Matt Frevola fought his way into the UFC. Now, he’s looking to put on a show in his octagon debut at UFC St. Louis.
When UFC Fight Night 124 goes down Sunday night in St. Louis, Matt Frevola (6-0) will make the walk to the octagon for the very first time. Hailing from Huntington, New York, ‘The Steamrolla’ fought his way into the UFC, winning a contract after submitting Luke Flores back in August on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series 8. In a twist, Frevola’s name was the third read out that night when contracts were awarded. To that point, only two contracts had been awarded per event.
With Frevola now in the UFC and making his debut at UFC St. Louis, Cageside Press had a chance to speak with the lightweight about getting his start in the UFC, his bout Sunday against Marco Polo Reyes, missing out on Christmas goodies due to training camp and more.
For those who aren’t yet familiar with Frevola, lets just say he’s a competitive guy. “I wrestled in high school, and definitely that competition right there instilled why I fight today” he told us when asked about how he got his start in MMA. “It is a team sport, but when you’re out on that mat, or in the cage, there’s no one to pass the blame off to, there’s no one to hand the ball off to, it’s you and him. I was pretty drawn to that.”
Wrestling was far from his only undertaking however. “I’ve always been a competitor, playing football, lacrosse, baseball, playing all sports.” Yet after high school, “I pretty much missed wrestling, and that’s how I found jiu-jitsu.” A change in scenery furthered to push towards a career in MMA. “Once I moved down to Tampa, Florida and when I was at Matt Arroyo’s gym, I was competing in jiu-jitsu and they had amateur fighters there. I told them I wanted to fight one day, and they were like ‘alright, well these guys need some sparring partners.’ I started sparring with the amateur fighters, getting them ready, and eventually I started fighting myself.”
But how did Frevola know that this was the career for him? “When I won my first amateur belt, in Costa Rica” he said. “After I won that, I was 4-0 as an amateur. It was the first thing I got from fighting. They flew me out to Costa Rica, they paid for my hotel. I got to go down there and fight, put on a show and I won. I got the belt, and I had a little vacation down there and after that, I was like ‘this is what I want to do.'”
From amateur fights in Florida and Costa Rica, to the UFC. Now that he’s arrived in the big show, is the pressure any greater than it was trying to break into the promotion? ‘The Steamrolla’ doesn’t sweat it. “I would say, a fight’s a fight, at the end of the day. I’m training, I’m doing what I’ve got to do, I’m putting the work in” he told Cageside. “I’m just excited to go out there and fight, put on a show for all my family and friends who’ve supported me this entire journey. I’ve got a lot of family and friends who are going to be up to St. Louis to witness it, I’ve got a lot of people who will be watching on FS1, so I’m just looking to go out there, fight my fight, put on a show and finish this guy.”
Finishing is something he likes, and Frevola has previously said that when he hits people, they go down. Yet with three submission victories as a pro, he’s a well-rounded fighter. Does he game plan, or does he prefer to go with the flow? On that, Frevola says he prefers to roll with the punches. “I go with the flow. I stand with the guy until I rock him, and they go down, and I finish him” he said. “Or I stand with a him until I see a takedown, if I see a takedown, I’ll pick you up and slam you on your head and finish you there. I definitely take the fight where it goes.”
“I’m well rounded, I’m strong everywhere” he continued. “That’s what I love about mixed martial arts, how you have to be well-rounded, especially at the UFC level. All the different disciplines, the stand-up striking, the wrestling, even including the striking into your wrestling, and then on the ground being able to have your submissions, the ground control. I’m pretty confident everywhere the fight goes.”
That confidence should help come UFC St. Louis, and what could be a war with Marco Polo Reyes. Reyes (7-4) will enter the fight off a loss to James Vick. Prior to that, however, he’d won three straight in the UFC, including a finish of ‘Maestro’ Dong Hyun Kim.
Frevola’s take on his upcoming opponent is simple. “He comes to fight. I like that a lot.”
Despite that, “I’m definitely more comfortable fighting on the ground and wresting than he is” Frevola explained. “I’m more well-rounded,” he continued, “and I know that he’s going to want to stand with me. I know that I could take this fight where ever I want to take it, and finish it anywhere. I see myself hitting him on the feet and hurting him, and I see myself taking him down and beating him up on the ground until he’s looking for a way out, and then taking that submission or finishing him with a TKO.”
Coming from a strong team no doubt helps boost that confidence. Training with the likes of Matt Serra, Ray Longo, and Chris Weidman over the years, Frevola has been surrounded by success.
“It’s great” he said of the impact those names have had on him. “I was born and raised on Long Island. I started my jiu-jitsu with Matt Serra, Serra BJJ.” Later on, “I went to school down in Tampa Floria, and Matt Serra referred me to Arroyo. I was training with Arroyo, now whenever I go back home for Christmases and Summers, I’ve trained with Longo and Serra.”
“Now that I’m back up here, I’m training with LAW MMA [Longo and Weidman MMA]” he continued. “Ray is such an awesome coach, he comes in and puts me through a workout on Christmas Day. He’s going to come in and give me a nice workout in this snowstorm right now.” That’s impressive, as when Frevola and Cageside were talking, the weather was definitely not pleasant.
“He cares about his fighters, and it really shows. I’m lucky to train at this gym” the lightweight said. “And having Weidman around as well, seeing him at the gym is just motivating, having him help out with everything. I’ve got another great coach over there, Jason Sargus who is always holding pads for me, helping me, helping me with the weight cut. I’ve got a great team, I’m real lucky to have everyone around me.”
Frevola also has support from family and friends, many of whom will be at Sunday’s show. He did, however, miss out on a bit of Christmas fun due to training — the food, anyway.
“Yeah, I didn’t get to eat as much as I wanted to, but it was nice, spending it with my family, spending it with the girlfriend’s family” explained Frevola, adding that he has plans to celebrate after the fight. “I cannot wait, I’ve got a lot of friends in St. Louis, so we’re going to have some fun Sunday night. I head back to New York Monday, and I’m going to have a nice pizza pie waiting for me at the airport.”
“I’m really looking forward to relaxing a little bit” he finished.
That will be well-earned. “It’s been a great fight camp, I’ve been training hard, I’ve been very disciplined. You really appreciate all the little things after you stay so disciplined for so long.”
The little things will come, and thankfully, Frevola is fully healthy heading into UFC Fight Night 124. Frevola started 2017 with a broken ankle and broken hand, the latter a recurring injury. While he might not have been fully healthy against Flores, it’s all good now.
“It’s been great. I’m taking care of it, I ice it all the time. I go to acupuncture, that helps” he said. The greatest part is that “my ankle is 100%, my body is 100%. It’s rare to feel this good after a fight camp so I’m pretty excited.”
All that remains is putting on a show at UFC St. Louis. And after that? “The goal is to win four fights. I want to win four fights this year. It’s a good start, getting this first fight in in January.”
Frevola has another goal as well: to “put a stamp on the lightweight division,” and put the weight class on notice that “there’s some fresh blood in the division and I’m here to stay.”
Matt Frevola faces Marco Polo Reyes at UFC St. Louis (UFC Fight Night 124) on Sunday, January 14 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. The bout airs as part of the televised prelims on Fox Sports 1 (Fight Network in Canada).