by Samantha L. Johnson – MMAWeekly.com
Kurt Pellegrino hasn’t had a break in training in nearly a year. After preparing for and beating Josh Neer, Pellegrino was then scheduled to fight Frankie Edgar, but injured his back.
“I’ve been training since last August,” said Pellegrino. “I trained the whole summer, which I burnt myself out on. Then I was off three weeks and was supposed to fight Frankie Edgar; then I hurt my back. I trained for almost two months for that fight. Then I took like 20 days off… then I get a phone call, ‘Hey, you wanna fight Fabricio?’ I never got rest.”
While many fighters would be begging for time off, Pellegrino says the constant training is why he was so sharp in his last few fights. In his last fight against Fabricio Camoes, Pellegrino was on point from the second the opening bell rang. He eventually ended the fight with a rear naked choke late in the second round.
Camoes was subsequently cut from the UFC.
To prepare for Sotiropolous, “Batman” has been training with his usual coaches, Keith Florian and Jon Chaimberg, but he also enlisted the help of world-renowned jiu-jitsu practitioner Marcelo Garcia.
“That’s the one new weapon I brought into this game,” said Pellegrino. “I’ve been in with the best jiu-jitsu play in the world, and that’s who I get to roll with. I mean, how fortunate am I to have this guy beating my brains in every day and then showing me what I did wrong and showing me how to beat a game plan?”
Consistently training with high-level jiu-jitsu guys such as the Florian brothers, Pellegrino has been able to hold his own on the ground; 10 of his 16 wins are via submission. However, as the cliché goes, to be the best you have to train with the best, and in this situation, the best is Marcelo Garcia.
“I’m not stressed out. I’m not nervous,” said Pellegrino. “Why would I be nervous? I’ve grappled with the best grappler on the planet. I’ve seen everything. This is the best prepared person I’ve ever been. I just have a lot of confidence right now.”
While more confident than he has ever been, Pellegrino is not underestimating Sotiropolous. The black belt most recently won against heavy favorite Joe Stevenson when the two met at UFC 110 in Australia.
The Sotiropolous-Stevenson match left many questioning the legality of Sotiropolous’ leg gear though. Full tights, like those Shinya Aoki wears in Japan, are illegal according to most sanctioning bodies; however, Sotiropolous was permitted to wear neoprene shorts, kneepads, and ankle guards in the match. While not a whole tight, the only area of his leg that was exposed was the mid-shin region.
“I don’t need to cheat or find a loophole to make my game better,” explained Pellegrino. “My game is where it is: no shirt, pair of fight shorts, let’s rock and roll. I don’t need neoprene or kneepads to help me win or get the edge. If that’s what he needs, fantastic good for him. He knows he’s a cheater.”
L. Johnson is a freelance writer originally from Southeast Idaho, currently living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit her website for her ramblings of on living in the MMA Mecca.