to imitate a lot of it with my spinning back-kicks and stuff and training with him and picking his brain would be awesome.
Cindy: Yeah, I noticed the kicks when you fought Dan Christison on the show! What is the strangest experience you have had with a fan?
Seth: Oh man! I got a funny one! One time when I fought for K-1 in Japan, I got a call from a Japanese guy to come up to my room and talk. I thought he was a news guy so I let him in and he sits next to me like TOOO close and I was like “OK… when is this interview going to start?” He said, “No interview; I just want to look at you…” with this creepy look on his face! I got up ASAP and got my Japanese friend to kick him out!
Cindy: You must have been wearing that same wig you have on in the picture posted on the TUF forum! Seth is a total hottie as a woman, too!
Seth: Yeah, I am… thanks, Cindy! My friends, family and girlfriend will be pleased! Just kidding! I have a lot of fun!
Cindy: How important are fans to this sport and what are some ways you feel they can show their support for their favorite fighters?
Seth: The fans are the main reason I fight; without them, there’s really no point. They can show their support by coming up to me in public and say “hello” because it makes me feel good to be recognized for my hard work. They can also buy a t-shirt at silverbackseth.com!
Cindy: There you go pimping your site already! While you’re at it, tell me who some of your sponsors are and how did you secure them?
Seth: Sponsors? What are those? Anyone interested in sponsoring me, please send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). I need some sponsors and I’ll definitely fight hard to win and make you look good!
Cindy: And you’ll pimp their logo on your web site, right?
Seth: You got that right! Sponsors are very important, especially MMA fighters because this is a new sport and our athletes aren’t as well known as most pro athletes, even though MMA is probably the most physically demanding sport on the planet. Cindy, did I happen to mention I am in need of some sponsors (laughter)? It would help me with my training so that I don’t need to worry about other things; I could concentrate on fighting and I’d be a great investment.
Cindy: Hmm… I think you might have said something about needing sponsors about 15 seconds ago, but I’ll make sure I get it in at least one more time, just in case! By the way, Seth, what do you do to promote the sport of MMA?
Seth: I am on the internet talking to fans 24/7 and I am on a national radio show every week to promote it and educate people about mixed martial arts because the popularity of the sport is growing, but as an athlete involved with MMA, I’m committed to keep pushing it. Sometimes people get sick of hearing me talk about it all the time, but that’s what it takes to spread the word.
Being part of TUF is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but I figure there’s a lot of other athletes who have the same dream me and the other season one and two fighters did, so we owe them their chance to compete because we got ours. I don’t know… that’s how I look at it anyway.
Cindy: Do you have a web site, dojo, trainer/instructor, sponsors you’d like to plug, or a message for your fans?
Seth: Yeah, www.silverbackseth.com is my web site and everyone should check it out. There are a lot of pictures posted and fans can send me an e-mail and say “hello.” They can also visit me at www.theultimatefighter.tv site where all of the fighters have online forum fan clubs and we love to hear from you guys. I appreciate each and every one of my fans because without them, there’s really not much of a point to fight. Being a part TUF and the UFC is a dream come true for all of us and thanks to everyone for all the support and encouragement because it makes a huge difference.
Cindy: Well Seth, that’s going to about do it. Thanks for taking the time to share some of the “behind the scenes” action with your fans. Good luck next weekend!
Seth: Thanks, Cindy! I appreciate the interview!
Cindy: You’re welcome!