By Matt Parrino
Niagara Gazette — After winning the North East 155-pound title at Art of Combat 3 in January, Victory MMA fighter Frankie Scalza (5-2) has noticed a target appear on his back.
Dylan Freedman (4-1), fighting out of Rochester, called up Victory MMA promoter Don Lilly in February and requested a fight with Scalzo, a Niagara Falls product. So Lilly obliged and the two will meet in the main event of tonight's T-NT fight card at Rainbow Rink in North Tonawanda.
Scalzo's trainer Eric Herbert said the way the fight came about is very rare.
"The Friedman kid called and said, 'I want to fight (Frankie) — that's unheard of," Herbert said. "I think what happened is that Frank fought at 170 and this kid came and saw it. And Frank submitted the kid but it wasn't his best performance, so this kid is like, 'I can take that kid and beat him.' If he's going off that fight than he's going to have another thing coming. That motivated Frank. Frank is training as hard as he has ever trained."
Freedman is a strong wrestler, according to Herbert, who knows fighters that have wrested him before. Herbert is expecting him to try and wrestle Scalzo for all 25 minutes of the fight, which is for the Victory lightweight championship — the promotion's first title belt.
Herbert doesn't think Freedman's wrestling will be good enough to get the fight to the ground because of Scalzo's strong takedown defense.
"I definitely know he's going to want to take it to the ground," Scalzo said. "He's hungry and he's trying to make a name for himself in the sport. He had a couple fights he won by submission. I feel like he's going to be more of a grappler submission style, and that's perfect for me because I'm going to keep him standing, keep him up on his feet and wear him down."
Scalzo has been working more on his takedown defense in the camp leading up to the Freedman fight. He wants to keep the fight standing because he feels he holds the advantage in boxing.
The last time Scalzo performed in front of his family and friends, a decision victory over New Hampshire's Vavka Clay, his contingent was loud and proud. Scalzo received one of the biggest reactions of the night, and "Frankie" T-Shirts were visible throughout the crowd of roughly 1,000 spectators.
The Niagara Falls High School alumnus is looking forward to fighting again in such a supportive atmosphere.
"The amount of support I get from friends and family is so overwhelmingly appreciated by me," he said. "Niagara Falls is a huge place so there's not many fighters coming up, there's not too many people that are making a name for themselves. So I feel like i can really put Niagara Falls on the map. … I'm probably going to have about 50 people come out, if not more."
The doors open at 7 p.m. and the 12 scheduled bouts are set to begin at 7:30 p.m. A few hundred tickets are expected to be available at the door.Contact Tonawanda News sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 or on Twitter @MattParrino.