Clementi on a hot streak
The average MMA fighter takes a couple months off between fights, but this Saturday’s UFC 84: Ill Will in Las Vegas will see rising lightweight division star Rich Clementi (39-12-1) make back-to-back appearances inside the Octagon. Clementi, currently on a hot streak after winning his last three UFC fights, and last five fights, overall, will step into the ring with Terry Etim (10-1).
After a UFC career that was nearly derailed with three early losses to Shonie Carter, Yves Edwards, and Din Thomas, Clementi rebounded by defeating Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at a catch weight of 177 pounds and then, dropping to 155, stopped Melvin Guillard in the first round at UFC 79.
It was the latter fight in which Clementi showed off his vast arsenal of striking and submission skills, surprising many fight fans by attempting to finish Guillard with a full nelson—something Clementi said was intentional.
“I really do a lot of different things,” says Clementi. “I’ve never had a jiu-jitsu instructor, so my grappling is very much based around me and I try a bunch of different stuff sometimes.”
Clementi’s “different stuff” includes his unorthodox finishing techniques.
“I get guys in practice with stuff like that all the time,” he says.
Clementi has cut a break neck pace and UFC 84 will mark his sixth professional fight in the last eight months.
“[The UFC] needed a replacement (for an injured fighter) and I was still feeling really good. To be honest, almost all of my fight career, I’ve been a guy that fights almost every month and that’s when I’ve been the most successful. I just naturally stay pretty active and I’m just excited to step back in there.
“It helps me keep my weight down, which is probably the biggest thing as far as my fighting goes. It keeps me in a good mindset and I stay in shape. I’m not one of these guys that fights and then takes a day off. I might take a few days, but I’m back in the gym almost instantly.”
Despite the current hot streak of wins, Clementi says he doesn’t mind waiting in line for his shot at UFC gold, even if less talented fighters get a title match before him.
“I like working my way up,” says Clementi. “I think it says a lot more about a fighter and it just helps my name get out there. I don’t mind taking the slow, easy road up to the top and throughout my career I’ve probably fought six or seven guys that have been No. 1 contenders. At the same time, there are a lot of guys that have a lot of hype in the UFC right now and to be frank, I think I’m a little better [than them] and I think those would make great fights for the fans.”
With the lightweight division currently stacked with guys who have name recognition and the ability to electrify crowds such as Kenny “Ken Flo” Florian, Tyson Griffin, and current champion, B.J. Penn, Clementi is eyeing another rising star amongst the current pack of contenders.
“Great fights, for me, would be anyone like Roger Huerta. He’s an exciting guy and has a good name for himself. That’s a fight I’d love to see happen.”
There’s a striking humility to the man who earned the moniker “No Love” and a refreshing lack of kick ass bravado that can plague fighters on their climb through the ranks. Instead of braggadocio, Clementi exudes a quiet confidence about the next phase of his revived MMA career.
“I’ll fight anybody . . . I’ll fight a standup guy. I can fight a jiu-jitsu guy. I’m good everywhere so it makes me dangerous, but, at the same time, makes me competitive with anyone out there.”
Even when pressed about the outcome of the upcoming fight with Etim, Clementi chooses his words carefully.
“I think it’s an exciting fight in that he’s a little bit like me because he fights everywhere. I think I’m probably a little bit better and a little more experienced than him at everything he does. He’ll stand up and try to take me down and if it does go there, I’ll do jiu-jitsu, but if I try to take him down, he’s gonna try to do jiu-jitsu.
“I think you’re gonna get to see a little bit of everything,” he says of the bout. “And as a fan, those are the type of fights I like to watch.”