Office to Octagon: A Salesman Enters an MMA Corporate League
You have never heard of Joe Muccio. There’s no point scratching your head, and going through MMA forums to see if he’s some top prospect, because you won’t find him there. Joe is just an ordinary man from the suburbs. He’s 24-years-old, and after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst he became a salesman. He’s just nice, normal guy.
He hasn’t sparred with Steven Seagal, or wrestled a bear. He hasn’t studied in a Shaolin temple or won an NCAA wrestling tournament.
Still, after half a year of intense training, he found himself inside an Octagon with two other men standing across from him. The man facing him was Bern Prince, a world class CrossFit trainer, and the other was UFC referee Kevin MacDonald.
He could hear the sound of his family and friends screaming in the background, when his charity fight began in Office to Octagon, a non-profit MMA promotion. He had done everything he needed to do to win, he told himself. He was ready. He was confident. And there was no way he was getting beat up in front of his buddies.
Joe had been a fan of mixed martial arts for a while. He was first introduced while watching Shamrock and Tito Ortiz beef on television. Like most fans, he was content to just watch the action, relax, and have a couple beers. The drinking habits weren’t really a problem then, but after four years of partying his ass off at UMass, and subsequently heading straight to the work force, Joe found himself 50 pounds overweight.
He joined a gym where he first saw a poster for Office to Octagon, a “corporate fight league.” Confused, and interested, Joe called the number that was written at the bottom.
It turns out that the fight league wasn’t a normal work-friends event, like Tough Mudder, or a 5k around the city (wearing a graphic T-shirt, of course). Office to Octagon was a real event that pairs White Collar MMA fans against each other for charity. To properly compete, Joe would have to go through six months of intense training at a local gym. He knew he wasn’t going to end up a superstar like Chuck Liddell, but it wasn’t about that. How many of his co-workers could say that they’d ever fight in the ring?
“I wanted to see what I was made of,” said Joe. “I really wanted to push that boundary, and see if I would break because I knew if I wanted to do this. I wanted to do this balls-to-the-wall. That’s the only way to do it.”
Picking out a local gym was easy for him: Sityodtong with world-renowned trainer Mark DellaGrotte. If the gym down the street from his house was good enough for Kenny Florian or Jorge Rivera, it was good enough for him.
“I walked in there not knowing a goddamn thing about MMA, Muay Thai, or anything,” recalled Joe. “They have awesome coaches there, and I’m just so grateful for them working with me.”
While he didn’t have any experience fighting, Joe who was the youngest of four, had some experience getting beat up, and that’s exactly what he got more of to give him a warm welcome to the tight-knit brotherhood in Somerville, Mass. To the team at the gym, it didn’t matter if he was fighting for charity; Joe was the new guy, and he’d have to show dedication before chumming it up with the pros.
“You needed to earn every inch you got,” said Joe. “They didn’t think much of me, but I kept showing up, so I earned their respect the hard way.”
The coaches knew they had limited time, and Joe was also representing the Sityodtong name when he competed on fight night.It was a simple philosophy to get him ready—learn by doing.
“I was so green, and I didn’t even know [how to train],” said Joe recalling one of his first nights at team practice. He came out swinging like a mad man, unaware that you’re not supposed to go all out during training. He learned about that rule pretty quick. “They definitely rocked my world a couple times.”
Unquestionably there were nights filled with doubt, and the desire to drop out. But after training a couple weeks with Mark’s team at Sityodtong, it started to become more about the team than the charity event. Sure, there were some people at the gym who tried to make him quit right away, but there were also those who were counting on him to represent them in a positive way.
“Everyday I was just like, ‘What the fuck did I get myself into?’” Joe remembered. “I made the decision not to quit because of those guys.” He kept training at Sityodtong and over those six months dropped to a lean 181 pounds. He’d put in the effort, now it was time to see what he was made of.
Joe knew that he’d done everything he could to prepare for his fight. The weight cut had gone fine, the morning had gone fine, and he tried to tell himself that the fight would go fine too. Luckily for Joe, this wasn’t the first time his coaches from had cornered a fight and they could see the same excited nervous look that they’d had on their own faces years ago.
“One thing they said to me that stuck even to this day was, ‘Joe, this is your first fight ever. Enjoy it. Take it all in because whether you choose to fight again or not, this is going to be your first and only first fight.’”
“That took me down to where I needed to be mentally,” Joe explained.
The event was sold out, and thousands of dollars were going to be donated to the kids. He had earned the gym’s respect. He had regained control of his life. In Joe’s mind he had already won. It was just time to close the deal.
Joe Muccio sank in the rear naked choke in just under two minutes of the first round. There was no gold belt around his waste, but he understood, if only for a moment, why the fighters he watched for so long on TV did what they did.
“Honestly, I knew MMA was not an easy sport, but the fight is won before you step into the ring. That’s how serious these guys take their jobs. If you’re a pro fighter in this game right now, all you do is train.”
Joe doesn’t think hewill compete again. There just isn’t enough time for him to fit in the training he did while working fulltime. However, even if he’ll put on a suit and work at a desk the rest of his life, he’ll always have that first fight.
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