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John Cholish's vacation destination is a UFC cage in Brazil

John Cholish, left, lost to Danny Castillo by

John Cholish, left, lost to Danny Castillo by unanimous decision in a lightweight bout at UFC on Fox 3 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. (May 5, 2012)
Credit: Newsday/Mario Gonzalez

John Cholish took a vacation from his job in finance to travel. Only, his trip to Brazil is unlike what you may expect.

"I'm going to be cutting weight," Cholish said. "Then I have to step into the cage with a human being who roughly walks around at 195 pounds and wants to knock my head off. Then I fly back on a red-eye and go straight to work. Not a normal vacation, but it's fun to me."

Cholish, a commodities broker for Beacon, moonlights as a lightweight mixed martial artist for the UFC. The 29-year-old New Jersey native will fight Gleison Tibau at UFC on FX 8 Saturday in Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil. It is his first fight in more than a year. A groin injury last November forced Cholish to pull out of a December bout against Yves Edwards.

Cholish calls what he does in the cage, and the hours, days and weeks preparing for it, "a hobby." He's a broker first, fighter second.

On a typical weekday during training camp, Cholish wakes up in his Long Island City condo at 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., he's at his desk at work -- in Stamford, Conn. By 8 a.m., and for the next eight hours, he's following the natural gas markets. Commodities and options, futures and hedge funds, banks and energy companies.

Then, he gets back into his car -- a Ford Escape with more than 30,000 miles that's he had for about a year -- and drives to his 6 p.m. workout, the first of two each night. The second workout starts around 8 or 9 p.m. The workouts arein different places, ranging from Renzo Gracie's Academy on West 30th Street, Mushin MMA in Union Square, Zab Judah's boxing gym in Brooklyn, Starrett City Boxing Club or Edge Wrestling in Hoboken, N.J.

"Then I go home and do it all over again," Cholish said.

It is a schedule that requires passion for what he does -- on both sides of the bridge -- and precise time management skills. Cholish (8-2, 2-1 UFC) likened the balancing act to when he wrestled for Cornell while maintaining a full course load and graduating in four years.

"Work is like going to school," Cholish said. "Wrestling is like fighting."

It's not about the money for Cholish. Seriously. He'll make more of it sitting at his desk on a weekday than walking into a cage to punch, kick and grapple on the weekend. Modern-day sports doesn't typically create such opportunity outside of endorsement deals.

"It's just a fun thing I really love doing," Cholish said. "If I wake up tomorrow and I really didn't feel that drive or urge to go to the gym, or didn't really have the love inside to want to go fight, I'd just hang it up and say I'm done with it. Which I think is the reason you should be fighting. It's a dangerous sport, and you have to put a lot of sweat, heart and tears into it. If you're doing it for the money, you're probably in it for the wrong reason and you're going to come out on the wrong end of a losing decision."

New York Sports