BRISTOL — For Domenic Gagliardi, his time to step into the Mixed Martial Arts spotlight has finally arrived.
Tonight, the 28-year-old Bristol native will travel to Uncasville and head into the octagon for the biggest fight of his MMA career. Gagliardi will take part in one of the 15 bouts during Reality Fighting’s A Night of MMA Fights at Mohegan Sun Arena.
It’s a night Gagliardi has dreamt of since he first stumbled upon the sport when he was going from gym to gym trying to find that one thing that would build on the passion for wrestling he gained while at Bristol Central High School.
After bouncing around, his search finally ended when he walked through the doors of a small gym in Plainville — New Century MMA. It was then he began to learn the sport from owner and trainer Jake Pajor.
“Jake, who was a professional kick boxer, began training me and showing me the basics of striking and boxing,” Gagliardi said.
It was just a year into their training when Pajor got tickets to a professional MMA fight at Mohegan Sun. It was at that moment while watching from the stands that Gagliardi fully realized he wanted to be the one in the ring, not in the crowd.
The next day he was back in the gym hungrier than ever to compete. Trying to feed that hunger, he placed a resume online stating he was a new fighter looking for a match. Two weeks later, Gagliardi, a 2001 graduate of Bristol Central, received a call from Richmond, Va. asking if he was interested in a fight.
“Right away I agreed to the fight and started training,” Gagliardi said. “After working 40-plus hours I had to put any last energy I had into training.”
Now, he hopes all the hard work over the years will lead him to victory on the biggest stage of his MMA career.
Gagliardi is set to do battle with undefeated Mark McLaughlin. The 170-pound McLaughlin has been impressive in his three professional fights. His last bout lasted just 2 minutes, 19 seconds as the referee stopped the contest, earning him the technical knockout victory over Joe Soucy.
McLaughlin’s other two fights went the distance, winning both by decision.
The Night of Fights at Mohegan Sun will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $35.
Although Gagliardi feels he is fully prepared to meet tonight’s challenge, he can’t help but admit there will be at least a small sense of anxiety as he heads to the ring. To him, that’s OK. If there weren’t, he said, he would feel there was something wrong.
“From my first fight to my last fight the feeling before you walk in to the cage has always been the same. Your mind is racing through a million different things, but the second the bell rings your only thought is what’s in front of you,” Gagliardi said. “You can never plan on an opponent, because usually what you’ve heard or read or even saw in his flaws, chances are he has been working on them in the gym.”
As a fighter, Gagliardi is certain that McLaughlin is also aware of his flaws. That’s why, he said, he’s worked harder than ever preparing for this fight.
While he has years of grappling experience, Gagliardi has recently turned his attention toward becoming a better striker. But most importantly he hasn’t forgot the No. 1 ingredient when it comes to the recipe for Mixed Martial Arts success.
“Cardio is one of the most important parts of MMA because no matter how good you are, if you’re tired, all that knowledge goes out the window,” Gagliardi said.
Win or lose tonight, Gagliardi will walk out of the octagon a happy man. He knows he will continue to have the support of all the people in his corner, especially his parents, who have always been behind him.
“My parents are my drive to do well in life, regardless of what I’m doing,” Gagliardi said. “Their struggles in life have made it possible for me to even be able to chase my goals and dreams by giving me the life they never had.”