At just 28-years-old and with a mere 11 fights to his professional record, GLORY welterweight Joseph Valtellini has a bright career ahead of him. At GLORY 13, Valtellini looks for a successful end to his third year as a professional kick boxer. Dubbed ‘Bazooka Joe’ due to his deadly strikes – Valtellini has nine knockouts in ten wins – Valtellini will try to capture GLORY gold and a cool $150,000 check in the upcoming welterweight tournament in Tokyo, Japan.
I was able to speak with Valtellini just a few days before he made the trip to Japan and you may not get an impression of his demeanor from reading this transcription but believe me, Valtellini is calm, focused and ready to fight for a title and raise his stock as one of the best fighters on the planet.
Adam Conklin: How have you been doing leading up to this fight?
Joseph Valtellini: Things have been good. It’s one week until fight day. My weight’s on, everything’s good with my weight. Training camp has been amazing. Now its about keeping my technique nice and sharp and reviewing my footwork.
AC: How has your training camp changed considering the tournament format?
JV: It’s about being able to peak twice in one night. We did a lot of intense training for that whole ‘spike twice in one day’ format. Yea, overall its been very intense, a lot of extra pressure and motivations to do well in this tournament. There’s so many positive things on the line that could possibly influence my life all in one day with being the welterweight champion, being number one as well $150,000, it kind of really has pushed myself and my team to really stay focused and motivated and everything is on track.
AC: What’s the attention been like towards you being a favorite coming in to this tournament?
JV: Everything’s been positive. I’m getting a lot of amazing support from all over the world and that’s just amazing for me as a person as an athlete that people are following and wanting to do well. It’s motivating for me because I don’t want to let these people down and I’m at a point in my career where getting to this point, ya know, there wasn’t much attention for us, there wasn’t much available for kickboxers trying to make a name in kickboxing.
Things are starting to grow. Glory is doing an amazing job at helping us grow as fighters and get more exposure. Being on Spike TV has been amazing for us. Its been better for us to help get our name out and help build ourselves and help build kickboxing as well. Glory brings a brand that once people see it they’re hooked. It gives fans in the North American audience a chance to see it.
AC: You have 11 fights on your record and you’re in GLORY just after the deal with Spike TV, does it feel good to come in to the promotion and run almost parallel to their success with Spike TV?
JV: Yea, I think its important that myself and GLORY to grow together and I think they have to go hand-in-hand.One of ways I feel that I can grow in this sport is to grow with GLORY and the more GLORY grows the more I grow. There’s definitely a relationship that we have and I want both of us to do well.
AC: This will be the first time you fight in this tournament format for GLORY. Now, the rule is to not look past your next opponent but for this tournament it’s almost smart if you do. Does that effect your game plan knowing that you have to prepare for two different styles?
JV: Yea the two guys in the other bracket are totally different and Raymond Daniels is a very dangerous fighter and its someone that I can’t look past. He’s in the tournament for a reason because he’s considered to be one of the top fighters coming up in GLORY. To me its been not looking past Raymond Daniels and it’s kind of been gearing my training and my camp to be fighting different types of fighters because usually you have the main focus on fighting one guy. I believe it’s important to be well-rounded enough to do well against anyone you fight against.My style of fighting is geared towards me dictating the pace, me pushing the fight, me making my opponent do what I want them to do and I feel like that’s not going to change because of who I fight.
AC: Does fighting in Japan with the vastly different timezone effect your mental or physical preparations leading up to the fight?
JV: Turkey was my first international fight and it was kind of something that made me nervous on what to expect and hearing everyone tell you what to expect. I actually found the adjustment very easy in Turkey so it hasn’t been a stressor for this tournament. I am going on Sunday to give me an extra day or two to adjust to the time change but its something that I’m not really worried about and at the end of the day, Raymond Daniels is from the U.S. So he’s fighting the same time change and the other two fighters are from Europe so there still having, less of an adjustment but there is still some time difference.
AC: Speaking of traveling for fights, your first 6 professional bouts were in New York City. Since then 5 of your 11 bouts were outside New York. Do the wins in different locations boost your confidence as you travel for fights and fight for different and bigger promotions?
JV: It’s kind of been a mindset from the beginning and I like to think that my mental game in the sport is pretty strong and I have a belief in myself and in my team that I think is very important. At the end of the day you’re going in to that fight and there shouldn’t be any doubt in your mind. My coach always used to tell me even from day one that “you’re gonna be the number one fighter in the world” and I don’t know.
I had only had one professional fight and he kept telling me and everyone that “this is Joseph Valtellini, he is going to be the best fighter in the world”, and my coach who I trust and believe everything [he says] is telling me this so I started to believe this. After each fight, I don’t know how good I am. I beat a guy with ten times my experience, am I a better fighter, I don’t know. If my coach gave me that confidence that “you will win this fight” I will go in there with 100% confidence and slowly through a lot of believing in my self and believing in my team [it] just keeps building that confidence for me.
