You might not know it, but Mike Constantino fought to get where he is.
The trainer and manager for a growing group of fighters, Constantino is the founder and head trainer at AMA Fight Club in Whippany, N.J. Some of the names you know are UFC lightweight contender Jim Miller and his brother, middleweight Dan Miller. AMA’s Charlie Brenneman and Ricardo Romero are also in the UFC, and Rafaello Oliveira is close to getting back into the big show. Another Constantino pupil, Andy Main, was on The Ultimate Fighter’s 12th season.
But one of the names you most likely have not heard of exemplifies what Constantino and AMA are all about.
Jonathan Helwig is just 3-1. On the night before Thanksgiving in Atlantic City, Helwig battled to a bloody TKO victory over Lewis Pascavage at DaMMAge Fight League’s inaugural event, with Constantino and up-and-coming flyweight Sean “Shorty Rock” Santella in his corner.
While the battered Helwig was not pleased with his performance in victory, he managed to earn his win and shrug off three years out of the cage due mostly to back injuries.
Helwig might not have been there at all if it were not for his second fight, on Aug. 5, 2006. For his first career win that night, Helwig slapped an anaconda choke on none other than Constantino, completing the now-rising coach’s 83-second professional MMA career.
But there is a lot more to the story.
“Technically, he did (retire me),” Constantino said on the show. “I kept trying to get back in the ring after that. I had two opponents that backed out at the last second.”
Constantino was at a disadvantage in his debut/swan song.
“I was supposed to fight a 205er, but he pulled out four or five days before the fight,” Constantino recalled. “Helwig had a fight on the card at like 230, but his guy pulled out. So we just agreed to fight each other, even though he was significantly heavier. I had just sold like 150 tickets. I was really anxious to do it.”
It was a little bit of ego and a lot of balls that took over after the contest. The beaten Constantino approached the man who vanquished him, essentially birthing his new career a mere moment after his time as a fighter was complete for good.
“After the fight I went up to him and said, ‘I worked really hard for this fight, I know what I can do as a martial artist and a fighter. You beat me. I think you have a lot of potential and I’d like to train and manage you,’ ” Constantino said. “And he looked at me like I was nuts.
“If you know Helwig, he has a unique personality anyway. But he just beat me in an MMA fight and was (probably thinking), ‘What the hell is this kid going to do for me?’ ”
More fuel was added to the training fire in the ensuing months. Constantino aspired to fight more, but it was not in the cards.
“So after that, the same thing happened two times in a row and I did not want to take a fight to just take it,” he said. “I just never wound up doing it.”
There was more and more work to be done honing the skills of others. The Millers, former wrestling prodigies from nearby Sparta, were slabs of marble waiting to be chiseled.
“Right after that (series of canceled fights), Jim and Dan Miller came to AMA Fight Club,” Constantino said. “Before you knew it, I was training and managing four or five solid fighters, and Jimmy and Dan were the best around at the time. So I figured I would be a better trainer than I was a fighter in the long run.”
While he never got back into the pro ranks to disprove it, the results suggest he need not try.
The coach has Jim Miller on the verge of a title shot in what many consider to be the deepest division in any promotion in the world: the UFC’s 155-pound class. He negotiated the spirited Dan Miller from a losing streak to a murder’s row trio to a pair of recent wins. He has Brenneman and Romero as mature and promising prospects, while Main is young and highly skilled.
Then there is Helwig.
“He had very bad lumbar problems in his lower back,” he said. “He had numbness in his fingers and his arms. He really rehabbed very hard to get back to where he could be competitive. You saw him get in the cage. It wasn’t pretty; he ate a lot of punches. You lose a lot of that sharpness for being out for a long time. But he’ll be back among the 205ers on the East Coast.”
This time Constantino will gladly stay out of the mix. His fights are over, but his career is just beginning.
PART I, with JW Wright
Not A Women’s MMA Show (NAWMMA) with Shayna Baszler and Bruce Hoyer returns to the MMA DieHards Radio Network for it’s Christmas Spectacular! Shayna and Bruce join you Mondays at midnight Eastern, 11 Central, 9 Pacific, with a live stream right here.
J.W. Wright, coming off an 89-second submission victory at Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu 2 on Dec. 4, joined the show for the first time. Wright scored the win with a guillotine choke of Josh Epps.
“They already have offered me another fight,” he told Shayna and Bruce.
In Part II of the show, Shayna and Bruce brought in Nina Ansaroff on the phone from the beach somewhere in South Florida:
Showtime shut down the WEC in spectacular fashion, while the Dominator lived up to his nickname.
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis stunned Ben Henderson in the final match in the history of the promotion, taking the lightweight belt, earning a spot in a UFC title unification match and pulling off one of the most spectacular moves in MMA history Thursday at WEC 53 in Glendale, Ariz.
Dominick Cruz lived up to his nickname with a unanimous decision victory over Scott Jorgensen, near his hometown. With the win, Cruz retained his WEC bantanweight championship forever, as the promotion was conducting its swan song before being absorbed by the UFC. He also became the first UFC bantanweight champion. And he did his best to set his next fight and perhaps thrust himself further into the spotlight, calling out WEC poster boy Urijah Faber, the only fighter with a win over Cruz.
