ROC 51’s Michael Imperato “I can give any bantamweight in the world a run for their money”

61f9e7fc98b11beda1f7427d58379565 Canadian bantamweight Michael Imperato made headlines last year for all the wrong reasons. In the span of 48-hours last October, the Woodbridge, Ontario native had his UFC contract rescinded after officials became aware of some homophobic and racist comments he made on the reality show “Fight Xchange” a year earlier. Imperato has since apologized for those comments, but the incident has still kept him out of the UFC’s good graces. Looking to put this incident behind him, the 25-year old returns to the cage on June 5th against Ring of Combat bantamweight champion Julio Arce. The pair headline Ring of Combat 51 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Imperato (7-1) made his MMA debut in 2010 and won his first three fights all by first round submission. In 2011 he suffered the first loss of his career – to fellow Canuck Mike Mallot at ECFP: Resurgence – however since then, he’s earned four straight wins. Despite his winning streak, the Xtreme Couture Toronto product has only fought four times in the last five years. Prior to the incident on Fight Xchange, Imperato admitted he had difficulty scheduling matchups in Ontario due to a dearth of local MMA. But as he explains, now it’s even worse because fighters are now using his incident as an excuse not to fight him. “I haven’t been able to get a fight forever.” Imperato told MMAOddsBreaker. “Like a lot of people don’t want to fight me.[Fighters] use [my situation] as an excuse to run. Before they had no excuse, now they have an excuse. Everyone is like ‘oh he’s an a**hole I don’t want to fight him’ I’m sure they knew if they could beat me, they would [take a fight with me].” While Imperato is pleased to be competing for Ring of Combat next month, the matchup he wanted initially was a hometown fight with WSOF standout Josh Hill – who competes next Saturday at Global Warriors FC 2. Both Ontario based fighters have gone back and forth on social media. Imperato called Hill out at the beginning of the year, in an interview with’s Carlin Bardsley saying Hill “hasn’t fought anybody tough” and has “hand-picked” opponents. But according Imperato, Global Warriors had another opponent in mind and he refused. “I actually tried to get that fight with Josh Hill.  But everyone was stuck on seeing me and Lyndon Whitlock. I just told them, I would do it for the same number but I’d rather fight Josh Hill, it means more to me, [Hill’s got a] better record and is bigger name opponent. They didn’t want that fight for whatever reason. I already had my Ring of Combat negotiation started at the time. It is what it is, but now I get to travel to Atlantic City and have a great group of friends and family coming out. Either way I still get to fight and get a little vacation.” Ahead of his championship showdown with Arce, Imperato has been working extensively with his head coach Sam Zakula and splitting time between Xtreme Couture and Battle Arts Academy.  He puts a great amount of faith into his coaching staff and lets them handle the majority of his tape study. “I never really watch too much tape on anybody; I just give my coach the name, he’s like ‘yes or no.’ I’ve seen [Arce] a little bit; I know he’s more of a striker. I believe my ground [game] at 135 pounds is very hard to stop. I don’t believe there is anybody in MMA that is going to give me that big of a problem on the ground. I believe in my jiu-jitsu, my ground game and all the experience that I have.  I think I’m a lot more aggressive than he is. He’s a great striker and he has a lot of experience, but it’s going to be like when Royce Gracie came to the UFC and took over everybody in the beginning. I’m not going to change my game plan, I’m going to go forward, put it on him and do what I can. Obviously strike with him if I have to but I’m going to try and hit him as hard as I can and just take him down and choke him out. You don’t get paid for overtime you know?” While Imperato competes in the United States for the first time in his career, he won’t have the feeling of going into enemy territory. Instead the Battle Arts Academy standout will have a number of supporters making the trip from Woodbridge. “I have like 60-70 people coming down. I’m not sure how big the arena is or how many people he’s going to have locally come support him. It’s going to feel like I’m at home over there. I don’t care what city I’m in, I always have a great group of friends that can come out and [support me]. Going [to fight in the States] it doesn’t make a difference.” Should Imperato come out with his fifth straight win on June 5th he’d be one of the top bantamweight free agents available despite the controversy surrounding him. However one promotion that Imperato won’t be signing with anytime soon is World Series of Fighting. “I actually tried a few times to get a fight with [WSOF champion] Marlon Moraes, but they weren’t having it. So there is no reason for me to fight there. I know I could beat their champ and if they’re not going to give me that opportunity. I’m pretty sure they manage him, they’re protecting him and they want to give him fights with more strikers than ground guys obviously. I don’t care too much about that.” If another UFC opportunity doesn’t come around anytime soon, Imperato mentioned he would be open to fighting for other promotions including Bellator and Titan FC. “I know I can give any bantamweight in the world a run for their money. For me, as long as it’s the right timing and I have the right training camp. I’d take a fight against any 135 pound fighter. To me, I think Bellator has a deeper than the UFC at bantamweight. I think it would be a lot harder to make a name for yourself over there. There has been talk with [Titan FC] and if they offered me somebody, I would love to fight there because I would also like to fight for their title. I know I can win that title. Right now if I can’t fight for the UFC I might as well go around and collect belts. Right after this fight that’s probably one of the first promotions I’ll call right away, because I know that [rumoured show in Montreal] is coming and it’s close to home. I’d definitely like to fight for them.” With that said, Imperato made it clear the UFC is his ultimate number one goal. Despite only being in his mid-twenties, he feels that he’s put too much into this sport to let his UFC aspirations fade away. “There’s been talk back and forth [with the UFC]. It’s just nobody can promise you anything. The best advice I have is to stay active and keep fighting. Everybody knows the UFC is the place to be. I’ve been doing this for years; there are lots of politics and a lot of BS and what not. I’m just trying to stick it out just to make it [to the UFC] just to say I did it. I don’t want to quit now and look back 10 years from now and [wish] that I should have stuck it out a little bit longer. I’m just going to take whatever tough fights, no matter where it is. My main goal is to be back in the UFC and just to have that contract. That’s just where I want to be and that’s all I really care about.”   You can follow Michael on Twitter @ImperatoMMA, Instagram @MichaelImperato. He would like to thank Street Solider, Xtreme Couture Toronto and Battle Arts Academy. 

Written by James Lynch

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