Since “In Ya Face MMA” magazine website’s launched, we’ve sought out to interview the best local fighters. We’ve had the opportunity to work with Chris Dempsey, Dominic Mazzotta to name a few. We asked you, our fans and the experts, who you would recommend for our October issue. There were many recommendations, but due to a large amount of requests, and a particular email from an unknown fan “Jaxson” caught my attention, it read:
|Subject||Fighter of the Month|
|Message||You need to do an article on Mark Cherico 14-0. The guy has NEVER lost 9-0 as a amateur he won 8 by submission and 1 by TKO. Now hes 5-0 as a pro and he just crushed a UFC Veteran in June! That dude is the truth. Best fighter in the area and if def gonna be in the UFC before anyone in this area!|
So my research began. As I became more familiar with the feared fighters of the Tri-state area, Mark Cherico, “The Pride of Bloomfield”, was among the top of the list.
This was the first visual I found of locally renowned fighter, see right.
What really stands out is his purple trunks with multi-colored hearts while covered in his opponent’s blood from a series of elbow strikes. Of course I had to see that fight.
The fight was on June, 29 2013 at Pinnacle Fighting Championships – Pittsburgh Challenge Series 3 against UFC veteran, Donny Walker (15 – 10 – 0), Cherico was (5-0-0). As expected, Cherico dominated every aspect of the fight. He won with a TKO due to punches 1:04 in the 2nd round. Click here to check out the fight.
The email nominator “Jaxson” was right. He should be In Ya Face MMA’s Fighter of the Month for October. So I reached out to him on Facebook. He was in. The meeting was set to take place at Fight Club Pittsburgh MMA the following Monday. Perfect.
FCP is located on Campbell’s Run Road in the same building as Umberger Performance. The entrance was professional with signage of a red and black skull logo. Upon entering the state of the art facility, a montage of success was displayed on a wall of championship belts achieved by the many prized fighters training there. Straight ahead was the man himself, Mark Cherico, also the General Manager of FCP. We were expected, cordially greeted, and offered a tour.
The facility was the most prestigious in Pittsburgh. It was like being a kid in a candy store. Clean, consistent and stacked with the best training equipment. FCP has two cages, an elevated ring, a Thai bag forest, mat space large enough for 6 pairs to roll and cameras strategically set up so one could review progress, it is nothing less than MMA heaven. We were led to a large meeting room to begin the interview.
Enter Mark Cherico, undefeated 145 lbs Pinnacle Fighting Championships Champion. He’s got the blueprint to success and he knows how to read it. Read on below to see what makes “The Pride of Bloomfield” tick.
InYaFaceMMA.com: Were your parents athletes?
IYF: Anything professionally?
MC: No. He was considering it, but then my mom got pregnant with me so he decided against it.
IYF: What was it like growing up in Bloomfield?
MC: I actually grew up in Garfield. My mom was from Garfield and my dad was from Bloomfield. They originally bought a house in Garfield and we lived in it for a while then moved to Bloomfield and that’s pretty much where I’ve been for the last fifteen or sixteen years. I love it. It’s a nice small community. Everybody knows everybody. We’ve got a lot of nice little shops and it’s a nice little neighborhood.
IYF: What kind of sports were you into as a kid?
MC: I played a little bit of football and baseball but that was about it. Whenever I got into high school I wanted to wrestle but I was on probation so I wasn’t allowed. I wasn’t really allowed to do any sports after like sixth grade
IYF: When you’re coming into the ring, are you looking for a knockout or a submission?
MC: I’m always coming forward. I’m always looking to finish. I don’t care how I get the finish. I’m just a finisher. That’s part of my style. I want to go out there and finish. You let it go to the judges, you see it sometimes where guys get robbed and I’m not about to have that happen. If I lose, I’m going to go out on my shield. I don’t want to go out with three fat guys on the side of the cage telling me I lost the fight.
