He finished a workout at the UFC Renzo Gracie Academy facility located a few minutes away from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Biaggio Ali resembled his brother, Nico, the upcoming and undefeated middleweight who fights under the Top Rank Boxing banner.
He is the other grandson of the late Muhammad Ali, though fighting in a cage and not in the ring. The 24-year old Biaggio, in his element as an MMA fighter and competing at Madison Square Garden next month, in the PFL semifinal playoff events August 18 and 23 in the Hulu Theatre.
The “Mecca” is where his grandfather had historic fights for the heavyweight championship. HIs 21-year-old brother, (8-0) had an impressive Garden debut last October on a Top Rank card in the Theatre, and his ESPN televised fights document the origin of Ali and his grandson.
Biaggio, though, fights in this MMA element of a popular sport that is categorized as combat and brutal, so different from boxing standards of technique of connecting with jabs and punches. He hardly gets the spotlight even with the association of being the other grandson of a boxing icon.
“I’ve seen all his fights,” Biaggio said about his grandfather, a son of Ali’s daughter, Rasheda. “That was my only grandfather known him since birth since he passed away. Being a kid you can’t really grasp the impact he made growing up as a young kid. Every year Thanksgiving at his house, visiting him weekends at the house. A young kid did not know his impact and knew he was a famous guy as I got older. Got to realize that.”
Regardless, the legacy of Biaggio and an MMA ring are now a part of the Muhammad Ali legacy, this as Nico continues his rise to stardom and is scheduled to fight next month on another Top Rank/ESPN televised event. Both brothers are roommates in a new home that Nico recently purchased in Las Vegas. They share stories about their grandfather, discuss fight strategy, and when schedules don’t conflict get on a plane to support each other at ringside at a Top Rank card or MMA event.
“We don’t have too many talks about it,” Biaggio said about interactions with Nico and differences between boxing and MMA. “We’re super close, it’s pretty much normal. I always lived with him. He is my roommate is also my brother, not only that he is a fighter and understands the process of diet, weight, Nice to have someone so close to you understand.”
He tells the story about his brother and poses the question to him about another Ali getting in the ring or the cage.
“Nico did not want me to fight,” Biaggio said with a smile as he briefly looked up as if he was commenting to his grandfather. “I was training, I asked him, (Nico) dude I want to fight. He said ‘no don’t fight, don’t fight’ now here we are. I have no idea maybe he thought it would be too much for me. I don’t know, no clue.”
The PFL event also includes men’s heavyweight and female divisions, Biaggio, will compete at lightweight (155), different from boxing standards with a weight limit of 135. This was a one-day visit to New York City as part of promoting the Garden event, and he immediately headed back to Vegas and another session with his trainer, Dennis Davis.
But why choose MMA over boxing? Biaggio tried his hands at football and was rushing through defensive lines at UNLV and Cal Berkeley. He comes from a fight family and the grandson of a legend was always surrounded with boxing talk and the gym. It has been a part of finding yourself and competing on the gridiron wasn’t working, neither was the lifestyle.
He found MMA as the proper outlet and has been successful as an amateur since his debut last year with three wins via submission. The intent to turn pro is on his agenda, but the focus is the semifinals next month and vying later for two title belts.
“I was done playing football,” he said. “I was kinda lost doing stupid stuff going out. I was lost and I just started training and felt good. Told myself, like I don’t want to regret when I’m 40- years old. I don’t want to think, would have been a good fighter if I tried. I just decided to go all the way so far, I’ve had some good success.”
The demeanor is similar to his brother, though comments at a slower pace and is deep in thought, perhaps the strategy of an MMA fighter as opposed to a fighter. There are no similarities when you questioned his late grandfather with one question and attempted to get a follow up answer.
It’s a simple strategy for Biaggio in attempts at leaving his legacy, following a similar pattern of helping humanity as his grandfather was accustomed to doing. Nico also has said the same in his quest.
“Fight for same reason my grandfather fought,” he said. “He fought because he wanted to help people. This life is only a test. Whatever success platform I can use that to help a lot of people. I don’t think anybody is going to make an impact like he (Muhammad) did but you can try your best to make an impact like he did and that’s the goal.
He said the goal is to help people, get to charity, and feed the homeless because his grandfather inspired him and his brother to do the same.
And competing as an MMA fighter with the PFL has become his way of spreading that message, also with the goals of becoming another champion of the Ali legacy.
“MMA has this endless void of possibilities,” Biaggio says. “There are so many ways to lose endless void of possibilities My goal is to be an exciting fighter. I don’t want to be the fight where people go to the bathroom break. I’m there to kick your ass. People want to see you with that mentality.”
Though, honestly, Biaggio Ali only has that mentality of brutality in the cage. It’s fight talk and similar to his grandfather who always played before the camera.
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Rich Mancuso: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso