Gian Villante walked into his new home in Levittown and hung his purse on the railing, the contents of which contained key ingredients for his new life.
He hugged his fiancée, Katie, checked in with their 22-month-old son, Gianluca, and cared for their two-week-old daughter, Joey. Throw in a few pets of the family dog, Murphy, to complete this portrait of family life.
Shortly after, Villante would grab his MMA fighter bag, packed with the tools for his profession over the past 12 years, and which he will only need once more for this Saturday, and go to Bellmore Kickboxing MMA for one of his last training sessions ahead. of his heavyweight fight against Chris Barnett at UFC 268. It was his first fight at Madison Square Garden. It was his last fight in the cage.
“Too much of this, man,” the 36-year-old Villante told Newsday recently. “I’ve been in the UFC for almost 10 years now. So I mean it’s long enough. And it’s more than most guys, so I’m proud of myself. I stayed so long, but you know, it’s requires a toll. “
Villante dictated the pace of the first round with his pushkicks, avoiding Barnett’s spinning kicks. But in the second round, Barnett landed a spinning wheel kick that fell VIllante. Barnett then moved in and threw shots until referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the match midway through the second round.
“He has the head of an ashtray,” Barnett said of Villante.
Villante, who trained under Keith Trimble at the Bellmore Kickboxing MMA throughout his career, debuted in the UFC on April 27, 2013, and lost a technical majority decision after a glance at Ovince St. Preux at UFC 159 in New Jersey. Four of his five Strikeforce fights before it took place under the banner of then-UFC parent company Zuffa LLC.
“I have lasted a long time, been able to remain in their good grace by taking a lot of punches and being entertaining when I go in there,” said Villante, winner of three Fight of the Night bonuses in his career. “I could go and break guys and lie on them and be a boring fighter, but that’s not who I am. I like to go out there and swallow and have fun, and that in turn has given me a 10- year-long career where I thrived., made a little bit of decent money here, enjoyed myself a lot and enjoyed the whole trip every second of the way. “
Villante entered UFC 268 in sixth place in UFC lightweight history in significant strikes and landed with 741. His 84.5% takedown defense became number five in the division, which helps explain why his 1 minute and 20 second bottom position time is eighth best in light heavyweight.
His decade in the UFC has brought Villante (17-14, 7-11 UFC) around the world, from Brazil to Australia to the Czech Republic to New Zealand for cooking with renowned chef Lidia Bastianich for guest bartending in a Bravo TV talk show. Not too bad for a Levittown kid.
This career – along with two previous years in the regional MMA circuit where he won the Ring of Combat heavyweight and lightweight titles plus playing football and wrestling in high school and college – has left Villante in some physical pain. Not disabling, but certainly more than just the typical “getting old” stuff.
Yet he would not change anything.
“I don’t really go down stairs too much anymore. The body has been beaten, man,” Villante said. “Between football, and this, and wrestling, it has taken a good beating. But I have enjoyed it. I would not give it back. I will take this pain for what was given to me.”
Gian Villante has spent almost a decade fighting in the UFC, something not all fighters in the promotion can boast of.
The majority of athletes do not get the call when they walk away from their sport. In this sense, Villante wins. The overwhelming majority of MMA fighters will have to find new employment to support themselves and their families when they retire. In this sense, Villante is on track to win.
His post-fighting career was something he always thought about, and his plan began to take off earlier this year. Villante returned to Hofstra to earn the remaining points he will need to earn his bachelor’s degree in physical education.
“I have to finish Hofstra in June and become a teacher and work with children,” Villante said. “People might say, you know, the UFC or the NFL or whatever it is, is a dream job. Being a teacher and being able to work with kids every day and go to school in sweat – that’s the dream job for me.”
In between to train for this match and take three classes at Hofstra and move into a new house and have a newborn and raise a small child with his fiancée, Villante also coaches the eighth grade soccer team at Jonas E. Salk Middle School and assists with the junior and college soccer teams at MacArthur High School, where he won the Newsdays Thorp Award as the best soccer player in Nassau and was the state champion in wrestling.
So yeah, he’s a little busy.
