Blue collar, brown belt for Philippou's BJJ partner BIlly Bottone

Billy Bottone, center, is a brown belt at

Billy Bottone, center, is a brown belt at Serra BJJ in Levittown, and is a training partner for the UFC's Costa Philippou. At left in this Facebook photo is former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, with his brother, Nick Serra, on the right.

When the sun is in the sky, whether you see it shining or not, Billy Bottone is a power maintainer for the New York City transit department.

When the moon replaces the sun, Bottone is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner -- a blue-collar guy with a brown belt.

The Franklin Square resident trains at Serra BJJ in Levittown, owned and operated by former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra. Among those he rolls with are teachers, accountants, cops . . . and professional fighters. That dichotomy exists in very few sports. Mixed martial arts is one of them.

Bottone works regularly with Costa Philippou, a rising middleweight who fights Tim Boetsch this Saturday at UFC in Las Vegas. Bottone, like several hundred thousand other people across the country this weekend, will dole out a few bucks to watch Philippou on a pay-per-view card headlined by a heavyweight title rematch between champion Junior Dos Santos and challenger Cain Velasquez.

But Bottone, 37, is one of a few who can say he taught that guy a move or two. "It's like I'm in there, my adrenaline is going," Bottone said about watching Philippou fight. "That's my guy, that's my guy right there."

Philippou (11-2, 4-1 UFC) began as a professional boxer and has spent the past few years learning the ground game, a key component for mixed martial artists. He continues to improve, and his takedown defense is noticeably better now than in his earlier fights.

"On the mat, he's like a sponge," Bottone said. "You show him something once, twice, he picks it up. He's a good training partner because he makes me work harder. He pushes me, which is good for both of us -- for him it's his living, for me it's a hobby."

It's hobby that has lasted more than seven years for Bottone, who credits the martial art for helping him change his lifestyle. When he started, Bottone said he weighed 315 pounds. Now? Subtract a hundred from that, give or take his most recent meal.

Of the 18 people on the mats for the advanced BJJ class on this particular Tuesday night at Serra's school, three were professional fighters -- Philippou, "TUF Live" finalist Al Iaquinta and Strikeforce light heavyweight Gian Villante. As the live BJJ session continued, people rotated partners.

Bottone stayed with Philippou, who was two and a half weeks away from the biggest fight of his career.

"He's very strong and he learns quick," Bottone said. "You go against him, you're not going to get away with the little things."

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