Years of Watching MMA Helped Heroic Joe Lozito Help End Murder Manhunt

Joe Lozito is a longtime fan of mixed martial arts. He remembers watching UFC 1 back in 1993, he once attended an EliteXC event with Kimbo Slice just to watch Joey Villasenor, and on his 12th wedding anniversary, he surprised his wife Andrea with tickets to UFC 101. Ask him which fighters he's enjoyed watching most over time, and he'll unfurl a laundry list ranging from Dan Severn to Eddie Alvarez to Keith Jardine, who he admits is probably his favorite. Lozito goes on and on, afraid to leave anyone out.

"I admire the heck out of all the guys," he says. "I hate to list them because I don't want to short-change anyone and leave them out."

In the beginning, though, Lozito had a preference for freestyle wrestlers, which makes his story a little bit ironic and a whole lot heroic. Because last Saturday at just a few minutes before 9 a.m. ET, Lozito executed a takedown for the ages, one that would have made any MMA fighter proud. His heroic actions helped capture alleged multi-murderer Maksim Gelman on a New York city subway train.

Though he lives in Philadelphia, Lozito works in the box office at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall on Manhattan's Upper West Side. He makes the two-hour commute going from the train to the New York city subway, and was on the last leg, just a few minutes from his final destination. He had no idea a madman was on the loose when he was confronted by 23-year-old Gelman with knife in hand. As Gelman drew close, he flashed the blade.
I knew if I sat there and turtled up, I was not getting off that train alive.
-- Joe Lozito

"You're going to die. You're going to die," Gelman told him.

In a blink, a series of thoughts went through Lozito's head.

"I knew if I sat there and turtled up, I was not getting off that train alive," Lozito told MMA Fighting. "If I fought back, there was also a chance I wouldn't get off the train alive, but I didn't want to be a sitting duck. It was survival at its purest instinct."

Taking the offensive, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Lozito, who had been sitting down, shot in at Gelman's mid-section, with the impact sending the two crashing to the ground. Gelman slashed at him, but Lozito instinctively went for the madman's wrists, eventually forcing the knife out of his hands with the help of fast-acting transit officers Terrance Howell and Tamara Taylor along with off-duty Detective Marcelo Razzo.

During the fight, Lozito suffered wounds on his head, face, arm and hand.

"I don't know the total number of stitches and staples but the wound on the back of my head, I saw a picture of it yesterday and it looked like a Friday the 13th movie," he said. "I don't know the number other than it's a lot. The EMTs and doctors did an amazing job."

Though he's never trained in MMA due to his work hours and commute, Lozito credits his years of watching the sport with helping him to keep a presence of mind about the situation.

"It was my instinct to get him down," Lozito said. "Like getting an opponent down in MMA, what do you do? You go for the legs. When we were on the ground he was flailing at me with that knife. I just wanted to get control of that right wrist. In the process, he got me on my thumb and left triceps, but I was aiming towards getting control of his wrist for sure."

Gelman had allegedly murdered four people and injured five during a weekend of violence before he was finally captured. Lozito has repeatedly said he doesn't consider himself a hero, but most others would beg to differ, including his wife Andrea, New York police and UFC president Dana White.

White, who happened to be in New York over the weekend, heard about the story and met with Lozito, offering his family a VIP experience at the upcoming UFC 128 event in Newark, New Jersey. Lozito says it's more than just a nice display of gratitude. He said in the time since the traumatic event, he's had trouble sleeping due to recurring thoughts of the traumatic incident. But he says the experience of meeting White and the promise of what's to come has him at least occasionally thinking of more positive things.

"I've been trying to equate it to something else to tell people how exited I was, so I would say it was like a 13-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber," Lozito said. "The UFC has treated us so spectacularly. His generosity is amazing. The reality is they didn't have to do anything, but the fact that he was nice enough to do this, and ask if our kids would want to go, and what could he do for my kids ... There's really no words I can say that describe my emotions towards Mr. White and the UFC. It's not something they had to do. This is ridiculous to me. It's lunacy that he wants to meet me."

"I'm blown away," White told TMZ after the meeting. "Not only is what he did brave, incredible and unselfish, but he's one of the most humble guys you'll ever meet."

Andrea Lozito says Joe is the type of person that always puts himself last, as evidenced by his long daily commute to help support his family -- which includes 10-year-old Joseph and 7-year-old Dominic -- and keep them in the neighborhood they prefer. Lozito has been making the long round-trip since 2005.

"His mind set is, 'I'm doing what I'm supposed to do,'" she said. "As humble as he's coming across in this incident, that's how he lives everyday life. Another person might not have been brave enough or had the presence to take him down. If it was me, I probably would have cowered in fear, and I wouldn't be here. I think he still doesn't realize what he's done."

Lozito is not only a longtime MMA fan, but he also used to work at Madison Square Garden, and has followed with interest the developments of the state government as they have failed to pass legislation to sanction the sport. He says if he was asked, he'd have no problem speaking up on behalf of the sport to the powers that be. MMA's most vocal opponent in the state has been Assemblyman Bob Reilly, who infamously said, "Violence begets violence," theorizing that the sport is bad for society. Yet, here we have an MMA fan who is a good family man, a fan who was put in a situation where he says watching MMA is partly responsible for the instincts that helped him end a manhunt, capture an alleged multi-murderer, and stay alive.

"I just wish these people would take the time to learn the athletes and ins and outs of the sport," he said. "If the UFC or MMA needed me to be a face and a voice for the fans, I'm all for that. We're a good group of fans. We're not thugs or criminals. I've been to many events and have not sat next to a neanderthal yet. Like any other fan base, you'll have some bad eggs, but you can't let the actions of a few people ruin it for the rest. MMA fans are great fans, and if Mr. White ever came to me and said, 'Would you mind speaking as the voice of the fans,' I'd run through a wall for them, the way they've treated me and my family.'"

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