By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — In a sport synonymous with head kicks and knock out punches, it's easy to forget the mental aspect of mixed martial arts.
Most good fighters try to implement a game plan when they step inside the cage, and Pete Mazzeo, fighting out of North Tonawanda's Victory MMA gym, is no different. He goes into every fight looking to out-think his opponent.
Mazzeo recently became the North East 145-pound champion at an Art of Combat event in Binghamton on Jan. 25. The 32-year-old wrestling-based fighter utilized a north-south choke submission in the fifth round to secure the victory over Quinton Gaskins, the No. 2 featherweight in the Northeast.
"It was an amazing show and a challenge. It was a difficult match against my strongest opponent yet, and I was just really happy to get away with the 'W,'" Mazzeo said.
The multiple dimensions of the sport make each individual fight more interesting, Mazzeo said, and he is constantly preparing and anticipating how a fight is going to play out.
"My mentality is just a thinking process," he said. "I think the fighter that's able to think more is going to win, or at least come out and show a lot more skill and composure, and be comfortable in various positions."
Mazzeo said it's important for a fighter to handle every situation when he or she steps into the cage. It helps to study the personalty and tendencies of the opposition, as well.
"It helps if you understand the person you're going to be fighting," he said. "A careful person versus a careless person. A humble person versus an egotistical person. I like to be as mentally prepared as I can be before I get in there."
When Mazzeo started at Victory in the middle of 2011, a number of people on the sport's local scene told him he didn't have what it took to be a fighter. He was searching for an opportunity, and Victory promoter Don Lilly and head trainer Erik Herbert were anxious to give him one.
"When he came here he said he wanted to fight, but he was kind of sporadic and all over," Lilly said. "But over the past year he's turned into one of the top guys in the region."
Mazzeo is now the No. 2-ranked 145-pound amateur fighter in the Northeast, and his win over Gaskins was his first fight in the weight class after competing mainly at 155. He said he enjoys the extra weight cut because it gives him a "little extra hunger in the belly," and that was evident in his championship victory.
Along with 155-pound North East champ Frank Scalzo (Niagara Falls) and other fighters at Victory MMA, Mazzeo has helped put North Tonawanda MMA on the map, as well as let the rest of the region know that Western New York is home to some of the top up and coming fighters in the country, Lilly said.
Mazzeo doesn't like to make plans at this point in his life, but a jump to the professional ranks sometime later this year seems to be the next step.
Victory MMA is set to hold the third edition of the T-NT fight series on March 2 at the Rainbow Rink in North Tonawanda. Tonawanda's Scott McGregor is set to face Jermaine Sneed. Tickets are sold at Victory MMA and Rainbow Rink. For more information visit tntfights.com or call 716-471-0566.Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.