Gian Villante coaches the eighth-grade football team at Jonas E. Salk Middle School and assists on the university and JV teams at MacArthur High School in Levittown. (Photos by Mark LaMonica, Peter Frutkoff)
But on the football field where he sees his players improve week by week and enjoy the sport he grew up playing and loving, there is no sign that Villante feels overwhelmed by the complexity of the transition to a new career.
“When I was back there training with these kids, I didn’t realize how much I loved and missed football,” Villante said. “I’m having so much fun. It’s the best thing in the world. I hit guys on the head before matches, it’s amazing. I love it. And the relationships you build with the kids? Man, I can ‘I have so many children, and I think, “Man, I want to hang out with them.” They’re like the coolest kids in the world. “
Did he leave his gloves in the cage at MSG after his fight, a popular and symbolic gesture among MMA fighters as they leave their playing field for the last time?
“I’m not a show guy. I do not need the attention,” Villante said. “I do not want to be popular. I do not care how many Instagram followers I have. My social media consists of my children and football in eighth grade. I like to live in a little bit of silence.”
|Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 23||February 20, 2009||Randy Durant||Win||WHO||Cut||1||0:35|
|Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 24||April 17, 2009||Paul White||Win||Submission||Behind-naked choker||1||1:46|
|Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 25||June 12, 2009||Joe Abouata||Win||WHO||Battle||1||1:48|
|Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 26||September 11, 2009||Rob Wince||Win||COW||Main kick||2||1:25|
|Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 27||November 20, 2009||Marcelo Donald Pereira||Win||COW||Battle||1||3:59|
|Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 28||February 19, 2010||Mike Cook||Win||Submission||Behind-naked choker||1||0:40|
|Light Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 29||April 16, 2010||Demetrius Richards||Loss||WHO||Arm injury||1||3:27|
|Light Heavyweight||Ring of Combat 33||December 3, 2010||Joseph Reyes||Win||WHO||Battle||1||1:03|
|Light Heavyweight||Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva||February 12, 2011||Chad Griggs||Loss||WHO||Battle||1||2:49|
|Light Heavyweight||Strikeforce Challengers 16||June 24, 2011||Lorenz Larkin||Loss||Unanimous decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||Strikeforce Challengers 18||August 12, 2011||Keith Berry||Win||Unanimous decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Garden||January 7, 2012||Trevor Smith||Win||WHO||Battle||1||1:05|
|Light Heavyweight||Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier||May 19, 2012||Derrick Mehmen||Win||Unanimous decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC 159||April 27, 2013||Ovince St. Preux||Loss||Majority decision||3||0:33|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC 167||November 16, 2013||Cody Donovan||Win||WHO||Battle||2||1:22|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Fight Night 38||March 23, 2014||Fabio Maldonado||Loss||Unanimous decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Fight Night 43||June 28, 2014||Sean O’Connell||Win||Shared decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC on Fox 15||April 18, 2015||Corey Anderson||Win||WHO||kind||3||4:18|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Fight Night||July 25, 2015||Tom Lawlor||Loss||WHO||kind||2||0:27|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC 193||November 14, 2015||Anthony Perosh||Win||COW||kind||1||2:56|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC 196||March 5, 2016||Ilir Latifi||Loss||Unanimous decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Albany||December 9, 2016||Saparbek Safarov||Win||WHO||kind||2||2:07|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Fortaleza||March 11, 2017||Mauricio Rua||Loss||WHO||kind||3||0:59|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Long Island||July 22, 2017||Patrick Cummins||Loss||Shared decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC 220||January 20, 2018||Francimar Barroso||Win||Shared decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Utica||June 1, 2018||Sam Alvey||Loss||Shared decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Moncton||October 27, 2018||Ed Herman||Win||Shared decision||3||5:00|
|Light Heavyweight||UFC Prague||February 23, 2019||Michal Oleksiejczuk||Loss||WHO||liver punch||1||1:34|
|Heavyweight||UFC Vegas 4||July 27, 2020||Maurice Greene||Loss||Submission||arm triangle||3||3:44|
|Heavyweight||UFC Vegas 16||December 5, 2020||Jake Collier||Loss||Unanimous decision||3||5:00|
|Heavyweight||UFC 268||November 6, 2021||Chris Barnett||Scheduled||–||–|