FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lewiston, Maine (November 4, 2013) – John Ortolani (7-7) is a motivated individual. No one in their right mind would deny that. The two-sport star has spent the last several years competing professionally in both the Mixed Martial Arts cage and on the lacrosse field, while also instructing at Nashua, New Hampshire’s Team Triumph and coaching youth lacrosse. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Brown Belt maintains a schedule that would leave the average person exhausted. Yet, he takes it all in stride.
When New England Fights Mixed Martial Arts (NEF MMA) returns to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on November 9, 2013 with the fight promotion’s “NEF XI” event, Ortolani will face Tony Christodoulou (9-4) to determine a new Maine State MMA Lightweight Champion. The title was vacated by Dez Green (10-2) earlier this year when he signed to fight in Bellator. This is not Ortolani’s first attempt to capture that championship. In September, at “NEF X,” Ortolani was scheduled to fight Jon Lemke (3-1) for the belt. Just hours before weigh-ins were to begin, Lemke, unable to make weight, notified NEF MMA executives first that he would have to compete at a non-title catchweight against Ortolani. Moments later, however, Lemke pulled out of the fight all together.
“I really have no idea what was going through his head,” said Ortolani of Lemke’s decision to pull out during a recent NEF MMA Podcast interview. “It could’ve been a number of reasons why he decided he didn’t want to do it. I just really wanted to fight. I worked hard in that fight camp.
“I was obviously very disappointed,” Ortolani continued. “You get all hyped up for that night, and it feels like it’s all for nothing… We use that as a stepping block into the next fight camp. We keep the cardio up. We just worked hard for six weeks, so keep progressing onto the next one. This next fight we’re about to have at ‘NEF XI,’ it makes it almost like a three-month fight camp. You just kind of combine the two right away.”
At first glance, Ortolani’s professional MMA record of 7-7 might not seem all that impressive. When one looks at the level of competition he’s faced over the course of his career, however, it becomes clear that he and Team Triumph head coach Professor John Fain do not believe in taking the easy fights. In fact, not only does Ortolani take the tough fights, he actively seeks them out.
“If there’s a way for me to win, I don’t have a problem with taking the fight,” stated Ortolani. “I don’t care how difficult it’s gonna be, if there’s a possibility I can win, we’re gonna try to come up with the perfect game plan.
“I don’t try to force any particular thing in a fight,” he continued. “I just kind of take what’s given in front of me… The perfect fight for me is just having as much fun as possible.”
Currently, Ortolani spreads his athletic efforts between MMA and lacrosse. A professional specializing in face-offs, Ortolani was drafted by the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse (MLL). He was traded last year to the Rochester Rattlers.
“I started playing lacrosse when I was a sophomore in high school,” said Ortolani. “I got recruited to college. I played at Endicott. Four years after I started there, I got drafted to the Boston Cannons. My career there was mainly as a backup. I’d fill in when a starter was injured or needed a break or was worn down from the season, I would fill in here and there, but I never really got the chance to start on a consistent basis. Then, I got traded to Rochester, NY last year and had a great training camp up there. They decided they wanted me to be their starter, so I played in every game for them this past season.”
While his career in lacrosse may have started early in life, Ortolani did not become involved in martial arts until he was in college. It was during that time that he trained with different local schools before finding a home with Fain’s Team Triumph.
“During one of my semester breaks in college I actually started training martial arts,” Ortolani reflected on his start in the sport. “I went down to Sityodtong. I had heard about it and was doing Muay Thai classes just to stay in shape. I had a blast down there. After lacrosse season, a couple of my friends, a friend of mine, Steve Butler, was training for Dragon Warrior, he was training for a good fight and asked me to help him come train. I fell in love with the sport there. I initially got hooked on MMA with those guys, Dragon Warrior. Steve Pento was great at getting me involved in the game there. After one of my fights, I met John Fain. He was cornering Dennis Olson in the main event… I went up to his gym for an open mat and had a good time with them. I’ve never looked back from there. I’ve been with John for a little over four years now. It’s been awesome for me.
