Each month FIGHT! Magazine will select one reader who we feel exemplifies the very best of mixed martial arts. That reader could be a dedicated fan, a fighter, manager or promoter. He or she could be someone who used MMA to overcome personal obstacles and positively transform their life. In Sept. 2010, fellow FIGHT! Magazine readers will vote online for their favorite profile and the winner will be featured in print. To submit a FIGHT! reader for consideration, e-mail us with a brief explanation of why you think they are the Reader of the Month and include “Reader of the Month” in the subject line. Please include links to any relevant videos or information, as well.
by FIGHT! contributor Kim Schemer
FIGHT! reader Joe Fiorentino is a police officer, volunteer, Defensive Tactics instructor, and a Shidokan black belt. It sounds like a lot but it only scratches the surface of this MMA fan and grappling competitor.
On Sept. 19, the 12-year Cook County Sheriff Department veteran took first place in the heavyweight division at the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) Midwest Championship. He has won twelve NAGA matches times and in 2008 was ranked the #1 Director Division Grappler in the nation. He is a three-time heavyweight champion of the Mid West Jiu-Jitsu Tournament.
A native of Chicago, Fiorentino was an All-City football player at Roosevelt High School (where he is a member of the Sports Hall of Fame) and received a scholarship to play for the University of Evansville. His martial arts training began in 1977 and in 1983 Fiorentino began training for his black belt at Shidokan Chicago under Shihan Eddie Yoshimura, who is the highest-ranking Shidokan practitioner outside of Japan.
Fiorentino has won more than 50 fights and was inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame this past August. In 2008 he received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, signed by President Obama, for his 100-200 hours per year of volunteering to teach self-defense to officers, clubs, and Boy Scout troops.
Fight sports are more than a hobby for Fiorentino, and his commitment to his art and his community inspired FIGHT! Magazine to name him our first Reader of the Month.
FIGHT!: What originally attracted you to the martial arts?
FIORENTINO: Well, it’s a great way to get into shape. It’s also a great way to protect yourself and stay safe. I also believe martial arts is about respect and helping others in need.
FIGHT!: Do you have any role models in the martial arts?
FIORENTINO: Not role models so much as people I admire. Like many people I admired Bruce Lee from a young age. Actually, not just Bruce Lee, but also the people who fought against him. I also admire Frank Dux, and actually got to meet him because we were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time.
FIGHT!: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a fighter?
FIORENTINO: My strength is definitely my ground game. I train everything but my strength is definitely in jiu-jitsu, grappling, takedowns and stamina. At this point the only weakness I feel is the natural fact of getting slower with age. Aging makes it difficult to spar at top speed, and makes recovering from injuries a slower process. For this reason, I am always working on increasing my stamina.
FIGHT!: Do you have a personal fighting style?
FIORENTINO: I’m definitely a grappler/jiu-jitsu fighter. While I am still offered some MMA fights, I tend to take the jiu-jitsu fights, which are non-striking events.
FIGHT!: What is your greatest memory as a martial artist?
FIORENTINO: I am very proud of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. My greatest fight memory is from 2008 at the Arnold Grappling Championships, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was actually there, and my opponent was undefeated (15-0) and weighed 308 lbs. That was about 90 lbs. heavier than me, and I beat him in the finals of the Heavyweight Division. I could hear my wife Heidi screaming in excitement!
FIGHT!: What is on the horizon for you?
FIORENTINO: I have a fight scheduled for April 2010.
FIGHT!: Is there anything else you want to share with FIGHT! readers?
FIORENTINO: I’ve just had some interesting experiences. I got to train with Shonie Carter. Shogun and Ninja Rua came to our school to train with us one day. I met both Frank Mir and Jeff Monson at tournaments, although they were both in a different division than me (Absolute Division). I wrote an article for American Police Beat magazine. I couldn’t have done all of these things if it weren’t for my very supportive wife Heidi.
(Fiorentino with Frank Dux.)