Michael Chiesa knows how frustrating it can be to land a big named opponent when climbing up the ranks in the UFC.
Between his career spent at lightweight and now welterweight, the 33-year-old veteran has been on the other side of those negotiations where he was just trying to get the chance to face a bigger name or more established fighter only to get rebuffed because he just didn’t offer them as much in a high risk, low return situation.
So when the UFC came calling with an opportunity to face undefeated prospect Sean Brady on Nov. 20, Chiesa was faced with that same type of decision except this time he was the higher ranked fighter being asked to face off with an unheralded yet dangerous opponent.
“The more fights you win in the UFC, the more political it gets,” Chiesa explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “You can’t just take every single fight. You get higher ranked and then it’s like I’m on a four fight win streak, I want a higher ranked guy. It gets kind of political.
“Everything that happened with Vicente [Luque] is a thing of the past. You should only look to your past if you’re looking back at all the great things you’ve achieved. I’m not going to look back on that. I’m not going to get back into this game of politics where I sit in line and wait for somebody. When [my manager] called me and asked if I wanted to fight Sean Brady, I just jumped all over it.”
The loss to Vicente Luque earlier this year knocked Chiesa off his path to a potential title shot but it certainly didn’t stop him from getting right back into the title race with an impressive win.
A victory over a more established welterweight might do more for that particular cause but Chiesa wasn’t about to shy away from Brady just because he hasn’t had the chance to establish himself against the best 170-pound fighters in the world.
Despite an undefeated record, which includes four consecutive wins in the UFC, Brady hasn’t gotten the kind of attention that other fighters such as Khamzat Chimaev have received in recent months.
Chimaev has rocketed to superstar status after making his octagon debut in 2020 and there’s already been talks about him entering title contention with just one more win on his resume. Meanwhile, Brady could arguably stand toe-to-toe with Chimaev when it comes to his prospect credentials but he just doesn’t have a recognizable name yet like the Chechen born mauler.
“We knew who Sean Brady was before he even got in the UFC,” Chiesa said. “I think LFA reached out to [my teammate] Tyler McGuire and asked if he wanted to fight Sean Brady. So he’s been on the radar for a long time. The rumblings coming out of the Philly camp that there’s this tough up and coming kid Sean Brady. We’ve always known who he is. I bet if you call Sean Shelby, a lot of people have turned down the Sean Brady fight. He’s got the undefeated prospect aura about him but it’s less lucrative to a lot of guys than Khamzat because at least Khamzat, that guy’s name is in everybody’s household right now.
“Everybody knows who Khamzat Chimaev is. So while they both have that undefeated prospect aura, more people would be inclined to fight Khamzat because of the name value. Nobody wants to fight a Sean Brady because he’s tough, he’s undefeated and not a lot of people know who he is.”
Of course, Chiesa has no plans to let Brady earn his stripes by beating him when they face off on Nov. 20 but he’s happy to give the highly-touted prospect the chance to try.
“I’m not about to let people know who he is by getting a win over me,” Chiesa said. “I’m going to go out there and beat the guy and take that ‘0.’ That ‘0’ is going home with me.
“I’m not a guy that really sways towards the side of safety and caution. I’m a guy who takes risks and this is a risk I’m willing to take because I know I can beat this guy and I’m going to beat this guy on Nov. 20.”
While his primary focus has been Brady and the upcoming fight, Chiesa also took time out of his schedule to help with a gym renovation project close to home in Washington state after the UFC and Modelo asked him to get involved with a program that’s also been helping veterans in the community.
Cappy’s Boxing Gym, a mainstay in the Seattle area for decades that also partners with Minority Veterans of America to offer classes specifically aimed at helping with the health and wellness of veterans, was the latest facility to receive an overhaul courtesy of the Rebuilding Together program.
Rather than take days off from training, Chiesa opted to help with the gym renovation because he felt it was something he could do in order to give back to his own community as well as the veterans that Cappy’s has been serving.
“The special focus that they have supporting veterans is what really attracted me,” Chiesa said. “I was on board with what they were going to do to revitalize this gym but when I started to find out what they did for veterans, I was so much more intrigued. I mean my coach Rick Little, his dad is a silver star recipient, two time top gun participant.
“I may not have been enlisted in the armed services at any point in my life, but some of the most prominent people in my life have strong connections to the armed forces. So when I found out what they were doing for Cappy’s Gym, it was just important for me to jump all over this. There’s only so many ways you can give back so this was one of those opportunities where I could do something that I could give back to the veterans serving our country.”