I’m also that person, I never want to be over-confident and I think that’s a lot of the mistakes that people could make. I am still early in my career and there are so many fighters who have more experience than me. For me it’s about staying focused on myself and improving myself and that journey to get that satisfaction of becoming a martial artist.I look at myself as a martial artist because I’m constantly adding to improve. I’m not looking at my opponent, I’m looking at more self-improvement and how I can keep continuing on my journey in martial arts.
AC: With your coach hyping you up as an up-and-comer what do you want your opponents to associate you by even before you step in the ring with them?
JV: I think with anyone when they watch m fights they see someone who while in that ring, there’s focus and there’s determination. When I fight, there’s no holding back. I leave everything in that ring. I’m not one of those fighters that goes in there looking for a decision and a lot of my training and mentality going in to the ring to use my techniques to set up the knockout. I think that’s the most beautiful thing about martial arts.
To knock out your opponent, which is the ultimate in martial arts, everything has to be perfect – your timing, your technique, the way you throw it, when you throw it, how you throw it – everything has to come its way at the right moment so I train for the knockout and again I’m glad its something that people look at my record and see with eleven fights, I do have nine knockouts. It’s something that I want to continue and at the end of the day its a spectator sport and its excitement so I want to be known that fighter who, no matter who is fighting he always gonna bring 100% and put it all out in the ring.
AC: Being the face on the poster and being given a ton of attention for your upcoming fight, is it flattering or humbling to be getting such attention while on the same card as Ghita/Zimmerman and Aerts/Verhoeven? (This is Aerts retirement fight)
JV: To me it’s still learning to be in that position. I could say I’m really happy to be that person because I can say I’d be a good role model for the sport and really be a good face for kickboxing and I’m glad that GLORY recognizes that and people are starting to see that. To me it’s been humbling and its very important and it is a lot of responsibility. I feel that I have to always have make sure that I’m being an ambassador for kickboxing.
My main goal in this sport is to be number one in the world and at the same time I want to promote this sport. I feel it’s the most exciting sport in the world and I want people to recognize that and I want people to see that and I think once people have the opportunity to see that and how exciting this sport is they’ll be hooked.
AC: What sense of pride did you get seeing GLORY sell out at Madison Square Garden?
JV: I sat there as a fan and the thing is, I’m still a fan of the sport. I was hooked on to the TV, I’m messaging people and I’m getting everybody to watch it. I had a huge gathering at my house to kind of push the sport and everyone was loving it. It’s been amazing and it’s still an exciting time for me and I think people around me started to sense that. New York was where it all started for me and I’ve always had a soft spot for New York because some of my biggest following is still from New York so seeing it do so well there and seeing the sport grow and the fact that they sold out Madison Square Garden. It just shows how big kickboxing is getting and how big it’s going to be in the near-future.
AC: You can’t bring up GLORY 12 without brining up Giorgio Petrosyan’s stunning defeat. What was your reaction to seeing him lose and does it play mind games watching the consensus best in the sport being defeated?
JV: I wasn’t too surprised. I have seen [Andy] Ristie fight multiple times and Ristie is a great fighter. Being at the top for a long time can be very challenging. Maybe there’s less motivation, he may be missing out on that little bit of drive but guys who are hungry and motivated in this sport, regardless of what experience you have, are very dangerous. I can speak for that myself because being an underdog, I’m very hungry, I’m very motivated and sometimes I question if these guys with all their experience, when we’re matched up, what they think of myself and my record.
Being that underdog is a very dangerous position when you’re on top and as the underdog you’re giving it you’re all, you’re hungry, you’re motivated. A lot of times I’ll look at it as that analogy from Rocky when you look at Mr. T, he was hungry, and Sylvester Stallone [was] kind of flashing in the light, but in the background there was Mr. T working hard.I think it’s important when you’re on the top you need to be the best at your game no matter what. For me it was kind of that story of “hey, the underdogs are winning, maybe this is my opportunity with only 11 fights to take out these big names and be the number one kickboxer in the world in Tokyo.
AC: How badly do you want to seize the potential opportunity to headline a show in Canada?
JV: That would be an ideal situation. We’re [Canadians] are big fans and Canadians really support their own. I think they would have a good sell out anywhere we put it.I feel there;s a big market for a GLORY event in Canada and I’m just hoping for that day because I’ve never had an opportunity to fight at home and have close friends and family and everyone who supports me their on one night so that would be a dream come true for me and hopefully in 2014 or the near-future.
Thank you for everyone who has been supporting myself and GLORY World Series, I look forward to putting on great shows in Tokyo and in the future.
GLORY 13 takes place on Dec. 21. Valtellini will fight in the first of two semi-final bouts in the GLORY welterweight tournament against Raymond Daniels.