Considering the holiday season is a few weeks away and the warmth of summer is long gone, early November in New York doesn’t have anything special to offer.
Unless, like Huntington’s Matt Frevola, you make your living fighting in the UFC.
Just two years after the promotion’s New York debut, the UFC’s annual November visit to Madison Square Garden has become a can’t-miss event for fans and fighters alike. Frevola, a Serra-Longo fighter who serves in the Army reserves. said he planned his entire 2018 around the possibility of getting the call for UFC 230.
“Before I even had this fight, I knew I was fighting in November at MSG. I scheduled my whole year around November at MSG,” Frevola said. “When I finally got the call, I was away for the reserves and it didn’t matter who he offered. They could’ve called me up and said, ‘we want you to fight King Kong at MSG’ and I would’ve taken that fight.”
King Kong isn’t on the card, but Frevola (6-1, 0-1 UFC) did book a lightweight bout with Lando Vannata in an early preliminary airing on UFC Fight Pass. When the promotion made its Garden debut at UFC 205 in November 2016, "The Steamrolla" already had set his sights on the iconic venue.
“It doesn’t get bigger than that. When anybody asks when’s the next fight, I can say, ‘oh, I’m fighting at MSG, Nov. 3,’ you can see it in their eyes, they light up,” Frevola said. “Ever since they had that first fight when they legalized MMA here, they had that first fight at MSG, I knew I would fight there. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to fight at MSG.’”
Frevola, 28, began his MMA career in Florida, returning to New York before joining the UFC. He lost via first-round TKO in his promotional debut in January, but said he now understands what to expect from a UFC fight week. Frevola’s striking coach, Ray Longo, is directing his student to treat the fight like a sparring session to relieve any built-up pressure and excitement entering the cage.
“If you make it like sparring, then you don’t put the pressure on yourself,” Longo said. “He went out guns blazing in the first fight, no jab, so I’m trying to take a different approach and have him relax. When he spars, he spars with everybody, all the guys in here that are really good, he’s really good against them, so I tell him, ‘Don’t come out of yourself.’”
Longo believes Frevola has all the tools necessary to beat Vannata (9-3-1, 1-3-1 UFC), a fan-favorite known for his spinning techniques and ability to absorb damage.
“I think he’s going to want to avoid the shots once he starts feeling my power. But he’s a great fighter, he’s got a different style, a tricky style. He keeps his hands down and he likes to spin, but he shows up to fight and he’s game, and that’s who I want to fight at this level,” Frevola said. “I want guys who show up and fight and are ready to put on a good show. These are the kind of guys I want to test my skills against. At this level, everyone is going to be game, and he’s just another game opponent. Next guy up.”