By Caoilte de Barra
To mark the ten-year celebration of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, we are reeling in the years and looking back at some of the standout moments. To kick things off, we are delving into the 2014 World Championships.
The event took place in Las Vegas, Nevada and featured athletes that have gone on to become some of the elite in the sport. From the first group of gold medalists, four went on to compete in the UFC, with three still in the promotion. Amongst that group was Italy’s Alessio Di Chirico, who became the first-ever Light Heavyweight World Champion in the amateur ranks.
Two decision victories following his opening day highlight finish over Cole Fetzner secured gold for Di Chirico and Italy. Looking back on his time in the competition, the UFC Middleweight explained how he first came across the competition.
“I just noticed that opportunity while reading a post on Facebook. I went crazy when I read that the final competition would take place at Mandalay Bay during the UFC Expo. I did everything I could possibly do to get there. It was my only thought, believe me.”
Despite the time elapsed since his gold medal run, Di Chirico highlighted his semi-final match as a standout one, along with the honour of representing Italy.
“I have represented Italy many times and it has always been a real honour I am so proud of. I dedicate my career to my country. I truly believe we could have a good team here. We have so many talented fighters.
“I remember that in the semi-final, I fought a very, very tough polish fighter called Karol Linowski. It was very hard to beat him. But right now, I remember every fight in that tournament as an amazing experience!”
After competing at the 2014 World Championships, he admitted that he keeps an eye on the national team and hopes the sport receives Olympic recognition.
“I suggest you stay tuned with Italy. We are developing and improving very fast. I think it’s crazy the level we arrived at in such a short time. I would really love to see our sport as part of the Olympic Games as soon as possible.”
Following the tournament, Di Chirico made his UFC debut within two years and created history by doing so.
“After I won the tournament, I received an email and a contact from Raw Sport, one of the best Management in Europe. We started working together, and we finally got to the UFC contract. It was a historic moment for Italian MMA. I was the first 100% Italy-based fighter to arrive in UFC. I think my story gave so much hope to every Italian fighter at the time.”
Next on the agenda is a bout with Roman Kopylov at the UFC’s debut show in France.
“I will come back on September 3 in Paris, the first time the UFC comes to France! I lost my last match, I was KOd, and then I was forced to get surgery to fix an old injury I was dealing with for too long.
“I will leave this last big obstacle behind me before my final ascent in UFC. I feel very good right now. I’m training hard and can’t wait to go in there.”