Michael Lombardo(“The Don”) is a professional Mixed Martial Arts performer and instructor. Mike recently recorded his fifth consecutive win over in New Orleans, Louisiana. He’s currently Louisiana’s top ranked prospect unsigned by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).The middleweight champion does most of his day-to-day training down in South Florida, between Palm Beach Gardens and Coconut Creek. His current winning streak began with an impressive victory over Emmanuel Verdier at an outdoor promotional fight in Miami sponsored by Bellator, one of the biggest martial arts promoters in the world. After his recent victory down in the Big Easy, he now holds an overall career record of 8–1 across the span of the last five years fighting professionally within the MMA(Mixed Martial Arts) middleweight fight class circuit.
Prior to his career in mixed martial arts, Mike was a standout inside linebacker for the Wagner College(WC) football program. In his two year stint with the Seahawks he led the team in tackles(82) and was the team leader in sacks(6) as a junior back in 2011. During his senior season in 2012, he guided the WC Seahawks to a Northeast conference championship and a spot in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) playoffs. During his time with the Seahawks, he was widely recognized by coaches and fellow teammates for his great leadership skills, and being a good example for the younger players on the team. Team leadership combined with the discipline of being a student athlete paved the way for a natural transition into the mixed martial arts industry. Dan Miegel sat down with Lombardo, to discuss the value of the relationship he has with his coaches, his every day training regimen in South Florida, and the unique transition from his college football days at Wagner to his career as a MMA professional fighter. Also, later on, Dan further inquires Lombardo, 28 on the concept behind opponent recognition, his role as an instructor at ATT(American Top Team) and where he sees himself following his days as a professional fighter.
Dan Miegel: Mike, I want to start off by saying I really appreciate the fact that you took time out of your busy schedule to come speak with me today. Over the course of your training, you’ve developed a special bond with the people you work with. You take a lot of pride in representing the people in your corner, your coaches, and the people that support you competing as a professional fighter at a live mixed martial arts event. Talk about the relationship with your coaches. What is something important that you take from the multiple people in your coaching sector that helps get you best prepared to come out a winner at a live MMA fight?
Mike Lombardo: Well down in Coconut Creek we have a lot of different coaches, we have wrestling coaches,a striking coach, a jiu-jitsu coach. But my main coach is (American Top Team’s) Dave Zitnick, and basically we just put everything together and we make all the boxing, and the grappling, all one into MMA, and that’s how we prepare for our fights. Also, it’s important because we’re really close and I feel like that’s important to have in your corner, somebody that actually cares for you, that it’s not just like a business, it’s like a family out there. So it makes you feel comfortable and confident when it’s time to fight.
DM: Is their anything you learned as a collegiate athlete that has continued to help you in your current journey as a professional MMA fighter?
ML: Really just being an athlete. Football and MMA, they’re definitely not the same at all. But just work ethic I would say, always showing up, always working hard, trying to be smart, and trying to learn. I feel like that translates a lot, and just being able to use my athleticism in MMA, and that’s really it.
DM: Tell me a little about opponent recognition. How do you recognize and exploit a weak spot in your opponent?
ML: Honestly, it just takes a lot of time to be able to[recognize an opponent’s weakness]but when you’re out there,you might faint him ,and see how he reacts to the faint, and if he reacts one way, I’m going do something to capitalize off it, and if he reacts another way I’m going to do something else to capitalize off it, and man, there’s nothing but time and experience that teaches that. It’s not easy, but that’s the main thing. Also I like to study a lot of film, as much film as I can on my opponent, and I like to take out things that maybe he doesn’t do good that I feel like I can exploit.
DM: Serving as a jiu-jitsu/kickboxing instructor in between your training here at ATT Palm Beach Gardens, what do you hope to instill into people of all different ages when they walk in this gym to take your class?
ML: Well everybody comes here for a different reason. Some people come here just to get a good workout in, so for those people, we just push them, just work hard, whether they want to lose weight, stay in shape, whatever their goal is. We also have people who actually want to become a fighter some day, and that’s great because if we can teach them, and I like to teach them, things that I like to do in a fight,and not only physically but mentally as well because that’s definitely half of the battle. For the kids,the kids come, and it just gives them a chance to learn about self-defense and respect, and things that martial arts teaches kids of all ages. I feel like it’s really an important thing in life for all of them.
DM: What do you think you’d like to do when you retire from this industry?
ML: If I could have a part in being a coach to an up-and-coming fighter or something like that, and help maybe change a life in a positive way, I’d definitely want to do that.
DM: Alright Mike we’re about out of time, any last words before we close?
ML: No man. I had a really good time, I appreciate you listening, and Danny man, I appreciate you coming to interview me.