September 21, 2008

by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
It’s becoming apparent that the UFC has its sights set firmly on European expansion and that the talent pool on the continent is being explored and harvested for resources. One of the key signings outside of the unbiquitous British talent pool comes from Milan, Italy in the shape of Ivan “Il Terrible” Serati – a monster of a man at 205lbs and one of the toughest wrestlers this side of the Atlantic.

MMAWeekly caught up with his manager Alex Burzotta following on from the announcement of Serati’s multi-fight deal with the UFC to talk about how this impacts on the Italian’s life and what the future holds: “The biggest difference this will make to Ivan (Serati) is that he will now be able to train full-time for fights, it’s something he hasn’t had the pleasure of up until now, so his evolution as a fighter will continue, but at a much greater pace than we have witnessed so far” explained Burzotta while referencing his fighters previous work commitments.

For those of you know don’t know, Serati had been working as a doorman for several years, but became weary of being continually challenged by trouble makers looking to prove themselves in the street. He turned it all in and paid for his licence as a Taxi driver in Milan about 18 months ago and aside from a few people arguing about airport run fares, life has been filled with people recognising his persona as a fighter, especially after his bout with Vitor Belfort.

Moving onto the finer details of his debut, Burzotta explains: “Despite rumors, we actually only inked this contract two days ago, it’s a five fight deal and at the moment we’re looking at making a debut in Vegas at the end of December, and before you ask, we dont have an opponent lined up yet – that’s not us being secretive, we genuinely don’t, although I would like to see Serati fight someone like Houston Alexander – that would make a good fight”.

A five fight deal shows that the UFC is looking to secure fighter stability in the long term and is a marked contrast to how initial offerings have been structured before. When the UFC first announced plans to run shows in the U.K. a plethora of fighters debuted on 3 fight deals, and subsequently had them extended or dropped based on their respective performances. With 5 fight deals and expansion plans in place for markets such as Germany, the venerable Zuffa backed promotion will have a solid international fighter pool to draw on. We are increasingly seeing their shows running closer and closer in terms of dates and there is only so far their current roster can be rotated before fresh talent needs to be unearthed, they really seem to be covering all their market bases.

In closing, Burzotta addressed the timing of the contract: “They (the UFC) have been interested in Serati for a while now, but if this contract would have come to us about a year ago things would have been difficult – he wasn’t in a position to be able to fully capitalise on the opportunity from a financial commitment standpoint. With his change in work and some changes he has made to his personal finances, he will be able to train full-time between Italy and Team SureGrip here in the U.K. – this level of training will open up so much more of his game and come December people will see the next evolution of his skills.”