Pettis-Henderson won fight of the night. Shane Roller won submission of the night for his rear naked choke of former WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner at 3:55 of the first round. Eddie Wineland’s slammed Ken Stone 2:11 into their featherweight match to win knockout of the night. All fighters received a $10,000 bonus.
Pettis won 48-47 on the card of two of the judges and 49-46 on the other to capture the belt from Henderson. Pettis will fight the winner of the UFC 125 match on Jan. 1 between UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard to unify the title for the only redundant division in the merger of the WEC into the UFC.
But one of the epic fights in the history of the promotion will be remembered for Pettis’ near-knockout kick late in the fifth round of a title match that was up for grabs. It likely won him the title.
Pettis scissored his legs toward on the fence, bounced off it with his right foot and then — before landing — used the same leg to unleash a kick that landed to the head of the retreating champion, knocking him on his back. Pettis’ torque completely spun his own body. The resilient Henderson somehow was not finished, and was able to ride out the final minute-plus, but had lost the belt.
“Duke Roufus, we practice that all the time,” said Pettis of his coach, the Muay Thai legend whose Milwaukee gym is home to his training camp. “I have 10 more of those kicks coming in the UFC.”
Pettis (13-1), who termed the move the “Showtime Kick,” had ups and downs in the early going, having to defend himself from a rear naked choke as Henderson (12-2) had his back. Later in the fight it was Pettis who had Henderson on the defensive, mirroring Henderson’s back domination but from a standing position.
“I just couldn’t get my tempo going,” Pettis admitted. “I got it in the third round. Ben Henderson’s a tough dude.”
A contest run months ago determined the location of this event which, at the time, was not publicly known to be the final one in WEC history. It turned out that Henderson got to fight in his adopted hometown region, with Pettis’ Milwaukee coming in second. Despite not having the home-cage edge, Pettis was able to overcome the transplanted Arizonan’s relentless attacks.
“Pettis did a good job, judges gave it to him,” Henderson said. “He did a good job.”
Cruz might have had the crowd in his favor, but in many circles he plays the role of outspoken champion. It has not drawn him universal favor, and Faber admits that while he respects Cruz, he does not like him.
“I guess I had a chip on my shoulder because people didn’t believe in me,” Cruz said. “I’ve won three (title matches) in a row now, and people believe it. The future holds a lot of title defenses. Whenever I am in here, I am fighting for a new belt. I am ready to fight Urijah, lets do it. In Sacramento or here in Arizona, let’s do it.”
There has been a push in the vast world of the Internet for Cruz and Faber to be the coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. Faber, the former WEC featherweight champion who has now moved down to 135 pounds, was cageside to watch Cruz become the UFC belt-holder. Faber also worked as a commentator for the Versus pre-fight coverage.
Donald Cerrone completed a triangle choke submission against Chris Horodecki in the second round to capture their lightweight fight. Then he called out Cole Miller.
Cerrone (13-3) secured the triangle early in the round but did not elicit the tap from Horodecki (16-3) until the 2:43 mark, when he got his hands to the side of Horodecki’s neck and applied the decisive pressure.
“That (triangle) is my (signature),” Cerrone said. “I saw him going out, but he kept going. He’s tough.
“Thanks to Greg Jackson, we’re always pushing on. (I want) Cole Miller. He beat a good friend of mine, Leonard Garcia. Cole, I’m coming for you.”
Miller beat Garcia via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 11 in Sept. 2007. Cerrone recalled that Miller talked trash after the fight, and Cerrone said he has wanted the matchup ever since.
Kamal Shalorus edged Bart Palaszewski in another lightweight match. Shalorus won 30-27 and 29-28 in the minds of two judges, while the other judge gave to 29-28 in favor of Palaszewski.
Shalorus (7-0-2), a 38-year-old who is a former world-class wrestler, dominated the first round, putting Palaszewski on his back and pounding him with body shots. But Palaszewski never was in trouble, and rallied as Shalorus grew tired over the last two rounds and nearly slowed to a halt in the third.
“Bart is a tough fighter and experienced,” Shalorus said. “I put all my strength (into) finishing him. I made a mistake (by doing that). In the second round I started to gas out.”
Shalorus was handling himself well on the feet through the first half of the fight, but when Palaszewski (35-14) was able to stand thereafter, he picked apart Shalorus. By the late stages of the third round, Palaszewski connected with multiple head kicks, but could not get the finish. He had his four-fight winning streak halted.
The preliminary card featured five first-round finishes. Results:
- Danny Downes def. Tiequan Zhang via dec. (29-28 x 2, 30-27)
- Shane Roller def. Jamie Varner via submission (rear naked choke), Rd. 1, 3:55
- Brad Pickett def. Ivan Menjivar via decision (29-28 x 3)
- Eddie Wineland def. Ken Stone via KO (slam), Rd. 1, 2:11
- Danny Castillo def. Will Kerr via KO (punches), Rd. 1, 1:25
- Yuri Alcantara def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punches),Rd. 1, 3:26
- Renan Barao def. Chris Cariaso via submission (rear naked choke), Rd. 1, 3:47