Niagara Gazette

February 2, 2013

Niagara Falls native earns first MMA championship belt

By Matt Parrino
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Frank Scalzo is used to moving around. 

He can rattle off quite an address history of the places he's lived in and around Niagara Falls growing up. He's versatile and able to go with the flow because of it, and those characteristics have translated into his mixed martial arts career.

Scalzo recently won the 155-pound Art of Combat championship belt at the promotion's third event in Binghamton by beating the No. 1-ranked fighter in the Northeast, Dickie White, by guillotine choke.

The Niagara Falls High School graduate said it was a dream come true.

"It was a great feeling," Scalzo said. "I worked super hard for it and I knew all I had to do was go out and perform, and that's what I did."

Scalzo played football growing up and wrestled a bit in college, but he wasn't very motivated. After he graduated in 2008 he decided he wanted to get in better shape, and in his effort to get healthier, he found mixed martial arts.

When he walked into his first gym to begin training, he weighed in at 205 pounds. Six months later he competed in a grappling tournament at 142 pounds and since has fought in four different weight classes in MMA. 

Don Lilly, Victory MMA promoter, took on Scalzo after he had started 2-2 in his fighting career. He hasn't lost since, going 3-0 as a member of the Victory camp.

"He's one of the hardest workers that are in the gym," Lilly said. "When the doors open at 4 o'clock he's usually the first person I see. He's a helpful guy, he'll take new guys aside and work with them, and he does it on his own. He never wants to come out of the cage."

Scalzo has made the typical progression in style throughout his career. He started with a wrestling base and has slowly worked brazilian jiujitsu and striking into his repertoire, and now feels comfortable wherever a fight goes.

Lilly said that since Scalzo joined the Victory team his grappling skills have continued to evolve. He has finished his last two opponents with submissions and he attributes a large portion of his success to his coach: Eric Herbert (Tonawanda).

"(My coaches) push me and I have so many training partners that are hungry to get better," Scalzo said. "Eric Herbert is the best training partner I've ever had. He's a hard-worker and works with everybody. He's very encouraging, motivating and I couldn't ask for a better coach."

Scalzo's win over White didn't come easy. He went into the fighter's home town and dominated the fight, and Lilly said it was a complete complete performace for Scalzo, who won the standup in the first round, scored a take down in the second and then locked in the guillotine a minute into the third round to secure the win.

The entire Scalzo family was sending Frank messages before and after the fight, and he said he takes family and friends with him everywhere he fights. He said it feels like all of them are in the cage with him because of how supportive everyone has been.

"Even when they're not in the crowd, I feel like they're there with me — like they are there in the cage yelling and encouraging me," he said. "Even for my last fight, I was definitely not very popular in that arena because it was White's home town, but people were texting me, calling and posting stuff on Facebook. It was motivating to have them on my side."

Scalzo plans to fight one or two more times as an amateur before turning pro sometime in May, but when he finally decides to make the switch, he'll be ready. He's usually ready for anything.

Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.