While it’s likely a number of Mixed Martial Arts fans think the sport’s training facilities are limited to those found on “UFC Undisputed” or receiving a particularly large amount of buzz, the reality is a number of quality gyms exist throughout the United States including the one Team Bombsquad, and Ryan Ciotoli, calls home. In the following piece, Five Ounces of Pain‘s Dan Bonnell profiles Ciotoli’s rise from a guy training in his backyard to head-honcho at one of the Northeast’s shining stars.
In a small desolate town in upstate Cortland, New York – population 18,000 – resides one of MMA’s gems where Team Bombsquad trainer Ryan Ciotoli has been fortunate enough to have one of MMA’s top fight teams and group of fighters in his backyard – literally.
Branded the name “The Barn” for over three years, Ciotoli’s furnished training center sits quietly nestled behind his residence. Plastered with old metals and fight posters, the smell of sweat still looms in the small, dark gym but the lack of footprints in the snow to the door suggests emptiness and lonesomeness. Ciotoli has retired the one-time bustling center for his state of the art training facility located in Ithica, NY and rightfully named Ultimate Athletics. Sustained memories of the old gym now adorn the walls of the 23,000 square foot fitness and training center infested with talent. A former Office Depot, the now rejuvenated building sports two 24’ training cages, a boxing ring, 3,000 square feet of mats, cardio and strength equipment, locker rooms, showers, supply store, and even a juice bar.
Former home to UFC light heavyweight phenom Jon Jones, Team Bombsquad is sought out by many of the nation’s toughest fighters including a number of recognizable names. In fact, two young prospects making a stir on the big scene right now are living in Ciotoli’s basement apartment. UFC heavyweight Christian Morecraft and Bellator featherweight Kenny Foster both share the fully furnished residence Ciotoli has set up ion his home for fighters.
However, his success has come with a price. A family man, Ciotoli says mornings are family time and during the week he tries to spend as much time as possible around his wife and kids, but on the weekends he sheds his “daddy mask” for the serious shades of an MMA trainer and embarks on long rides, and flights to and from fight venue to fight venue for his team. Often, the life of an MMA trainer is as demanding and difficult as the very fighters’ they’re preparing. While discussing specifics, Ciotoli briefly depicted the 5-6 hours car rides to fights in Massachusetts and New Hampshire involving vehicles packed with sweaty, angry, dehydrated fighters en route to a weigh-in. With New York still deadlocked on keeping MMA out of the State, Ciotoli finds match-ups for his team in other nearby areas.
On the subject of his early experiences with the hardships of the MMA industry, Ciotoli reminisced about his days as a competitor, explaining, “A friend of mine was going to a show in Wildwood (New Jersey)…I think it was a Reality Fighting card…..I loved it and had to do it. There just wasn’t a lot of money even if you won. I think I made $100 my first fight…good for the beers afterwards.”
Ciotoli later left Ithica College, where he was coaching wrestling, to start CNYMMA where he partnered with the likes of Tamden McCrory and Eric Charles for a very successful run. However, they grew distant with CNY’s decision to bring the training to the general public, and as a result Ciotoli decided keep the development focused specifically on team-members and parted ways with the group in 2009.
Ciotoli then went on to begin developing his own contracted fighters and started a management group (Bombsquad Sports Management). When asked what makes a fighter a great fighter, and what gets them to the big show, the respected Northeasterner replied, “A combination of everything! A fighter’s attitude is very important. If he believes he’s gonna win and be successful he will. Having a good manager – you got to pick the right fights and I don’t mean the easy ones. You don’t want the real easy fights, you want the tough fights. The tough fights are what make you better. I believe in taking tough fights and pushing yourself if you wanna be successful at the next level.”
Today, Team Bombsquad stands high among the nation’s most talented camps. When asked of their recent absence from the local New England scene, Ciotoli responded, “You know, we developed our guys in the New England area, Massachusetts specifically. It’s mostly due to the commission in Massachuseets that we haven’t returned. I mean it’s not the only reason…we don’t sell a lot of tickets coming from New York and promotions survive on ticket sales around here.”
“They just make everything so difficult,” he continued. “I don’t want to bash anyone…they just don’t have any experience in MMA They have people in charge that just don’t understand the sport. States like New Jersey and New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are very easy to work with and they have the knowledge of the sport. They’re very accommodating. Before, the commission in Massachusetts was a place promoters had a lot of flexibility with (as far as) the number of fights they put on, who they fought, and medicals were easy. Now they just make things difficult; now there’s more paper work and more hoops to jump through. I’m not saying we won’t come there anymore, we’d come big or small show. We just don’t sell tickets from NY and there are a lot less promotions now with the new commission in place.”
Fighters from Team Bombsquad fans may want to keep their eyes on in the coming months include Mike Stuart, who sees action on February 28 in New Hampshire on a Combat Zone card, against Jesse McElligot. Others in action that night include amateurs Dustin Hurtgam, who fights Anthony Loycano, and 2-0 Corry Murray who takes on Miletich Fighting Systems’ Perry “Filthy” Filkins.
Also set for a showdown in the next few months are Morecraft, facing Sean McCorkle at Fight Night 24 in March, and Foster who will take part in Bellator’s Season 4 featherweight tournament.
Another exciting acquisition Team Bombsquad has made recently is that of Brazilian Rene Nazare, currently an instructor in BJJ and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu at Ultimate Athletics. “He’s an exciting guy to work with, a four-time World BJJ player, and he’s here with us working on his wrestling and striking. He’s the type of guy that he’s ready now to compete at the highest level in MMA,” said commented Ciotoli. “He’ll be an easy sell for me to the UFC.” Nazare is in the process of moving to New York from Massachusetts, leaving his family behind while he trains to achieve his dream of becoming a world champion.
Other past/present members include UFC veterans Kevin Jordan, Pat Audinwood, and Mike Massenzio.
Amazing to think what was just a backyard barn – a mere past time for the former Ithica College wrestling coach – has spawned.