Gianpero Villante is a heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter from Long Island, New York that recently signed a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce. He is currently the Ring of Combat Heavyweight Champion and trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy under trainer Keith Trimble as well as D’Arce BJJ.
Villante was born and raised in Wantagh, New York where he graduated from General Douglas Macarthur High School having won the New York State Wrestling Championship and several awards for football including being named to the High School Heisman All-Star team as a linebacker. Gian attended Hofstra University from 2003-2007 where he continued his highly successful football and wrestling careers and graduated as an NFL prospect player with several teams having expressed interest in him.
Since 2009 Gian has made mixed martial arts a career with an impressive 7-1 record. We recently caught up with him to discuss his upcoming bout with Chad Griggs, looking for the knockout and where he sees himself in the heavyweight picture.
Ingo Weigold: You just signed with Strikeforce and are fighting Chad Griggs on the first leg of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix card on Feb 12th in New Jersey, this is a big step up in exposure for you, how do you feel about that?
Gian Villante: I think its an incredible opportunity and a step in the right direction. It also will provide me with a chance to truly showcase my talent on a televised card. It will provide a great amount of exposure for fans that arent familiar with me. Fans across the world get to see that I am a determined and exciting fighter that always is well prepared and ready to fight anyone that Strikeforce puts in front me. More importantly, I go in there to put on a great show. I don’t lay on any guys, I am always looking for the knockout.
Ingo Weigold: It is rumored that the winner of this fight will determine one of the alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix, does that add any pressure for you to win?
Gian Villante: Not pressure, if anything it adds excitement to possibly have the opportunity to fight one of my idols. All eight guys in the tournament I have watched or looked up to at some point. It would be a dream come true to step in the cage with one of those guys.
Ingo Weigold: Chad Griggs has finished eight of his ten opponents by knockout and you have finished five of your eight opponents by knockout, is it safe to say that you are looking for a brawl when you meet on February 12th?
Gian Villante: Yes, no matter what I think we are both going in there to finish the fight. It’s going to be exciting. We are both looking to put on a good show!
Ingo Weigold: How has your training camp been going so far? Is there anything special you are working on heavily? Who are you training with currently to prepare for your fight?
Gian Villante: It’s going great, all that I could ask for. It is just a normal training camp, same thing i have been doing for the past 8 fights. Just another fight, just another win. I wouldn’t say I am working on anything special in particular. Every fight I just look to get better in every aspect of my game because in MMA you never know where the fight will go. My main training partner is Chris Weidman. He has been my main guy for pretty much every single one of my fights. Im just looking to get out there and show some of the stuff we’ve been working on.
Ingo Weigold: You broke your elbow in your fight with Demetrius Richards on April 10th, how is that feeling?
Gian Villante: Elbow feels good, almost 100%. It’s as perfect as it’s ever going to be. The elbow situation in the Demetrius Richards fight was definitely a letdown in my career but also proof that anything can happen in the cage…you gotta just roll with it. It’s something I’ve learned from and will just get better from a situation like that.
Ingo Weigold: You are a decorated high school wrestler and football player that tried out for several NFL Teams. What made you decide to get into mixed martial arts and do you feel that a guy transitioning from a professional sport like football has a good base to be successful in MMA?
Gian Villante: I tried out for some NFL teams and got the “come tryout here and there pitch” and didn’t want to be one of those guys that floats around the NFL before finding their home years later. I wanted to try something else. I always had a strong passion for MMA. I needed to try it out. The first day trying it, they couldn’t get me out of the gym. It was 3 times a day for 4 months until my first fight. From there I have been staying active and it allowed me to get the opportunity to fight in Strikeforce.
Ingo Weigold: Being the current Ring of Combat Heavyweight Champion and now in the mix for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Division, how do you think the Strikeforce heavyweights stack up against those of other promotions like the UFC and what will it take for you to get to the top of the division?
Gian Villante: I think it’s very deep and maybe even more talented than the UFC. You put Alistair Overeem in there against anyone in the UFC, they’re not escaping that cage. Strikeforce also has what many think is the best fighter ever in Fedor, and thats just to name two of them. Pretty impressive list of guys to me.
Ingo Weigold: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Gian Villante: First I would like to thank my family, sticking with me through all of this. They watch me get punched in the face all the time, that cant be easy to watch. I would also like to thank my sponsors who have been there for me: Cagehero, Lifetime Chimney and Bar Social and of course Bellmore Kickboxing, the gym that has put me on the map.