Though Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore Nick Catone calls home pretty hard, for the former middleweight and soon to be welterweight, there was no time to miss a day of work.
So after checking on family, friends, and the students at his academy in Brick Township, he showed off that resilient spirit epitomized by area residents by going back to the gym to prepare for his fight Saturday night against TJ Waldburger.
“It was tough juggling workouts when nobody had power, but I made due, getting some training in in a 50 degree gym with no lights during the daytime,” said Catone. “I had to get by, and everything’s back to normal now.”
Catone and his wife lost power for a couple days, minor inconveniences compared to what some – including those close to the couple – experienced in October.
“Some family and friends had homes that got a little banged up,” he said. “My wife’s grandparents are currently living with her parents because their house had to get gutted – they’re right on the water - but we’re surviving. There were a lot of students that were affected, so it affected everybody.”
So while the 31-year-old is across the country in Las Vegas at the moment, there’s no question that his heart is still in Jersey, which makes his quest to deliver a strong first impression at welterweight a big one. And despite his success at middleweight in the UFC, he believes the move to 170 was a long time coming.
“It was something I’ve always thought about,” said Catone. “At 185 I fought some tough guys. (Costa) Philippou’s doing well, (Mark) Munoz was a split decision, and I thought I had the (Chris) Camozzi fight until the ref stopped it with the blood. But I think it’s just better for my career at ’70. I feel strong at 170 where I don’t have to really concentrate on heavy lifting and stuff anymore. I can concentrate on my work improving technique and keeping my cardio.”
3-3 in the UFC at the moment, Catone could easily be 5-1 if he got the nod in the ultra-competitive Munoz bout in 2009 and if doctors didn’t stop his June bout with Camozzi (a fight he was winning on the scorecards) due to cuts. The Camozzi one, Catone’s first after being sidelined for over a year due to an Achilles tendon injury, hit him particularly hard, especially after he looked so solid in the first two rounds.
“I felt great, but the outcome was unfortunately pretty upsetting,” he said. “To come back from an Achilles injury, I worked hard to get all the way back, and I was having a good fight up to that point, so I wanted to keep going. I think I fought for another minute after I got cut, but then the doctors came in. I had huge support down there, it was like 400-500 people that came down to the Revel (in Atlantic City) that night, and it was a tough outcome, but that’s part of the sport.”
Just a few days later, Catone was back in the gym, stitches and all, to get in some light padwork.
“I’ve always been very competitive, so to lose like that was tough, but to get right back to training and back to work felt good, even though a lot of people thought I was nuts with 40 stitches in my forehead.”
That wasn’t going to be the roughest part of the last six months, as he decided that the move 15 pounds south that he had pondered for a while was going to become a reality.
“I started around three, four months ago,” he said of the weight-cutting process. “I wanted to see what I could get my walking around weight down to. I used to walk around 215-218 and cut down to ’85. So I got my weight down a little lighter and my wife’s been a huge help. She’s getting certified in nutrition and taking classes. She’s a full-time nurse and helps out at the gym, but all the nutrition stuff is something we want to get involved with at the gym. And I feel pretty good. I still feel strong, I feel quicker, and I’m looking forward to the challenge, weighing in, and getting in there the next night.”
It’s worked so far for former 185-pounders like Aaron Simpson, Demian Maia, and Dan Miller, who have a combined 4-1 record at welterweight, and now Catone’s going to throw his hat in a ring that he says is “just a better fit for me.” Will it be? Given Catone’s hard-charging style, it will be fun finding out, though he’s not making any plans past Saturday night.
“I don’t ever really say I can beat this guy or that guy; I look at what’s gonna suit me best and let the cards fall where they may,” he said. “I have my first fight with TJ, and then I’ll go from there and see what happens.”