MC: It’s pretty cool. The original nickname was actually given to me by another fighter, so I kind of took his nickname and he gave it to me so it was kind of an honor. I get a huge support system from Bloomfield and from other places in the city from people that are from Bloomfield. As soon as they hear that name they contact me. When I fight, I bring bus loads. We used to take party buses to Cleveland for my fights and now, were selling like 260 -300 tickets per show. It’s nice to have that kind of following, being from such a small neighborhood.
IYF: Who is the other fighter?
MC: His name is Mike Silvia. He did like tough man and boxing a little bit.
IYF: Did he give you the name? Did he say he wanted you to take this name?
MC: Yeah, he contacted me on MySpace then. Id already had my first MMA fight and I was getting ready for my second one and he actually wrote it on my wall and then messaged me later. It was actually Dave Klick, who was running Cage of Chaos at the time, had seen it on my wall and when he introduced me, that’s how he introduced me and it just kind of stuck.
IYF: When did you first get involved with MMA?
MC: Back in 2007. I met one of my neighbors who used to train. His name is Mike Culmarino and I told him I was interested in getting into some training… you know maybe seeing about competing so he took me into my garage, held mits with me for a few and then sent me to my first coach Donny Kaecher from Personal Training Tactics and I trained there up until 2011.
IYF: Can you tell us a little bit about your training regiment? Training, eating…
MC: When I’m getting ready for a fight, obviously the diet changes completely. I do all my lifting and my strength training over at Umberger Performance, which is right across the building from here (Fight Club Pittsburgh). There are a lot of pro athletes over there, like Craig Adams and R.J. (Umberger) and they all train over there. It’s basically block training where you do a different block every three weeks. When we get near a fight and were eight weeks out, we do an eight week out camp, which is based kind of off of the Joel Jamieson system. Scott’s really good friends with Joel and they set up our program, how we train for every day throughout those eight weeks. We monitor our heart rates and stuff with a system called the iThlete. You wear your heart rate monitor in the morning and it will tell you what your resting heart rate is that day and it will give you a score. Based on the score you know how hard you’re able to go that day, cause there’s days where you wake up and you feel like shit and then you put your heart rate monitor on and get your HRB score and its really high and I’m like “Oh man I’m actually pretty good!” and I’m feeling crummy and I go in there and I actually have the best day of lifting in my life and there’s other days where you feel good but you have a low score and you’re like “ Okay, I’m not going to push it” and at the end of the day you’re like “Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t push it… cause I’m not there today”.
IYF: Do you wear your heart rate monitor before a fight?
MC: Yeah I do it before a fight. My scores are always beautiful the day of a fight. My resting heart rate my last fight was actually 35. Its insane because you wake up and you’re like “damn I feel good” cause normally you cut a lot of weight. I cut a lot of weight to make 145 and my scores usually pretty low that day but after my recovery I feel great. Scott (Umberger) knows what he’s doing. It’s crazy. I don’t do any, like, real running anymore. I used to run every day and I’d get shin splints and I couldn’t spar. We don’t really run. Maybe for the first couple of weeks there is a Saturday where we go for a light jog where we have to keep our heart rate under 145 and every week you can tell your cardio is getting better cause you’ll have to push it harder to keep your heart rate up at 145… so he knows his stuff and he went to Robert Morris, I think it was for physical science, and he just keeps getting better and better. He’s constantly going to seminars to make us better athletes. It’s definitely good. We do blood work and stuff so we can monitor what were eating and what we need to get in our diets when were cutting and when were not cutting.
IYF: What do you do for your cardiovascular? Do you use an elliptical or…?
MC: No. When we’re getting ready for the fight, the first couple weeks are like 80% Umberger and 20% here (Pittsburgh Fight Club). So I’m doing mostly technique stuff and I’m working on my strength and my cardio over and over at Umberger’s and once we get closer to the fight it starts to switch, to where the last couple of weeks fight its like 95% here and 5% Umberger’s and it’s a lot of ”shark tanks” and stuff like that to get my cardio ready. There it’s more like plyometrics and occasionally like one day a week we might do some tempo runs just to recover our legs and stuff like that. That’s pretty much how we get our cardio. Its weird too cause never at any point do I think “Man, my cardio’s going to be through the roof (with) the way I’m training” but you get into a shark tank and they guys that are supposed to be shark tanking me are gassing out before I am. I’ve never felt an issue with my cardio.
