Something is clicking these days for Gian Villante, even if he can’t say exactly what it is or why it’s happening.
More than nine years since jumping into professional fighting with just a few months experience training mixed martial arts, Villante has his clearest picture yet of who he is as a fighter and a person.
“It’s tough to say, but things are starting to click a little bit more, I’m starting to figure out myself more,” Villante said.
The Levittown product faces Sam Alvey in a light heavyweight bout at UFC Fight Night 131 in Utica on Friday, hopefully carrying his growing confidence into the cage.
“When I first walked into a gym and had my first fight, I’d only been training a few months, so I still had a lot to learn,” Villante said. “There are guys who train seven, eight years before they have one fight. I’ve only been training eight, nine years now, I’m still learning every day, and I just think learning about myself is the biggest thing.
“Whatever it is, something clicked and everything started to feel better.”
Villante (16-9, 6-6 UFC) has trained under Keith Trimble at Bellmore Kickboxing since the beginning. Trimble said he hasn’t noticed any major differences but said Villante continues to learn and grow as the years go.
“I think with his experience over time, mentally he’s more confident in himself,” Trimble said. “More experience, the easier it should become mentally. We’ve been through this a million and one times. Definitely, the jitters, all that stuff are definitely way less.”
Known for his carefree attitude, Villante said he’s been more diligent about his training for recent camps than he was earlier in his career.
“I just think more being on a schedule. No matter what, I get to that workout, that type of thing,” Villante said. “There were times in the past where I’d be tired or feeling injured and I wouldn’t go.”
The key to his evolving mindset, however, may reside in Cleveland.
Villante spent the first few weeks of his last three training camps with UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and his coach, Marcus Marinelli, to get some different looks and experience.
“[Marinelli’s] a great dude, man, he treats me like I’m Stipe, like I’m the king, so it’s awesome. I do a couple weeks to start there, just to get my body going a little bit,” Villante said. “It’s very different from what I do here, he kicks your [expletive] right into shape. It’s just training with different guys, finding who works for you, and me and Stipe figured out that we’re good training partners together and it’s worked out for the both of us.”
Villante and Miocic have been friendly for the past few years with Villante even coaching alongside Miocic on the latest season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
What makes Miocic a good collaborator for Villante?
“What doesn’t make him a good training partner is he hits really hard and it hurts,” Villante said. “But what does make it good is he’s the best in the world right now and you can only learn with doing something like that.”
Villante believes the trips have helped tremendously.
“The biggest thing is just seeing how a guy like that is serious about his job. It’s a short-lived career, so you’ve gotta make the most out of it. I think Stipe is one of those guys making the most out of his career,” Trimble said. “At the end of the day, Gian is a goofball, it is what it is, he’s a happy-go-lucky guy. But I just think being around Stipe, seeing him rise and becoming friends with him and seeing the work ethic that he has, I think that will definitely rub onto you and you realize, ‘OK, you know what, even though I don’t have a fight right now, I should be training. I don’t take off for three months, then I’ve got a fight, I’ve gotta start training eight weeks for now.’ You’ve gotta always stay in shape, you should be at 85 percent, this way when you start to train for your fight, you go right into it instead of taking two or three out of my eight weeks of camp to get in shape. You always want to be ready.”
UFC Utica fight card
Bantamweight: Jimmie Rivera vs. Marlon Moraes
Lightweight: Gregor Gillespie vs. Vinc Pichel
Heavyweight: Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz
Welterweight: Jake Ellenberger vs. Ben Saunders
Featherweight: Julio Arce vs. Daniel Teymur
Light Heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Sam Alvey
Women’s Flyweight: Sijara Eubanks vs. Lauren Murphy
Lightweight: Nik Lentz vs. David Teymur
Welterweight: Belal Muhammad vs. Chance Rencountre
Lightweight: Desmond Green vs. Gleison Tibau
Women’s Strawweight: Jessica Aguilar vs. Jodie Esquibel
Bantamweight: Johnny Eduardo vs. Nathaniel Wood
Flyweight: Jarred Brooks vs. Jose Torres