Interview

“I didn’t look at myself as a professional fighter, I looked at myself as guy who fought professionally.” Nunzio “Nunzilla” Camarata, Gracie United

Nunzio “Nunzilla” Camarata takes on Brandon “Thug Passion” Hebert for the Bayou Fighting Championship Heavyweight title tomorrow, Saturday May 18th, at BFC 37, from the Ponchatoula Rec Center in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Of all the fighters featured on the card, none is more experienced than Camarata, who has a professional career spanning more than 14 years. He’s an accomplished grappler, and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. However, Nunzio’s proudest accomplishment is his daughter, Savanah, who under the tutelage of her father, is a 14 time jiu jitsu champion. I caught up with Nunzio right after he was finishing up his last workout of the fight camp, and we talked about his career in mixed martial arts, and what he’s been doing to prepare for his match up with Hebert, and to take the BFC Heavyweight title home.

How did your workout go?

“It went really well, we did some hard rounds of jiu jitsu, and trained in the gi to break a sweat. I’m a heavyweight, so sweating doesn’t mean much. I’m a smaller heavyweight, about 220 lbs, and I should be fighting light-heavyweight, but I figured why not, heavyweight fight, let’s do it. We also did a lot of cage work, striking, a lot of scenario stuff; punches and kicks, closing the distance in the clinch, stuff of that nature. We worked on a lot of conditioning too. We’re all ready to go.”

“She’s already great. She’s already better than I ever was. So for me to be able to go out there and inspire her, that’s what motivates me.”

How long have you been training Brazilian jiu jitsu?

“Since 2006, but I took a 4 year sabbatical around 2009. I came back in 2013, and resumed as a blue belt. I got my purple in 2015 and my brown belt last year.”

Looking at your past fights, I noticed that you only had 1 amateur fight before turning pro. How did you decide to jump pro so soon?

“That fight was listed as an amateur fight, but weirdly enough we both got paid for it, and we were able to throw elbows. It was probably one of those fights that never should have happened, but it did. It was a good learning experience at least.”

“Ironically, I wish I would have had an amateur career. Around February of 2005, I was still training with Rich Clementi. I’d go out to Slidell and train, and Rich approached me one day. He had a pro fighter that pulled out of a card he was doing, and I wasn’t really training hard at at that time, but I took that fight on 4 days notice. It happened to be a professional fight, and here I am now.”

What initially got you into fighting?

“My whole life, I was a pro wrestling fan, and at the time it was the WWF. I remember this guy came along named Ken Shamrock, and I was kind of enamored. There he was, this wrestler guy beating up on all these karate guys. I was always an anti-karate guy, and Ken Shamrock was the guy going out and beating down these karate guys. So I learned about the UFC, with Ken Shamrock and his brother Frank. I kind of followed the footsteps of those guys, followed their careers.”

I know that you train and teach out at Gracie United in Amite with Kurt Holobaugh. How is it training with him?

“Man, it’s a blast. Kurt is a hell-of-a coach, a hell-of-a good friend. He pushes hard, we are cut form the same cloth. He’s the type of coach, he wouldn’t ask you to do something that the wouldn’t do himself. He’s a great coach, and he just got his black belt, which was very well deserved. It’s an honor to train with him. I call him my friend and my brother.”

“I didn’t look at myself as a professional fighter, I looked at myself as guy who fought professionally.”

What do you enjoy most about fighting?

Ironically, I don’t like it. I like knowing that the things I learn at Gracie prepare me for an extreme situation like that, to overcome it. It gives me pride in my team, also for the guys that don’t believe in themselves, who’ve been bullied their whole lives, for them to overcome that challenge, it inspires me to do the same. I also fight for my daughter. She tells me, ‘Daddy, I’ve never seen you fight.’ And I want to lead by example. She’s already great. She’s already better than I ever was. So for me to be able to go out there and inspire her, that’s what motivates me right there.”

Looking ahead to Saturday night, what do you think Brandon Hebert brings to this fight?

“Obviously he’s a big man, 6 foot 3, I think he weighs around 260. He’s a heavy puncher, he’s got a hell-of-a right hand, hell-of-an overhand right. He’s a blue belt, and just because he’s a blue belt, it doesn’t mean he’s not any good on the ground. He’s got a hell-of-a beard on him. I always respect everyone I fight. I’m never going to disrespect a fighter, or make bold predictions. This fight could go either way. I’m prepared for whatever. I’m not going into the cage to lose, obviously. Much respect to Brandon, he trains with a good team. Tim Credeur is an awesome coach and professor, and Gladiators always has tough fighters, tough opponents.”

“If that makes my daughter happy, if my family looks up to me as someone who can be their hero, than that’s good enough for me.”

You told me that it’s possible that Saturday night will be your last fight. When you finally do hang up the gloves, what will you look back on most proudly?

“You know, when I had my daughter, seeing her get on the mats, and seeing her do as well as she does, it’s all about her. If she does well, I’m okay. I’ve accomplished quite a few things in jiu jitsu, won a few state titles. As far as MMA, I’ve fought sparingly, fought as a pro. I’ve always carried myself professionally, always respected my opponents. I didn’t look at myself as a professional fighter, I looked at myself as guy who fought professionally. If that makes my daughter happy, if my family looks up to me as someone who can be their hero, than that’s good enough for me.”

Well, that’s it. Is there anything else you’d like to say, or anyone to shout-out?

“I teach every week at Gracie United in Amite, and I’ll be competing in an IBJJF tournament coming up in June. I’d like to thank my sponsors, Quality Concrete, Steve Chris, Cotton’s Pest Control, Tangi Lock and Key, Gracie United Team Jucao, the whole federation. Last but not least, my family, my wife, my daughter, everyone. To all my family and friends, I’m very grateful.”

Nunzio Camarata fights Brandon Hebert for the Heavyweight title this Saturday, May 18th, at Bayou Fighting Championship 37 in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. You can purchase tickets for the event by clicking here, or visit BayouFC.com for more information!

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