John Alessio has seen it all during his MMA career. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Not too many fighters on the scene today can realistically claim to be from the old school of mixed martial arts. While he may not have been around for the birth of the UFC, when a slim Royce Gracie was submitting men of all sizes, John Alessio has been around the block quite a few times.
The Canadian has been fighting professionally for close to two decades and has competed for about as many different promotions as anybody in the sport. One would assume that after having competed in the various cages and rings as a pro as many times as “The Natural” has that he’d be close to slowing down. Not Alessio. Though he’s been out of action for more than a year, he feels as though he can continue scrapping as a prizefighter for many years to come.
When Alessio spoke to Sherdog.com in a recent phone interview, he said the year off has reinvigorated him and all of his nagging injuries have been healed. He feels fresher than he ever has and expects his fight Friday night against David Rickels in the Bellator 139 co-main event will be the best of the night. Alessio said he will not have to scrape off any ring rust and that he eagerly awaits the typical aggression of his “Caveman” opponent.
“He’s tough and aggressive and he comes to fight,” Alessio said. “And that’s good because I want a guy who will fight. I’m not out there to country dance or anything; I want to actually fight. This fight will be exciting and I definitely think it will be a fight of the night-style scrap.
“He comes out hard, and I’ll be there to meet him in the center of the cage,” he added. “I think I’ll be more technical than him, as he’s kind of raw. I can’t wait for it.”
But, Alessio said, Rickels doesn’t bring anything to the table that he hasn’t seen before. He has seen the explosive growth of MMA into what it is today and though he said he’s always envisioned it would be this huge, he is taken aback by how some things have unfolded over the years. One thing that is different in the sport, he said, is how fighters are perceived and how far it has truly come since he made his pro debut back in 1997.
“Everywhere you go, everybody is an MMA fighter now,” he snickered. “Back when I first started, we were a rare commodity. It was much different in that it [eventually] became the ‘cool’ thing to do. I always find it funny when someone says they are an MMA fighter now. It actually kind of feels weird when I tell someone that. Not out of shame but because people hear this stuff all the time, either at the bar or if they’re trying to pick up a girl, etc. That whole thing kind of makes me feel as though we have been labeled as douche bags because of everybody else. But now there’s this stigma of MMA fighters that has unfortunately changed the opinions of all of us.
“Aside from that, I love how the sport has gotten big,” he continued. “I mean, I’m fighting on Spike TV. That would have never happened back when I first started. Back then, you were lucky if you got a copy of the tape or DVD of the fight that recently happened on the Indian reservation. I love how it’s getting mainstream, and that was a dream of all of us fighters back then.”
Though Alessio clearly has all of his focus on training hard for Rickels, one of the more popular fighters on Bellator’s roster, he is looking to expand his athletic skillset and toughness to a career beyond MMA. Alessio has been going through the lengthy process of becoming a Las Vegas Metro Police officer, and he’s almost at the stage of completion. Alessio said he is still in the background check portion of the hiring process and that the academy is next, provided he gets that far.
But with all of the negativity and controversy surrounding police officers across the nation, why would Alessio want to jump into a career that could make him an instant target to criminals?
“I want to help make a difference, to help the community, to help change the image of the police,” he stated. “It’s something I always wanted to do and it makes me sad that so many people are against the police right now. Yes, there are a few bad apples out there but there are bad apples everywhere. When something happens with a bad cop, everybody on the force gets a bad name. It sucks, too, because most of the time these videos are edited and manipulated so that you are only seeing the police officer throwing the guy down. They leave out a lot of key parts with the videos and the backgrounds of these people.”
Alessio said one of the most appealing aspects of being a police officer in Sin City is that the typical work hours on patrol will still allow him to train as much as he needs to continue fighting. He’s got a stiff test in front of him on Friday, but Alessio believes his superior technical prowess will be the difference. Win or lose, he still has his sights on serving and protecting the people. On Friday, he’ll have to protect his face and serve Rickels up a wealth of experience if he’s to triumph.