The Mardi Gras Ballroom at The Orleans is located a mile from the large arenas at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.
In the mixed martial arts world, however, the distance between those venues can be measured in years and dollars.
Jimmy Spicuzza hopes to make that journey. The 24-year-old Palo Verde High School graduate takes the next step when he headlines a Tuff-N-Uff amateur card tonight at The Orleans.
“I would like to be in Strikeforce, (World Extreme Cagefighting) or the (Ultimate Fighting Championship) by the time I’m 26 or 27,” Spicuzza, a lightweight, said of reaching the big leagues of MMA. “I’m just trying to do my thing and make my name.
“I know there are people out there that are seeing me fight, so if I keep working hard, I know it will pay off sooner or later.”
Until then, Spicuzza starts his day at 4 a.m. working a shift for a commercial cleaning company so he can pay the bills and have his days open for training.
“This is what I want to do for my career,” he said of fighting. “I don’t drink. I don’t party. I don’t do anything like that. I want to do whatever I have to do to get to the next level.”
Spicuzza said he could find professional fights on small cards now, but he has not yet decided to take that leap.
“Most of the guys I train with are pro, and they are telling me to go pro. If this fight goes as planned, then I’ll probably go pro after this,” he said, adding that he is not looking forward to the business aspect of the sport. “Before I go pro, I’d want to sit down and find myself a manager because the whole political side of things, I don’t like to deal with. I just want to fight.”
Spicuzza’s opponent is quite familiar with professional MMA. Ryan Couture is the son of Randy Couture, a UFC Hall of Famer and one of the sport’s legends.
Being the son of a five-time UFC champion made Couture hesitant to choose the same profession as his father.
“It maybe gave me pause when I first started thinking about it, but the more I got into the training, the more I couldn’t deny that it was something I wanted to do,” Ryan Couture said. “I think the benefits far outweigh the little bit that it can be irritating.”
Couture (2-1) also wants to make the sport a career, though he is in no hurry. He said he wants to take two more amateur fights before the end of the year and then see where he stands.
Spicuzza (3-1) has to look a bit further for a role model in the sport. He hopes to model his career after UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
“I think he works the hardest. He’s the best,” Spicuzza said. “Every fight you see him in, he is noticeably better every time.”
While reaching that level is a long way off, Spicuzza believes a win over Ryan Couture could help his advancement.
“He has a good all-around game, especially with the training partners that he’s got over at (his gym),” Spicuzza said. “I guess his name just brings a little bit more publicity and exposure for myself as well because there will be people looking at him and they’ll see me.”
The card features 19 bouts, including two title fights. It is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509.