MC: Sometimes it depends on what sunglasses I’m wearing. The first fight in December (11) here in Pittsburgh, I wore ones that were really dark and I just kept telling myself “Please don’t trip… please don’t trip”. I couldn’t see anything. It said, like, “Free Ride” and had a mustache hanging off of it. So, like, the “Free Ride” blurred my vision and I couldn’t see anything heading into the cage. Usually, I’m having fun making sure I high-five everybody and that’s about it. I don’t really get nervous for fights. I’m from the city. I’ve fought every day of my life, so getting into a fight out there… all those people that came to see me and support me. If I were to lose, half of those people wouldn’t have the balls to get in there anyways, so I don’t care what they think.
IYF: Did you get into fights as a kid or did you get along with the other kids?
MC: Yeah, I got into a lot of fist fights.
IYF: What were the reasons? Just growing up in the city?
MC: Yeah… it was just a lot of fights like “You’re from that neighborhood, I’m from this neighborhood” and then we’d get into a fight.
IYF: It’s very special that you’re undefeated. Very few people can claim that. Why do you think you’re undefeated?
MC: I think, and my training partners will say this too, I always try to find my weaknesses immediately after a fight. I don’t rest on my laurels, I don’t watch my fight and go like “Oh man! I look amazing!” I might joke and say that stuff but I’ll sit down and I’ll watch my fight constantly and just look for little holes and I’m trying to figure out “If I was fighting this guy (me), how would I beat him?”. I think that’s what makes me better, I find the little holes and try to make them better before my next opponent realizes it and takes advantage of it and capitalizes on it so I’m constantly trying to fix the little holes in my game and I try to bring that to the amateurs and the pros here too… that you don’t want to ever rest on your laurels and you don’t want to have a bunch of “yes” men going “Dude, you’re the best fighter in the world” and “You’re so good at this” and “You’re so good at that”. There’s always room for improvement. You don’t want “yes” men. You don’t want to end up like BJ Penn, where you’re a legend so you just rest here and guys are starting to leap frog you. I don’t want to let that happen. I want to be the best fighter in Pittsburgh; I want to be the best fighter in the world eventually.
IYF: I think you might already be there…
MC: We’re trying….
IYF: When’s the next fight?
MC: November 27th for Pinnacle Fighting Championships.
IYF: Who are you fighting?
MC: Uh, we don’t know yet. There are a couple of names that we’re throwing around. I threw some bigger names around that are kind of being looked at. Possibly Cody Stevens, Dustin Neace who was on “The Ultimate Fighter”, Cory Mahon. Those three are potentials. I’d like to get someone that’s been dropped from the UFC. Maybe like Leonard Garcia or Jens Pulver or something like that would be awesome but I’m sure those guys command a lot more money than what the local promotions are going to be willing to pay. That’s my goal. I can fight anybody that’s like 8-4 or 10-2 or whatever but if nobody knows them, like on the big scene, it doesn’t really do anything for me. I’d rather fight a guy that’s like, 10-3 and just got cut from the UFC, as opposed to a guy that’s 10-3 from Florida that nobody’s ever heard of. Beating that guy for me does nothing. At least beating that guy that’s nationally recognized will do something for me.
IYF: What about title fights. Does Pinnacle Fighting Championships have any kind of belts?
