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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Sayville's 'Quiet Man' Dylan Mantello goes for his first title at Ring of Combat

Dylan Mantello, right, hits pads with Ray Longo

Dylan Mantello, right, hits pads with Ray Longo during a training session at LAW-MMA in Garden City on Oct. 14, 2021. Credit: Newsday/Mark LaMonica

Dylan Mantello can quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela and Aristotle, and be conversationally on point with his usage of their words rather than sound like someone who Googled famous quotes just to sound smart.

So right off the bat, Mantello doesn’t fit into society’s general preconceived image of a mixed martial arts fighter.

The Sayville-raised Mantello also describes himself as "risk averse," which doesn’t quite jive with the nature of his chosen sport, one full of punches to the face, kicks to the ribs, chokes around the neck and the occasional albeit accidental pokes to the eyes.

But for Mantello, 28 and an undefeated fast-rising lightweight prospect, he views his self-aware description through the opposite side of the lens.

"I got to a point where, it was a bigger risk if I didn't try it," Mantello said of competing in MMA. "I thought about what my life would be like if I didn't do it. And that scared me way more than anybody could in the cage. So it's really running away from that fear, as opposed to the other fear. Two different, competing fears. I think you have to pick the right one to motivate you."

He appears to have made the right choice thus far. Mantello, who trains under Ray Longo and Matt Serra, went 6-0 as an amateur and is 4-0 as a professional. He’ll fight John Ramirez (5-5) from Iowa on Friday at Ring of Combat 74 in Atlantic City for the vacant lightweight championship.

Mantello is one of three LAW-MMA fighters competing for titles on the card. Shirley’s James Gonzalez will be defending his national featherweight title and Merrick’s Dennis Buzukja his regional featherweight title. Teammates Lauren Braccia, Damion Nelson and Chris Alcala also are on the ROC 74 card, as are John Caldone and Kareem Kline of Long Island MMA in Farmingdale. The fights will stream on fite.tv.

Mantello lives in Island Park with his fiancee, Samantha, and her 4-year-old son, Jordan. He works full-time for a leasing company for retail shopping centers. Balanced with work, family and his fighting career goals, the 6-1 lightweight appears to be taking his first title bout in stride as he prepares.

"I'm just a pessimist by nature, so I envision the worst possible thing happening to me," Mantello said. "So every single workout, honestly, I'm training like there's a guy out there ready to kill me, hurt me in front of my whole family and embarrass me, so as far as I'm concerned, that's as much motivation as I need. If I get a belt, that means something afterwards, but beforehand, it doesn't."

Nicknamed "The Quiet Man" after the 1952 John Wayne movie he used to watch every St. Patrick’s Day with his father, Mantello gravitated toward fighting at a young age. Middle school, in fact. Except those fights were in the streets, not cages.

He began actual MMA training while a freshman in college at LSU. His passion for the sport continued through college, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English, and took greater hold when he returned home to Long Island.

"Once I graduated, I said I this is exactly what I want to do with my life," Mantello said. "So I said let's do it. Let's burn the boats and commit myself to it."

While sitting in a class at Hofstra in his first semester of graduate school, Mantello searched the web for nearby MMA gyms. He found Longo and Weidman MMA in Garden City, about 1.1 miles away from where he was sitting at the time.

"I got up after the class and got in my car and drove there," Mantello said.

He met Longo, who at the time had trained two UFC champions (he’s up to three now) and close to a dozen UFC fighters. One of those two champions, Chris Weidman, was training in the gym at the time.

"He's very intimidating," Mantello said of meeting Longo for the first time. "You know, he’s got the eyes."

Graduate school was over.

"Just something that grabbed me," Mantello said. "Who knows why, but it was something that never went away. So I said, This is what I want to do with my life.' "

Dylan Mantello's pro MMA fight history

Ring of Combat 73, July 17, 2021: Beat Felipe Alfredo Diaz Gautie by KO, Round 1, 0:35

Triton Fights 18, March 27, 2021: Beat Jerome Mickle via submission (armbar), Round 1, 2:13.

Taura MMA 11, Oct. 30, 2020: Beat Jake Swinney via TKO, Round 2

Ring of Combat 69, Sept. 13, 2019: Beat Dennis Hughes Jr. by unanimous decision

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