Don’t let John Gotti III’s fast finishes fool you: He’s not in a rush to make the jump to the major leagues just yet.
Gotti has taken care of business in his three pro bouts so far, winning each by knockout and in increasingly shorter time. Most recently, he needed just 28 seconds to punch out Josh Zuckerman at a Classic Entertainment & Sports MMA show.
Combined with his infamous family name (Gotti is the grandson of notorious New York crime boss John Gotti), it’s understandable that the welterweight has drawn plenty of attention. According to his father, John Jr., it’s not just local fans who have taken an interest in Gotti’s progress, as larger promotions have already come calling.
Gotti makes his UFC Fight Pass debut on Friday at CES 56 in Hartford, Conn., against David Espino (3-2), his most experienced opponent yet. Even if he records another highlight-reel KO, Gotti, who splits time between Panza MMA in Syosset and Long Island MMA, has a plan and he’s sticking to it.
“It’s all about patience for me,” Gotti told MMA Fighting when asked how he’d react if the UFC came calling tomorrow. “I’ll know exactly when I’m ready. I train with enough guys, guys like Gregor Gillespie, and Ryan LaFlare, and the Chris Wades of the world, I see the level these guys are at and I’m making strides every day, progressing every day in my game. I’ll know exactly when I’m ready, I’m in no rush here.
“I’m looking to get as many fights as I can on the regional circuit here. Hopefully get some solid rounds in against some tough, tough competition, and when the time comes it will come. I’m a big believer in not rushing anything, staying patient, and everything will fall into place accordingly.”
The Gottis have a handshake agreement with CES MMA promoter Jimmy Burchfield Sr., and so far they’ve established a trust that Gotti III will continue to fight there as long as its convenient for all the parties involved. Greener pastures have already beckoned and John Jr. says they’ve had talks with Bellator, though they don’t expect John III to make a move there or to any other big name promotion until 2020.
“He has been approached by several different promotions, including Bellator,” John Gotti Jr. said. “My son John, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s taking it nice and easy. He’s growing every day. He’s maturing more and more and his grappling has developed by leaps and bounds. His striking has always been pinpoint. John’s always been a tremendous banger, so now his grappling’s been growing by leaps and bounds.
“It’s really at John’s pace and probably next year is gonna be the year that he’s gonna jump up and there will be much bigger fights.”
John Jr. added that Burchfield wanted to thrust Gotti into the CES main event scene right away, doubtlessly to capitalize on Gotti’s rich family history, but the fighter’s team has declined in favor of lower profile card placements.
Working with the likes of kickboxing coach Derek Panza and UFC veteran Ryan LaFlare, Gotti has put his trust in his team to handle the business end of things while he focuses on improving and staying in shape. And even though John has been lifting weights since he was a teenager, dieting hasn’t always been easy coming from an Italian family.
“They showed me no mercy in my house,” Gotti said. “They have Sunday dinners and I have five brothers and sisters, so everybody loves to eat, as do I. I can’t wait until the fight’s over with just to eat, go out with my father and eat some pizza or whatnot. That comes with the territory. You have to be disciplined.
“There will be temptations late at night to get certain foods and snacks and you have to just work with it, you have to say, ‘A couple more weeks and you’ll have your time.’ But they show me no mercy in my house, they eat, eat, eat all day.”
Though Gotti has been reluctant to move up in competition too quickly, he’ll be exposed to a wider audience anyway at CES 56, which will air live on UFC Fight Pass. It may be a while until Gotti sees the UFC letters next to his name in another capacity, but he’s enjoying the fanbase he’s grown thus far.
“It’s always good getting attention in a positive light and doing positive things, I don’t mind it whatsoever,” Gotti said. “I block most of that stuff out for the most part though, I’m just focused on myself, all I’m really concerned about is my training and my diet and all that. It’s definitely great to get the fight on UFC Fight Pass. You’re showcasing your skills to a larger audience and it’s a great platform, I’m looking forward to it.”