Gian Villante was a little busy to maintain an active fight schedule in 2019. He bought and moved into a new house, and had to prepare it in time for a special delivery. On Christmas morning, Villante became a father when he and Katie Bolotovskaia welcomed baby boy Gianluca Villante to the world.
Now, amid diaper changes, feedings and all the other pleasantries of parenting, Villante has a familiar task to work into his routine: training for a fight.
Villante, from Levittown, will move up to heavyweight and face Ben Rothwell at UFC 249 in at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 18. Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his lightweight title against Tony Ferguson in the main event.
“It should be fun going up to heavyweight,” Villante said while his baby boy rested on his chest. "Usually I only take six weeks to get ready for a fight. They’re giving me three months."
Villante (17-11) said it was just a matter of time before he eventually moved up to heavyweight. He also said he wanted to wait until after the baby was born to take another fight. How many more he has left is uncertain, the 34-year-old Villante said, but he'll "see how it goes at heavyweight" before making any decisions.
Decisions get bigger as life (and lives) goes on and responsibilities (and babies) grow.
“At a party, I’m usually hanging with the kids, being the crazy uncle. Now I'm the crazy dad," Villante said. "Definitely a little more responsibility. I have to take the kid home after the party this time."
More than a year will have passed between Villante's last fight and his next one. It is the longest span of inactivity since he began his career in 2009 in Ring of Combat, where he once reigned as both light heavyweight and heavyweight champion. Villante last fought against Michal Oleksiejczuk in February 2019, losing by first-round TKO from a devastating body punch.
The 38-year-old Rothwell (37-12) is coming off a second-round TKO of Stefan Struve in December, a fight marred by several significant groin strikes by Rothwell. Before that bout, the 6-4, 265-pound Rothwell had lost three straight bouts by decision to Andrei Arlovski, Blagoy Ivanov and Junior dos Santos.
"As far as heavyweights," Villante said, "he's about as big at they come so it’ll be a nice test."