By Michael Mack
Rider graduate Nick Catone took another stab at the world of professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) recently. Catone, who graduated in 2004 and made his UFC debut back in February of 2009, started off with an impressive win in his first fight in the largest MMA organization in the world.
Catone was slowed down a bit, however, and dropped his next two fights, falling to a 1-2 record in the UFC. His second loss came with a bit of controversy as Catone lost by a split decision to former four-time All-American college wrestler Mark Munoz.
“I thought I did enough to win the fight, but it didn’t go my way and I was pretty bummed,” Catone said.
A split decision loss occurs when only two of the three judges agree that one fighter won the fight, in theory making this the closest way to lose an MMA bout. The heartbreak didn’t last long for Catone, however, as the UFC contacted him just two days later offering him a new four-fight deal.
“I was definitely excited to get a new deal,” Catone said. “I had one fight left on my original contract, and they must have seen something they liked in my performance.”
After signing him to a new deal, the UFC later announced that Catone’s next fight would be against former professional kickboxer Steve Steinbeiss. Elated with his new deal, Catone wasn’t taking any chances with his next fight and decided to change his training routine.
“I’ve added a whole new strength and conditioning program into my training,” Catone said. “I feel a big difference from it, so I feel that the extra hard work is paying off.”
He also started training with Kurt Pellegrino, another UFC fighter from New Jersey. Pellegrino is a seasoned veteran with nine UFC bouts under his belt. Catone began training at Pellegrino’s school in Belmar, N.J., for his fight with Steinbeiss. Catone and Pellegrino shared some history before they began training together.
“We wrestled around the same years in high school,” Catone said. “Kurt graduated in ’98 from Point Pleasant Boro High School, and I graduated ’99 from the next town over at Brick Memorial High School. So we’ve known each other and been friends for a long time before our fighting days.”
In the weeks leading up to his fight, Catone received some bad news from the UFC. Steinbeiss had to withdraw because of an injury. Catone was used to hearing this kind of news as his first opponent withdrew from their fight several times before the UFC found a replacement. This time was different, however, as the UFC almost instantly named Jesse Forbes to be Catone’s new opponent.
“The opponent change is always annoying,” Catone said. “But in this sport, unfortunately, injuries can happen at any time and you have to be prepared for anything. I’m just glad they were able to find a replacement for me.”
Forbes was making his return to the UFC after nearly four years with various other organizations. Catone would make one last change before entering the octagon to take on Forbes. During the pre-fight introductions, Catone debuted his newly adopted nickname, Nick “The Jersey Devil” Catone.
The fight opened up with an action-packed first round that left Catone bleeding from the nose. This injury can often slow fighters down considerably as it makes breathing very difficult.
Catone pressed on, however, and put on a very impressive second round. Though he was unable to take Forbes down in the fight, Catone showed very impressive improvement in his striking and conditioning. He used that to push Forbes around and take the fight to a decision. This time the judges felt that Catone did enough to win the fight and handed him a split decision victory in what MMAJunkie.com called “a hugely entertaining fight.”
Catone now holds a 2-2 record in the UFC and is looking forward to the announcement of his next opponent.