So much of what a fighter does goes unseen by the audience on fight night; the hours of training, the injuries, the countless sparring sessions and inner mental wars that far outweigh the physical. A big reason fighting enthusiasts don’t consider much of the behind-the-scenes life of a fighter is because it goes unnoticed. Another reason is because we may not really want to know all that goes on. The majority of fight fans are satisfied to judge a fighter merely on what occurs during the few short minutes of the fight; however, to do so is to miss out on seeing the fighter in his or her entirety.
Cavalucci spoke with FSM last night, about sixteen hours ahead of his upcoming Muay Thai fight against Daniel Joseph for USKA. Cavalucci gave a powerfully honest, raw and real look inside his mind as he looks ahead towards his fight and back on the recent loss of his brother. His responses add dimension to him as a fighter and most significantly, as a person, and give the reader a unique opportunity to see sides of him that one can’t see by just watching him fight. In his answers below he shows a side of fighters that is often intentionally hidden-vulnerability. When asked if he was comfortable discussing the death of his brother so close to his fight, he responded by saying that he would because he finds strength in vulnerability and honesty: “Without being vulnerable, you could never be a fighter.”
As a small business owner, how do you balance the demands of running your painting company and staying on top of your training?
Owning a small business, or any business, is not in any way easy. It is draining, time-consuming, and often very frustrating and demanding. Training three to seven days a week on top of working a minimum of 12-hour days is not an easy task whatsoever! But at the end of each training session, I never regret being there. In fact, it refreshes me! I don’t know if balance applies to me very well. I don’t think about it, I just do it as if it were a part of my responsibilities and workday. It leaves me with little to no personal time and is part of why I am not married. I have dedicated my life to two things: success in business, and overcoming all sorts of challenges one at a time. I am addicted to being a champion in and out of the ring, setting an example, being an inspiration, and helping others in need of guidance. So overall, I’m not very balanced–I’m all in!
You have Proverbs 20:30 prominently tattooed on your chest; what does that verse mean to you?
Proverbs 20:30 is part of the core reason I have for being a fighter. The scripture reads “bruises and wounds purge away evil, and beatings cleanse ones innermost being.” I have made a lot of mistakes growing up and I’ve done some bad things in my life as well as suffered from major depression, anxiety and a lot of emotional pain. I’ve witnessed things a boy’s eyes should never see and some things a man’s eyes should never see. The physical pain I endure during fights or training actually feel good to me. It helps me forget what is in my mind. I feel as though it purifies my heart, my body, and my soul. The bruises and cuts are humbling and allow me to know that I can overcome that pain as well as any other pain I endure. I still have fight left in me to stand a chance in finding glory and peace.
What have you learned from your most recent fight, and how are you applying that to your current training?
My last fight was a victory. I fought an exhibition fight for a breast cancer fundraiser. Nonetheless, I still had many things I learned. Learning never ceases in any one sparring session or fight–win or loss. A good fighter will always look for his or her own flaws so that they can be better than they were the day before…even if only by a little bit. I learned that pacing yourself was imperative. I have learned that footwork is as important as hand work. I learned that if you’re not mentally correct and prepared to go the distance, you will fail. I have learned that without proper timing all the training in the world doesn’t mean a thing. I’ve been trying my best to use what I have learned every sparring session since my last fight and I am very much ready to apply it in this fight.
Have you competed or considered competing in other martial arts besides Muay Thai?
I have trained some different martial arts and other forms of combat but never in competition. I have done krav maga, combat submission, tactical urban defense, boxing, jiu-jitsu (both gi and no gi) and MMA. I fell in love with Muay Thai the minute I got knocked out by a leg kick from a guy 20 pounds lighter than me. He is now one of my best friends. I don’t know what the future holds for me in my fight career; I am just training day in and day out in order to feed my soul and make myself happy and satisfied. Muay Thai has brought me from a very dark place. I owe this sport my life and I’m giving myself back to it with no intentions of stopping! Muay Thai is much, much more to me than a sport. It changed my entire life and therefore I have made it my lifestyle. I honor it to the fullest! So yes it is by far my favorite of them all.
You are fighting about a year after the sudden death of your brother. How has this loss impacted you?
This year has been hell for me and my family. It has chewed me up and spit me out. My brother and I had a very complicated relationship. I loved him a lot. However, I hid and buried those feelings for a long time due to pain he has caused me by leaving my side at a young age and choosing drugs over being my big brother. When I got the call from my mom, who was hysterical, I knew why. And when she told me I had to pull over because my chest caved in on itself. Just like that, he was gone forever and I’d never have a chance again of having him back. He died and I never got to tell him that I did really love him. I was a mess. I was angry, hurt, and majorly lost. This has brought me great challenges in fighting and training. As all fighters know, you can’t fight angry, you can’t fight emotionally, and you can’t fight tensed up with frustration. But I did. And it hindered my progression. It wasn’t until my coach and I spoke outside the classroom one day and I let it all out verbally what was in my heart and mind that I began to learn how to harness hardships and properly channel them and control my mind to be able to successfully go about my tasks at hand. From then on I have used my brother’s death to motivate me, to strengthen me, to not fail at anything that I set out to do. I am now going to fight for him, for us, and for what we should have always had. I’m going to fight and train and fight some more to honor his battles and I am going to conquer them for him so that he can continue to rest in peace. In odd ways I thank him for playing a huge role in making me the soldier I am. Because of him he’s made me a new, totally different fighter, and it has helped me excel in all my training and hardships.
What encouragement do you have for others who have experienced the tragedy of losing family members?
I’m not sure I’m the best one to ask for words of encouragement when someone loses a loved one. Without fighting I don’t know how I could possibly handle my loss. It’s the only healthy way out of the pain for me. However, I can say that if people use their pain and hardships as fuel and drive to succeed in all things then they are honoring their lost loved one to the fullest! That, I would say, is the best thing anyone can do. Anyone can do it if they make a decision that this will not end their own life despite how hard it may be. Life will go on, and it can and will still be a happy place if we want it to be, if we do what’s right with our emotions and in the eyes of God who will save us.
What is your greatest personal attribute as a fighter?
I’d have to say it’s my heart. It’s not breakable. It’s one of the strongest in the world. I’ve had men literally three times my size and weight come at me with everything they had in and out of the ring. I do not cower. I do not retreat. I will stand there and fight until one of us falls and stays down. If I get knocked down and if I’m still conscious I will get right back up. I’ve fought with full-on bronchitis and refused to throw in the towel. Instead, I spent days before in a hot bath with a steaming towel over my head to clear my lungs to pass medicals. I’ve fought with broken bones. My heart was made by God’s hands Himself using rock and steel. I do not quit and I will not fail.