by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
In the early days of combat sports it was common for the larger weight classes, such as the heavyweight division, to get most of the attention.

In recent years, however, more and more people have discovered that the lighter weight classes hold a wealth of exciting, talented fighters that put on just as much of a show, if not more, than their larger counterparts.

First it was the rebirth of the 155-pound lightweight division that brought renewed vigor to the American mixed martial arts landscape. Then the 145-pound weight class began to showcase its talents to tremendous fan response. And now, it appears that the 135-pound division is on the cusp of making its breakthrough into the MMA mainstream.

Among the fighters looking to be part of the 135-pound revolution is San Francisco-based fighter Chris Cariaso.

If his name sounds familiar, it may be due to the fact that despite having just a one-year career, he’s already fought on the big stage of Strikeforce on multiple occasions.

Now sporting an undefeated 4-0 record, Cariaso takes another step forward in his career as he is set to make his ShoXC debut this Friday at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif., against Shooto fighter Rick McKorkal.

“I’m super-excited about (ShoXC) and to be a part of it,” he exclaimed of this opportunity. “I’ve been training hard and this is definitely what I’ve been working towards.”

But don’t let Cariaso’s excitement fool you. Even though he’s new to the sport of MMA, his experiences so far have helped to forge a veteran’s mentality when it comes to appearing on big shows.

“I’m not afraid of the crowds or anything like that,” he stated. “I’ve fought in front of thousands of people before, so the crowd’s not too big (of a deal), it’s just the cameras that is all I’m expecting to be different this time.”

In what appears to be a classic striker versus grappler style match-up, the Muay Thai-based Cariaso feels that his hard work to round out his game will more than make him a match for McKorkal.

“I’ve been working pretty extensively on my ground game over the last two years, so it’s nothing to be worried about. I’m ready to bring the stand-up to him, but if he wants to go to the ground, I’m ready to go to the ground with him as well.”

The opportunity to showcase his weight class is also another driving factor in Cariaso’s excitement for being part of ShoXC.

“I definitely want to show the world that 135’ers have the power. We have the speed, and I want the world to know that we can be very, very exciting,” he commented. “Us small guys have a lot of gas, so we keep going and going.

“(Fans are) definitely going to see a show, an action-packed fight. I train very hard and I’m not stopping. I’m going to be able to bring it for 15 minutes, no problem at all.”

Should he continue his winning ways this Friday, there’s talk that he may be able to use ShoXC to work his way onto ProElite’s EliteXC fight cards.

“I’ve been talking with EliteXC and they’re talking about showcasing a 135-pound fight for December,” said Cariaso. “So if all goes well, I look to be on their next card.

“I definitely would love to be a main event, that’s one of the main things I work for every day. I just train, eat, sleep and try to fight as much as I can. My goal is to be a world champion and to be on the top of the card, that’s where I’d definitely love to be.”

As Cariaso explains, the groundwork he’s laying now will turn into bigger opportunities if he has any say in it.

“I think I’m at a reasonable level of fights now, and hopefully by this time next year I’ll have into the 10-12 fight range and I’ll be ready to step up and do some title fights.”

He continued, “My goal is to be the champion and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get to that level.”

As the 135-pound division grows in size and popularity, so should Chris Cariaso, but first and foremost, he’s got Friday’s ShoXC bout firmly on his mind.

“I’d like to thank Fight and Fitness, Ralf Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Clinch Gear, and Show Your Roll,” he concluded. “I want all my fans to go out there or check me out on ProElite.com. I’m going to put on a great show for you guys.”