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Manolo Zecchini of Italy poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at The Accor Arena on September 01, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
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The Real Work Starts Now For Manolo Zecchini

Getting To The UFC Was Only Part Of The Dream. Becoming A Legend Is The Other.

Venice’s Manolo Zecchini doesn’t have a concrete answer when asked why he’s only one of two Italian-born fighters on the current UFC roster and one of nine from his nation to grace the Octagon.

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“I don't really know,” he said. “I think it’s because there’s a different culture here. Here, soccer is more popular, and MMA is better in other places.”

The popularity of MMA has grown in Italy over the years, with the level of training growing along with it. But to make it to the UFC level, fighters like Zecchini and his countryman Marvin Vettori have had to leave home to chase their dreams.

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For Vettori, it was a trip to California, then Las Vegas. For Zecchini, he’s found his fighting home in Albuquerque, New Mexico with the Jackson-Wink MMA team.

“Jackson-Wink is very famous for striking for Jon Jones, Holly Holm and many other famous fighters and champions,” said Zecchini. “Georges Saint-Pierre was there many times, too. I like the method, I like the gym and it's very important because the elevation is very high. That's amazing because normally you don't fight so high, so when you fight in other places where the elevation is lower, it's better for your cardio. The training is amazing.”

UFC Paris Fight By Fight Preview

The mix of training in the States and with his Fighters Angels team back home has led the 26-year-old to a 11-3 pro record and a call to the UFC for a Saturday meeting with France’s Morgan Charriere in Paris. It’s a quick enough jump for Zecchini to have at least 10 family and friends in attendance at Accor Arena to celebrate a monumental event in the career of “Angelo Veneziano.”

“It was the perfect time,” he said of his call to the UFC. “I’ve been waiting for this for ten years. And it wasn't only my dream, it was all our dreams, and it was exciting for me and for all of us after the sacrifice that we made together. I was at the table, and it was dinner time with my family and my manager wrote me the message and said, ‘Hey Manolo, you are in.’ It was amazing.”

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Now the real work starts, as Zecchini is fighting a hometown hero who is battle-tested on the European scene. And he’s doing this in the always stacked featherweight division, where every fight is a tough one. But this is what he wanted, and he’s intent on making his mark on Saturday and beyond.

“I always say one thing: my first dream was to be in UFC and now I’m living my dream. But now the second dream is to be a legend inside the UFC. Not only in Italy, but the world.”

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UFC Fight Night: Gane vs Spivac took place live from the Accor Arena in Paris, France on September 2, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass