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Chris Camozzi sifting through his many second chances

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Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – Second chances in the UFC are often made of necessity (read: desperation), and that’s essentially what happened for Chris Camozzi. On Friday, when Yoel Romero was officially removed from his fight with Ronaldo Souza, the mad scramble for a replacement was on. According to Dana White, exactly one person had his hand up.

And that was Camozzi, who wasn’t even in the UFC anymore. He was cut seven months ago after losing four straight fights, beginning with a loss to "Jacare" himself back in May 2013.

In this case it took a spiral to make things come full circle.

On Saturday night, Camozzi will get all the second chances he could ask for when he tries his luck again against "Jacare" in the co-main event at UFC on FOX 15 in Newark, N.J. Because he was willing to step up and do what on paper looks like a suicide mission, Camozzi has a new contract with the UFC. It didn’t hurt that since being issued his walking papers that the Factory X fighter has won a couple of fights in the interim, either.

The UFC always admires guys who are motivated and willing. The promotion loves timely spontaneity.

"Every time someone drops out of a fight on a card at middleweight [Camozzi] reaches out to [matchmaker] Joe Silva," Camozzi’s training partner, Chase Hackett, said on Wednesday during the open workouts in Soho. "He’s been ready ever since he got cut, and he’s been just getting better. He’s worked on a lot of things and he’s been healthy and he’s always tried to jump at opportunities like this. When he heard that Romero got hurt, he reached out to Joe Silva and said he was ready to fight Jacare again. He was woken up by a text from Silva that said, ‘are you serious about fighting Jacare again?’ He said absolutely, and here we are."

Here we are. Camozzi, who went through a mild workout session for a throng of fans at the UFC Gym in Chinatown, has been installed as a 7-to-1 underdog against the contender Souza. He was in a wedding the night before he got the call to step in. But, his training partner says, he has remained in shape. Camozzi just fought on March 6 in Denver, in a bout where he stopped Wes Swofford with a kick that "busted his leg." 

Camozzi told the media on Wednesday that the actual way he lobbied for the Souza fight was via MixedMartialArts.com, where he openly volunteered his services.

"It turns out Joe Silva reads the Underground, because the next morning I got a text from him," Camozzi said.

Whatever the case, Camozzi gets a rare chance at redemption, and on Wednesday in New York he looked like a man who understood the situation. When Camozzi fought "Jacare" in 2013 he was riding a four-fight winning streak, but might have been getting a little too comfortable in the Octagon. This time, with no time to over-think things, Camozzi is counting his blessings.

And really, willingness to step in is only half the equation. Everybody in Camozzi’s camp knows that it would have been easy for "Jacare," who has really nothing to gain status-wise by taking on a patchwork replacement whom he’s already beat, to turn down the bout.

"I was actually a little surprised that somebody like 'Jacare'…it’s tough, because you fight, you train, you have your whole camp, you cut weight, you’re on your way out here only to find out your opponent changes," Hackett said. "He beat Chris before, and Chris wasn’t even on the roster. It’s a tough fight for somebody like that to take because he’s in title contention. A loss to Chris could change things for him, so it’s a risky thing for him to take, just the opposite of Chris. But that goes to show you that he’s a fighter as well, that it doesn’t matter who it is, where it is, he’s ready to go."

It also goes to show that willingness is a synonym for opportunity in the UFC. And these last-minute alterations have cost plenty of fighters in the past. Rick Story infamously lost to Charlie Brenneman after his original opponent, Nate Marquardt, was pulled from competition of the eve of the fight. Brenneman set Story back several years by beating him that night in Pittsburgh.

Can the 7-to-1 underdog Camozzi do the same thing in Newark? Vegas may say no, but stranger things have happened.

"It’s a win-win for Chris," Hackett said after holding pads for his guy. "Obviously he has the tools to beat Jacare, and he can beat him. And if he wins this fight it catapults him to the top of the division. You can’t say no to that."