From Italian tatamis to the UFC and the world’s octagons, visions and perspectives of a fighting master

No champion is born from the guidelines. All champions are born by stepping out of the box, each in his own way. Studying, in a complex sport like MMA, is just a base that marks the way. Then it’s all about adaptation, and the adaptation requires experience on the ground. When I train fighters of the highest level, such as current UFC welterweight world champion Leon Edwards, I realize that I am not helping a guy who might lose a trivial contest, but an athlete who competes for million-dollar purses. I have to be 100 percent sure on a technical, physical and mental level. And I have to give them new solutions, new options that revolve around their core strengths. One day, during a boxing session, Leon told me he didn’t know a technique I had shown him. That moment for me was the greatest satisfaction.”

Alessio Ciurli is a fighter, a coach and a mixed martial arts globetrotter. His journey through rings and octagons, which started in beautiful Tuscany, has crossed some of the most sacred characters and places of an entire sporting universe: the universe of codified fighting. Raised by judo, Alessio over time was first a pioneer for the Italian overseas movement, then, almost by accident, began to share his skills to forge the successes of some of the world’s best fighters. It’s a still ongoing climb, which began with Rocky.

My first love was boxing, all because of Rocky. As a child, however, I started with judo and continued to be on the tatami for 30 years, getting to tread important international stages. Then, during a training camp with the national team, I suffered a serious knee injury. During my rehabilitation period, I decided to reach out to Hector Lombard, a former judoka and legend for organizations such as UFC and Bellator. I had long been passionate about MMA and, thanks to the mediation of Hector and Alessio Sakara, a crucial figure for the Italian movement, I decided to leave Italy to go to the States and join the famous American Top Team. I trained there, in a top-level gym, where I found a real family. For eight years I spent at least six months in Florida, coping with financial and visa problems, but taking the opportunity to connect with celebrated coaches like Everton Oliveira, who gave me unparalleled tools. The next step was moving to Dubai during the pandemic. In Abu Dhabi, the UFC was still organizing events despite the difficult global situation, I flew there and took part in a camp with top-level fighters such as Tai Tuivasa. Many among them immediately began to treat me as a coach because of my technical knowledge, asking me for advice and private lessons. I was able to coach world champion Leon Edwards and the equally famous Darren Till for a few weeks.”

Fighter and coach. The hybrid and complementary condition of 41-year-old Alessio Ciurli is based on the scientific and instinctive study of the gesture, the exploration of the person first, the athlete later, and the analysis of habits and unexpressed potential. Recently returned to his homeland at the end of a long martial pilgrimage, Ciurli is now intent on pursuing both careers, trying, on the one hand, to return to fighting in major European promotions and, on the other, to shape a new generation of fighting talents.

“My focus now is on breaking two years of forced inactivity. I want to go back to Miami, start a camp and see how my body reacts. During the pandemic I had received a major offer from a Russian promotion, for a world title. I know that in my category, the 70 kg category, I can be extremely competitive and still take great satisfaction. At the same time I would like to help some young fighters get to the gota of mixed martial arts. Among the already famous and attested fighters, I am stimulated by the idea of helping a compatriot, Marvin Vettori, especially on the judo field. I admire his dedication. In order to become a champion you have to devote everything to MMA, there are no aperitifs or parties, and Marvin is an atypical Italian in this respect. The example of Leon Edwards teaches a lot: during his weeks in Dubai, where everything is fun, I did not see him touch a drop of alcohol…. This differentiates those who can make it from those who cannot. Among fighters there is also another difference, which I have learned over the years: it is the difference between good athletes, champions and other beasts. Hector Lombard, for example, fits into the other beasts category, he’s like a superhuman. Khamzat Chimaev is another athlete I would like to train, for this very reason. Regardless of the names, my goal will always remain to do my best work and to best communicate my passion for fighting.”