Sports

On land and at sea, Dexter gym owner is winning at life

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The life Angelo Rizzitello leads would be too busy and out-of-the-ordinary for most of us.

His work schedule is four weeks on, then four weeks off. That might sound appealing or achievable, until you consider that “work” means being sequestered on a drill ship in the Gulf of Mexico.

When he’s home, Rizzitello spends six days each week helping run The Outlet, a Dexter gym he co-owns with his wife Kristy while getting reacquainted with her and their two young children.

So you might wonder how on earth and why pray tell Rizzitello, at 40 years of age, finds the time and summons the desire to be an amateur mixed martial artist.

“It was something I always wanted to try,” Rizzitello said, “For a long time I was content to be the guy sitting at the bar with a beer saying, ‘I think I could do that.’ Forty is the new 20. At least you tell yourself that until you get into the cage with a 20-year-old. But this will keep you young.”

What started as a curiosity has become a consistent part of Rizzitello’s road less traveled. He will make his third walk to the New England Fights octagon Saturday, June 16 in a lightweight bout with Clifford Redman at “NEF 34: Home of the Brave.”

Opening bell for the fight card at Aura in Portland is set for 7 p.m.

Rizzitello’s training for the cage began with a chance meeting. He ran into longtime NEF competitor Derek Shorey at a local YMCA. During the conversation, Shorey indicated that he was looking for people to train.

“We started upstairs at the town hall in Dexter,” Rizzitello said. “I remember the day. It was Dec. 29. It was about 17 below outside and maybe 17 above inside.”

While health, fitness and competition are major components of Rizzitello’s life, he balances them with a unique career path.

A graduate of Guilford’s Piscataquis Community High School in 1995 and Maine Maritime Academy in Castine four years later, Rizzitello has been well acquainted with a sailor’s lifestyle ever since.

“I started out on a commercial ship and was gone for months at a time,” he said. “I did that for seven years, but after child No. 2, you realize you can’t be gone that much.”

Rizzitello’s current job started with three-week work and vacation cycles. Now it’s up to four.

“That’s about right. It’s not too big of a break,” he said. “You still miss a lot. I’ve missed the father-daughter dance every year.”

On top of the challenges it presents on the homefront, Rizzitello’s calendar wreaks havoc with his MMA training.

While the fighter is home, he can take on the typically strict diet a fighter follows when he’s cutting weight for a bout. All the while, trainers Stacy Lupo (kickboxing) and Zackary Adams (jiu-jitsu) “beat up” on him accordingly, Rizzitello remarked.

The gym on his ship is rudimentary at best.

“You can’t really spar with anybody on the ship. I’m pretty sure that would be grounds for immediate dismissal,” he quipped. “There really isn’t much. We have this (lousy) heavy bag that’s water based, so I can bang on that. I can stretch every day, do my cardio, lift some weights and keep my strength up.”

And the food? Let’s just say it isn’t cut from the age-defying regimen of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“You get out there and it’s all southern comfort food,” Rizzitello said. “Deep fried corn on the cob. Lots of fried chicken. There’s not much fight camp food available.”

Of course, having run a gym for three years, Rizzitello is never too far out of fighting shape.

Having that shared interest along with the children is another cornerstone of his marriage to Kristy, whom he describes in heroic terms.

“I don’t think she gets nearly the credit that she deserves. I caught a real break when I got to have her by my side,” Rizzitello said. “We all think we’ve got the most incredible wife in the world, but I’m pretty sure I do. Without her none of this would be possible. She’s the one who deals with all the members of the gym every day. She’s the glue that holds it all together.”

Rizzitello’s children are happy whenever he’s home and mostly excited to see him in the cage. His daughter is 9, while his son will turn 7 this summer.

“My son thinks it’s awesome. He’s taking Stacy’s kickboxing class,” Rizzitello said. “My daughter is happy as long as I win. After my first loss she was crying. ‘You promised me you would win.’ So of course I felt horrible about that.”

There are no regrets about eschewing a 9-to-5 existence for the call of the ocean. Rizzitello’s maritime training has opened doors to a high quality of life.

“I’ve been all over the world,” he said. “I’ve made good money. I can’t regret any of the choices I’ve made or chances I’ve been given.”

Rizzitello’s schedule has changed for the better in terms of training.

Prior to his 2016 fights with Cory Trial, a split decision loss, and Ken Dunn, a TKO victory, Rizzitello had to fit a full fight camp into about two weeks.

This time he arrived home the weekend of May 19-20, giving him ample time to prepare for Redman.

“I’ve watched his fights. I don’t think he’s fought in two years,” Rizzitello said. “I take everything I do very seriously. I’m expecting him to come in and fight as if he trains with American Top Team. That’s the respect I would give anybody in terms of my own preparation.”

It makes for an intense working vacation, but clearly Angelo Rizzitello is accustomed to that.

NEF 34: Home of the Brave tickets are on sale at www.AuraMaine.com. New England Fights (“NEF”) is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.

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Photo courtesy of Monty Rand Photography
MMA BOUT FOR THE OUTLET OWNER — Angelo Rizzitello, who owns The Outlet in Dexter along with his wife Kristy, will be facing Clifford Redman in a lightweight bout at NEF 34: Home of the Brave on Saturday at Aura in Portland.

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