MC: The Donny Walker fight that I just had was supposed to be a title fight and, I don’t know, Greg Sirb (PSAC) wouldn’t approve it as a title fight. When he wouldn’t approve the fight to begin with it didn’t make sense. It doesn’t even make any sense to me. The guy was a UFC veteran. He wasn’t a UFC veteran from like 1999; he’s a UFC veteran as of last year. They’re like “No, he’s not good enough”. That doesn’t even make any sense. I’m like “How is that”? When I got the text, they were like “They won’t approve the fight”. I honestly thought they weren’t approving the fight because they thought I wasn’t ready for the fight. I was like “I understand, I’m only 4-0, but I can hang with him. Let me call Greg to explain it to him.” He goes “That’s not the problem. They’re denying him to fight you”. I’m like “wow that’s ridiculous”. Everybody I knew, we got on the phone, we called, until he changed his mind. He changed his mind on the fight, but he wouldn’t change his mind on the title fight. We didn’t want to push him to make him say “F$%# it, now were not doing anything”, so we just took what we could get. The November fight hast the potential to be a title fight. It kind of depends on whether its going to be Dustin Neace, who will be fighting in August, so the winner of that, maybe that would work out. I’m not calling anybody out or anything. I just want to fight the toughest guys in the area so, we’ll see, whoever they bring up, I’m happy with. I just want to fight guys with big records.
IYF: Where do you hope to be in one year?
MC: Hopefully in the UFC. That’s the ultimate goal. I’ve had a lot of guys call me and they think maybe one or two more fights. I’m not in a hurry to get there though. A year? Maybe that’d be good to get another three or four fights under my belt and I feel like I’d be ready to compete. I don’t want to go too soon and be overwhelmed with fighting guys that are a little above me, so I definitely want to take my time. If within a year I’m ready then that’s great. If not, then we’ve got to get some more shows here with Pinnacle and I’ll fight there until they call my name.
IYF: How does that transition happen?
MC: I mean, I’ve had Kenny Florian’s manager call me and he wants to work with me and I had another guy call me too that wants to work with me from Boston and I’ve been going back and forth. Really just having those kinds of connections, those are the kind of guys that can get your fight tapes in the hands of the upper guys in the UFC. For featherweights, I think it’s Shawn Shelby that matches the card, so that’s the guy that you want to get the DVDs of all your fights into his hands. Having a guy like that, being able to have that kind of a connection is good. He hands a guy in the UFC a DVD and he likes what he sees and he’ll be keeping an eye on you. I’ve been thinking of going to some bigger shows, maybe Ring of Combat or somewhere in Nevada or California. I think that’ll get me out there too but beating Donny Walker was a step in the right direction cause he still has people watching him from the UFC. That kind of win is good and they way I won is good… just dominating him was an added bonus.
IYF: How does the “Mrs.” feel about you potentially going to the UFC?
MC: She loves the fighting and everything. She doesn’t like the hours I work as much. I get into the gym at about 2:00 and I’m here until about 9:30-10:00 and before that I go to Umberger’s or Renzo’s, depending on what day it is. My fight day starts at 11:30 whether I’m going to Umberger’s, Renzos, or here (PFC). We have a daughter. She’s going to be one on Friday. I try to get up real early so I can spend time with her. I try to get at least 3-4 hours a day in with her and when I get home I try to at least sit down on the couch with my wife for an hour and bullshit and then try to get go to the bed at the same time as her so that way she’s happy. Sometimes I’m just like “I’m going to stay up and just play Playstation” but that doesn’t go over too well. I try to do as much as I can around the house too so she doesn’t have to clean up as much and she can just stay home and spend time with our daughter. As long as I do what I’m supposed to do at the house, she’s happy. She ain’t gonna divorce me now, I’m too close to the payoff.
Food: Sicilian Style Pizza
Alcohol: Cherry Vodka & Sprite
Athlete : Mark Cherico
Sports Team : Chicago Bears
Actor: Matthew McConaughey
Dream Date: Miley Cyrus
What place would you like to travel to that you haven’t been yet : California
MMA Fighter most like to train with: Myself
Words By Black Hileman, intro by Jaime Chesney
Who would you like to nominate for November’s Fighter of the Month?
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