“All the guys who train at Triumph, whether they’re MMA guys or just Jiu Jitsu guys, we’re all good friends,” continued Ortolani. “Everybody gets along at our gym… As our team gets better and gets more recognition, we get more and more guys signing up to the gym. We’ve had a lot of guys lately, new people interested in Jiu Jitsu, people coming from other schools that weren’t doing so well. We’re really blowing up as a gym overall.”
To the untrained eye, lacrosse and MMA might seem to have a world of difference between them. Ortolani, however, has been able to transition back and forth seamlessly between the two sports. He credits this ability to the underlying similarities between the two which are not immediately obvious on the surface.
“My position in lacrosse translates very well to Jiu Jitsu and wrestling,” explained Ortolani. “Taking faceoff in lacrosse is pretty much a wrestling match for the ball. It’s obviously a little technical… but, in essence, it’s a one-on-one battle for the ball. Jiu Jitsu and wrestling really help me with the leverage and technique, and a lot of being athletic while low to the ground. So, the training doesn’t really vary too much. What I do for lacrosse is run a little bit more, because lacrosse is ninety-percent sprinting.”
November 9 will not be the first time Ortolani and Tony Christodoulou have met in the cage. Early in both of their respective professional careers, Christodoulou and Ortolani first squared off in the MMA cage. In July 2010, Ortolani defeated Christodoulou in the second round of a Milford, NH bout when the referee stopped the fight due to a cut. And while they have developed somewhat of a mutual kinship since that fight, both Ortolani and Christodoulou have been looking forward to the day when they would get their rematch for some time now.
“The first time we fought, Tony took the fight on a couple day’s notice,” recalled Ortolani. “He was a late fill-in for us… The doctor stopped the fight. He was bleeding a lot. I got a TKO victory out of that. Since the fight, right after, we talked, and we’ve been talking since about our training and stuff… He’s been training overseas in Greece. He fought over there. He trained up in Montreal with GSP for a while. He was down in Florida training with the Blackzilians for a little while. He’s had a lot of good training time since the last time we fought. I’m really excited to see how this goes with him having a full fight camp and both of us being much better fighters than we were before. I think it’s gonna be a great fight.”
One constant throughout Ortolani’s athletic career, whether it be lacrosse or MMA, has been the huge following of fans he has gathered along the way. Ortolani’s previous appearance on an NEF MMA fight card, in November 2012, saw dozens of fans make the three-hour trip from Massachusetts to Lewiston, Maine to cheer Ortolani to victory over Bruce “Pretty Boy” Boyington (3-6). Another large group is expected to make the trek to Lewiston for the title fight on November 9.
“Like most fighters, I was a fan before I was a fighter,” explained Ortolani of his acquisition of such a large fan base. “I know fans don’t like boring fights. So, my number-one goal, not only to win the fight, is to make it an exciting fight. I like to push the pace. I like to make it exciting for everyone to watch. A win’s a win, but people don’t want to buy tickets to see someone who’s boring to watch. So I try to push the pace as much as I can and make it an exciting fight every time I go out there… All the fans up there (Maine) come out to support all the athletes, and another thing I want to do is have an exciting fight up there, gaining some Maine fans, so I’m not always the bad guy from out of town. The crowds up there are great. I love the venue. It’s a big-sized venue for local shows which is awesome because we can start packing more fans into these type of shows and get a lot more people interested in MMA.”
For more information on Ortolani’s team, Team Triumph, please visit their website www.TeamTriumphBJJ.com. The gym offers a free week-long trial for prospective members. For more information on John Ortolani’s lacrosse career, you can visit www.RochesterRattlers.com. To listen to the full NEF MMA Podcast interview, please visit www.NewEnglandFights.com/Podcasts/.