AMMACS: Paving The Way For Amateur Mixed Martial Artists In Ontario
Written by: Ryan Manahan
Every great Mixed Martial Artist that enters the octagon, gets their name announced by Bruce Buffer, and wears UFC gold around their waist, all make the same decision at one point in their life – to become a Professional Mixed Martial Artist.
John Sanguinetti has made that decision. After a three year run floating around the amateur circuit, Sanguinetti is going to try and make a career out of fighting.
“I think I’ve done everything I think there is to do in amateur and I want to see how much further I can take it as a pro,” John tells me over the phone on a cold November morning. It’s a busy morning for John. He’s getting ready to visit his parents who he doesn’t see as much as he used to as a result of his training. “I’ve invested a lot of time into this and I’ve sacrificed a lot so I’d like to see it pay off one day.”
Sanguinetti doesn’t look like the stereotype of a Mixed Martial Artist. He doesn’t have a mohawk and head tattoo like Chuck Lidell or the bleach blond hair of a Tito Ortiz. He would more likely be mistaken for a soccer player or a server at a local restaurant than a fighter. “A lot of people are surprised when they hear that I’m a fighter because I’m a pretty laid back person,” he says with a slight sense of amusement in his tone. “I’m not really a meathead jock or anything like that.”
He doesn’t look like a stereotypical fighter, and it’s maybe because he didn’t get into the sport in a typical way. He was the chubby kid growing up. The now 170 pound welterweight once topped the scales at 260 pounds and turned to martial arts to shed the weight.
“I was overweight when I was younger and I just needed a way to get in shape. Boxing seemed like the most fun way to do it… I was doing it more to get in shape than to compete.” The activity he turned to in an effort to slim down quickly turned from a hobby to a passion. He was boxing to lose weight and, soon after, his brother started training in Brazilian Ju Jitsu, which he joined him in. “I started out as a fan of MMA,” he tells me thinking back to his beginnings in the sport, “So it all just came together.” He started training in a wide range of martial arts to become well-rounded in all aspects of the game. With his skills accumulating and his passion growing stronger, he decided to test himself an actual bout.
“When I got my first fight, I wasn’t planning on going professional. I just wanted to get an MMA fight just to see how my skills would match against someone,” John speaks of his decision to take his first Amatuer MMA fight in Michigan. While his matches in Michigan were labeled “Amateur” they weren’t very different from what you’d see on a UFC Pay-Per-View in terms of safety and rules.
“It’s essentially a professional event,” he says bluntly. “They just don’t allow elbows and you don’t get paid. There’s no head gear. There’s no shin guards. We did it in Michigan. It was a little bit sketchy at times because no one had a any medicals or anything like that done.”
Sanguinetti was quite successful in his amateur bouts in Michigan, going 4 – 1. His success carried over into his home country when he fought his first Amateur MMA bouts in Ontario at the very first Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Championship Series event earlier this month. The AMMACS event was quite different from the fights he took in Michigan – head gear and shin pads were used, blood work was done, a different scoring system was in place. “It was well organized,” John says happily. “Better organized than other events I’ve been to. I think it’s a great way for people to start so they can get the same experience I got, but they can get it in a safer way.” It was a great event for John, going 3 – 0 on the day, and winning the Intermediate Tournament at 170-lbs. “It felt good! It was exciting!” John remembers back on his tournament victory, recalling the sacrifices he’s made to become the fighter he is today. “It was nice that my parents were there too because if it were out of province they might not have been there.”
With a record of 7-1 in the Amateur ranks and a big tournament victory under his belt, Saguinetti knew that going professional was the next logical step for him as a mixed martial artist.
“After a couple of fights I realized I had some potential and if I work hard I could make something happen so I just kept taking fights. And then I realized that these are essentially professional MMA fights. I’m taking the same risk and everything. At some point, I should be getting paid for it.”
As John prepares to make the trek to visit his parents on this cold November morning, right before the snow starts to fall here in Canada, he’s also getting ready to start his life as a fighter. “Ultimately, I’d like to make a career of it. I don’t need to make millions of dollars, but if I can make a good annual wage at it, I’d be more than happy.”
And while he’s out to make a living and a life out of fighting, Saguinetti also looks at becoming a professional as a way to give to back to the sport that has given him so much. “When I was younger, MMA inspired me to live a healthier lifestyle and to take care of myself. And now I feel like it’s my obligation to do the same for other people.”