Michael Chiesa, a former Ultimate Fighter winner, will make the move to welterweight beginning this Saturday when he meets former interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 232.
Recently, Chiesa was a guest on “Submission Radio” to discuss the weight change, facing Condit and more.
On not having to worry about cutting weight to make 155 anymore
“The best way to describe it, is it almost makes me feel guilty that I don’t have, that I’m not stressed out the whole camp. I’m so used to being super stressed out the whole training camp, and it always stems from my weight, you know what I mean? I start stressing about my weight, then once that starts rolling, then I start stressing about the fight, I’m stressing about winning, I’m stressing about everything. And this camp has just been like, dude, I can just focus on my skills. Like, especially in the last three years, the camp has always just been revolving around cutting weight. Everything is always like, aside from sparring, everything is in sweats and I’m always running. I’m always just like, it’s just not… it’s been stunting my growth as a fighter. The time that I grow the most as a fighter is when I’m in training camp. I train year-round, I’m very adamant about that. But when I don’t have a training camp, I’m just training to have fun. But when I’m in training camp, that’s where I’m really dialing my skills, really focusing in getting better, and I’ve been robbing myself of that these last few years. So, this training camp has been just all about getting better. I’ve been happier, I’m stress-free. My family, you know, my family’s very happy with my decision. You know, it’s hard for them to see, not only is it hard for them to see somebody they love that competes as a fighter, but imagine having somebody not only do they do that, but they also kill themselves cutting weight. And a lot of people that see me in person are like, holy crap dude, you are the biggest lightweight ever. I just don’t want to be the biggest lightweight ever. I don’t like that. I want to be… it’s either I need to keep killing myself to be this small bag of bones to fight at 155, or focus on being an athlete. I want to be a big, strong, fast, athletic guy. Couple that with my fighting skills, and you have a very dangerous guy. That’s who I want to be. I don’t want to be the guy that’s just a walking skeleton six months out of the year. And it’s paying it’s dividends. This morning I woke up, I was 184. And you know, it’s like for me, I still have to pinch myself. Cause I see that number and I’m like, fuck, I’m still so far over. And I’m like, wait, dude, I’m fighting at 170. Like, gotta pinch myself and remember sometimes I’m not a lightweight anymore. And it’s funny that when I was fighting at lightweight, if anybody would always ask my weight, I would always lie. I would always tell you, oh, I’m 165. But it’s like, yeah, I’m actually 170. Where it’s like, now I can honestly tell you, hey, I was 184 this morning and I’m not lying about it.”
On being a big fan of Condit’s before he ever fought
“To really prove that this was the best choice, it’s really important that I go out and win. And it’s easier said than done. I got a freakin tough ass fight ahead of me. It’s against a guy that I respect a lot, Carlos Condit. I mean, I still have some of his walkout shirts, his Sinister walkout shirts. You know, when I was an up and coming fighter, you know, I was buying his shirts and I was always watching his fights. And I’m a fan first and I’m a fighter second, but I’ve learnt to put the fanboy aside and go out and perform and beat these guys that I grew up watching. I’ve competed against plenty of guys that I’ve looked up to, and I know that I’ll be able to put that aside and go out and do what I gotta do to get the win. Whether it’s a three-round war or a quick submission, I know I’m gonna be ready for whatever Carlos throws at me and I’m excited for the opportunity to compete against him. I got a lot of respect for the guy.”
When Chiesa decided to move up to welterweight
I’ve always toiled with the idea. This was going back to probably after the Beneil Dariush fight. That was a pretty tough weight cut. And it’s not like I made the decision then, but going back to that, it’s like, I’m going to stay 155 until I have some shortcomings and then I’m gonna go up to 170. So it was something that we’d already talked about as a team, but it’s like, while you’re winning, while you’re rolling, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I’ll still keep making the weight, we’re climbing the rankings, we’re getting closer to the goal. The goal’s a world championship, we know we’re gonna get one. 155 was just the focus cause that’s where I’ve been my whole career. And the whole Kevin Lee fight happened. I didn’t look at that as a shortcoming, that’s another story all in itself. And then once I got done, when I got home from Brooklyn and we started camp for the Pettis fight for the July fight, we started the second camp for Pettis, I just remember talking to Bo Sandoval here at the PI and I was just like, man, I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna beat Anthony and then I’m going to go up to welterweight, instead of doing this on a shortcoming. A lot of people make changes when they lose, you know, that’s a common thing in this sport. A lot of guys lose a couple of fights and they make a change. I’ve always kind of knocked people for that. Oh, you lose a couple fights, you change camps, you lose a couple of fights, you change weight classes. Like, I don’t think that’s always the answer. For me, my plan was to beat Anthony and go up, you know what I mean? You don’t see that. And I think that would have been good, that would have been something different, it would have caught a lot of people’s attention. But things don’t always go the way you plan them to, this is mixed martial arts. I lost. So, I still wanted to stick, the stubborn side of me wanted to still stay at lightweight until I got the win, and move up on a win. But it’s like, if I stay at lightweight and I win a fight I’m gonna get sucked into to staying there, you know what I mean? Let’s make the choice now, while I’m still young, while I’m still in my prime. I just turned 31, I got a lot of fighting years left. So, I had already made the choice before I fought Anthony, like, hey, it’s time to make that welterweight jump, it’s time to get back to focusing on fighting fighters instead of fighting the scale.”
What kind of Condit Chiesa is expecting
“I’m preparing for WEC Carlos Condit. I’m preparing for Dong Hyun Kim, Dan Hardy Carlos Condit. That’s the Carlos Condit I’m preparing for. And I don’t look at him… he is a legend of the sport, but I don’t look at him like that because I just don’t think… this is a sport where people are quick to be written off, you know what I mean? A guy can be on a four-fight win-streak, get his butt kicked one time and everybody’s writing him off. But four fights before, that guy was a hero. So, I’m not looking at Carlos like that. That’d be a huge mistake. I mean, this guy is from a great camp, he’s very well coached, I have a lot of respect for that team. You know, the guy trains side by side with Jon Jones. That’s a pretty good training partner right there. So, I’m expecting the best Carlos Condit. And I don’t think this is the toughest match-up for me, but it is a tough match-up. I mean, Carlos is a gamer, so I gotta be sharp, I gotta be on my A-game that night. And I think I’m giving myself the best opportunity to win a fight like this by going up a weight class. At 155 it’s hard to rebound from that weight cut. You gotta just go out and just kind of – Anthony Smith said it best, you’re kind of in a fog, so you just go, put the gas pedal to the floor and go for the best. Whereas with this fight, I feel like I can be a little more cerebral, I feel like I can make a lot better choices and I feel like I bring my best game to the table. I think I can make this a pretty good win for me.”