Phil Caracappa is a New Jersey-based MMA fighter going into the biggest bout of his career this Friday at the Professional Fighters League (PFL) World Championships against Khai Wu in Washington, D.C.
Phil Caracappa's Early Entry Into MMA
The bout is a showcase in the Bantamweight division as Caracappa looks to put his stamp on the fight and become a name in the PFL for the future. For the 31-year-old, MMA was a part of his life early on when he first got interested in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“I wrestled my whole life starting in third grade,” said Caracappa, who holds a career record of 9-3-0. “Once I got into high school wrestling, UFC started becoming big on TV, and I just fell in love with it. When I finished high school, I just jumped right into the first MMA school in Manalapan that I saw, and that was it from there.”
“The top two guys that really got me into it was Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson. That’s the two I try to emulate in my style. Tito is really big with the wrestling and ground and pound, and Rampage I fell in love with his style of just standing and banging.”
Jersey Wrestling Scene
Caracappa is part of the New Jersey high school wrestling tree (he attended Freehold Township), where the state has become a bastion of great amateur wrestling. Some of the greats that have come through include names like three-time All-American Nick Suriano from Rutgers, who attended Bergen Catholic, and Delbarton’s two-time All-American Mike Grey, who won the honors while at Cornell. I asked Caracappa why the state produces so many great MMA fighters.
“First off, it’s wrestling. I would take a Jersey wrestler over any other wrestler in the world. Jersey produces some of the best talent. We got guys like who I look up to in Frankie Edgar, who I have trained with my whole life. I just feel like this is where it’s at and a lot of people don’t realize that yet because there’s only a few big names that have come out of Jersey, but our time is coming.”
In discussing wrestling, I mentioned fans of MMA enjoy fighters exchanging strikes in the middle of the ring and not the chess match that is wrestling and the ground game. Caracappa believes that wrestling is still essential in the cage.
“Since you brought Conor McGregor into the picture, he really changed the aspect of the game where everyone wants to see that slick standup and knockouts. I just feel like wrestling is the number one base because you can dictate where the fight goes. If it’s not going well on the feet, you can take the guy down and have your way there. I think it is one of the most important tools to have in MMA is wrestling.”
Dana White's Contender Series in 2019
While Friday’s PFL card will be Caracappa’s biggest fight, he also had a match on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019, where he fought Ricky Steele. The bout was a split-decision win for Steele, although the fight was going Caracappa’s way throughout especially in the third and final round. This fight was even more impressive because Phil was fighting injured and continued to train and go through with the match.
“The crazy thing is no one even knows this, and I’m not one to make excuses, but I tore my meniscus three weeks out from that fight. I was young and fresh to the game, and I was scared to pull out because, I was like ‘I don’t if I’m going to get this opportunity again’ so I literally went in there on one leg. You live and you learn. I thought I won that fight but it is what it is. I take my losses as lessons, and I learned so much from that.”
The PFL and Phil's Biggest Night On MMA's Richest Night
Even though Phil was unsuccessful in that bout and unable to secure a UFC contract that night, he now finds himself on the card for “MMA's Richest Night” as the PFL holds their World Championships. The upstart league is best known for its tournaments to crown champions in different weight classes, culminating in a night where fighters are awarded one million dollars for winning the title. The PFL made news this week when it was announced that the league purchased Bellator, formerly owned by Paramount Global and run by Scott Coker, to become the de facto number two MMA promotion in the United States.
Caracappa chose the PFL because they are on the upswing, like himself.
“Francis (Ngannou) just signed there, and you have a couple other big names that just signed there like Derek Brunson from the UFC. Then you have Jake Paul who just signed with them so that’s brining a whole different aspect and different set of eyes from the social media aspect. I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to fight on this card because it’s the fastest growing promotion right now. UFC obviously has been at the top, but PFL is getting up there now. I think this is my best opportunity and best time to show my skills.”
Going into Friday’s fight against Wu, Phil Caracappa is ready to make his mark and turn heads as the MMA world will be watching in the PFL’s biggest card, and the Jersey Guy is looking forward to making an impact.
“I’m excited. This is my biggest opportunity yet. I’ve had some big fights in the past, but everything happens at a time for a reason. I couldn’t be more excited and more ready. I’m going to be on ESPN+, second fight of the night on PFL’s biggest card of the year, maybe ever, so this is my coming out party. I’m going to really show what I’m made of and put a stamp on the map for Freehold, NJ.”
Check out Phil's fight on the undercard of PFL's World Championship card starting at on Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPN+ with the main card beginning at 8 p.m.
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