Sometimes a man is faced with only two choices, neither of them good. That was the case for Chris Camozzi last year when he reluctantly consulted a doctor about extreme pain in his jaw and an inability to chew on anything.
The doc gave the pro fighter two options: A) No solid foods or chewing for six weeks or B) get your jaw wired shut for even longer.
“I chose not to chew anything,” said the 24-year-old middleweight, who is slated to clash with Kyle Noke on the main card of UFC 127 later this month in Sydney, Australia. Noke (18-4-1) is an Australian who once served as a bodyguard for the late Steve Irwin, best known as the “Crocodile Hunter.”
Camozzi’s broken jaw ordeal is a testament to his extraordinary toughness and will to win. The Coloradan suffered the injury during a preliminary bout against Victor O’Donnell on The Ultimate Fighter 11 last year. At stake: a chance to become one of 16 fighters to get into the house and compete for a six-figure UFC contract.
Early in the first round, during a ferocious back-and-forth slugfest, O’Donnell landed a potent right cross to Camozzi’s chin.
“I felt a loud pop in my ears,” Camozzi said. “But you’ve got to fight through things. It was nothing that would stop me from finishing.”
O’Donnell emerged from the scrap even more damaged, suffering a fractured orbital bone en route to losing three-round affair. Camozzi’s injury initially went undiagnosed and he preferred it that way. But his inability to chew any foods soon created a problem.
“I planned on fighting and I tried to avoid going to the doctor,” he said. “I think I could’ve fought. I wanted it so badly that I was willing to do whatever. I figured I could fix it later. You know, pain doesn’t usually last forever … But the producers made me go to see the doctor and I was sent home. It was pretty devastating, not knowing if I would get another shot.”
Impressed with Camozzi’s performance, the UFC tapped him for The TUF 11 Finale and he delivered, winning a unanimous decision over James Hammortree. Note: Camozzi triumphed despite dislocating a shoulder in the first round. He followed that up with a split decision victory over Dongi Yang to run his record to 2-0 in the UFC. Winner of four straight, Camozzi finds himself pitted against another TUF 11 alum whom he considers his mirror image.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Camozzi said. “He was one of the guys on the show that I liked as a person because he wasn’t there to be a clown or play up his persona; he was there to fight and win. Too many guys go on the show go and make a jackass of themselves.”
Camozzi admitted to being a little more nervous than usual as the showdown with Noke inches closer.
“It makes me a little nervous, which is good. I’ve only had that feeling in a few fights and the fights where I was nervous have always been my best performances,” said Camozzi (14-3). “It means I don’t go in there overconfident but I don’t go in there scared, either. Being a little bit nervous puts me on my game.”
For good measure, Camozzi has a large tattoo across his chest depicting two skulls with a heart valve and a grenade sandwiched in between them.
“I’ve always been told that I have a lot of heart and I agree,” he said. “I’m kind of a roughneck, scrappy person. I don’t have a lot of talents but fighting is one of them. I’m always up for a challenge and I’ll fight through anything. Like the jaw … in the finale I dislocated my shoulder in the first round and fought through that. The grenade is a reminder of if you’re willing to push through anything … grenades will take out anything. Fighters with heart go farther than guys going on just skill.”
His track record is proof of that claim. And Camozzi said that as his career evolves he will continue to draw strength and educational value from his broken jaw experience.
“That’s given me more urgency to win fights quickly,” he said, mindful of making the most of his second go-round with the UFC. “In the end it all worked out well. They gave me another opportunity and I made the most of it.”
Injuries No Big Deal for Camozzi
“I’m kind of a roughneck, scrappy person. I don’t have a lot of talents but fighting is one of them. I’m always up for a challenge and I’ll fight through anything."