F2W 152 Competitor Sam Micale: “Loyalty Works Both Ways, Especially At A Martial Arts Gym”

Image Source: Sam Micale via Instagram

For much of his life, Sam Micale didn’t seem like the kind of person whose life would one day revolve around a martial art. He was about 120 lbs and described himself as having “no muscle, knowledge of martial arts, or competitive experience besides two years of wrestling in middle school.”

That all changed one day when a gym called Ultimate Athletics opened up across the hall from the toys and comics store where he worked in Syracuse, NY. The gym had partnered with Micale’s old wrestling coach, “Mean” Gene Mills, and Micale decided to stop in and see if he could get into shape. He spoke with SAS Team black belt Marc Gervais, and from there, his life took a turn for the better.

“I did a few private strength and conditioning sessions with him and started taking kickboxing classes with no goals to compete, then a few weeks in was asked to MMA spar by another coach that was there at the time, and that’s when I fell in love,” Micale told the Jiu-Jitsu Times. “I then took my first fight just a couple months after I started training, then continued to fight as often as possible over the next two years, only really being able to train part-time… not doing much at all for jiu-jitsu.”

After getting tapped out in another MMA fight, Micale realized that his grappling skills needed work if he wanted to continue to progress in the cage. He switched his focus to gi jiu-jitsu at a smaller academy for a few years, training mostly under Ben Tallini during that time. From there, Micale took his love for jiu-jitsu to the next level.

“Around the same time I started there was around the time I discovered sub-only, watching the infamous Finishers SubOnly shows and EBI, and I started putting on the Global Grappling League pro events as a result, featuring matches such as Nicky Ryan vs Marvin Castelle, Ethan Crelinsten vs JM Holland, and a few of the most stacked sub-only tourneys the east coast had seen,” says Micale.

He then started seeking out elite training opportunities, spending a significant amount of time at Renzo Gracie Academy training under John Danaher and often dropping in at Garry Tonon’s Brunswick BJJ. “This elevated my game more than I could even say and gave me insight into what it took to be the best in the world,” says Micale. “I still make it down there sporadically, and I am extremely grateful for those guys. They’ve always been super cool to me and had taught me more than probably anyone else for my game.”

Though Micale says he’s “still an even bigger fan than competitor,” he also sees his idols as rivals, making an effort to train with as many elite grapplers as possible to learn what it takes to get to that level on the mats. With a resume that includes appearances at Rise Invitational, Finishers Sub-Only, and King of the Mat, it was no great surprise that he had big goals in the martial arts world. He recently decided to switch back to UA to train under Gervais again, finding a better environment there to support his competitive goals.

Micale’s knack for putting in the work to create the life he wants comes from a difficult past. “As is the typical story of so many competitors in the MMA game, I came from a very broken childhood,” he says. “I was raised in a super abusive environment as a kid both mentally and physically, ‘raised’ by a couple of kids very unfit to be parents at their age, and definitely had to teach myself how to be a good person, and my martial arts journey has quite literally changed me as a person completely this past seven years.”

He also credits martial arts with helping him become a better parent himself. “Parenting is something I know I’m damn good at. My son is the bee’s knees and is now wrestling and training jiu-jitsu/kickboxing as well!”

With years of training now under his belt, Micale is planning to open up his own academy in the Syracuse area with the intention of building an environment in which “people who are truly interested in competing specifically in jiu-jitsu will have a very welcoming place and the resources to do so, free of the weird egos, gossipy drama, and culty vibes that come from the typical old school Gracie self-defense gyms where few people compete anywhere besides in the training room.”

Micale’s passion for politics-free jiu-jitsu comes from his own “upbringing” in the sport. “I’m fortunate to have great role models now as an adult in people like my little brother’s father Jeff Walts and my coaches Gene Mills and Marc Gervais,” he says.

“Another real challenge was actually being pushing myself to separate from the blind loyalty that can come from a martial arts school setting. Loyalty works both ways, especially at a martial arts gym. If you are not comfortable or happy in your environment, don’t stay just because you think you have to — that’s some weird old school martial arts ego crap. If your coach isn’t happy and supportive for you if you say you want to pursue this as a career further and achieve success by opening up a spot of your own, they aren’t loyal to you, period. Big thanks to my very good friend and killer competitor Damien Anderson from RGA for helping me come to terms with this after a late-night talk we had last time I was down there to train.”

Tonight, Micale will be putting his years of experience to the test against Marquise Jefferson at F2W 152. He’s been preparing for his professional MMA debut while teaching and training jiu-jitsu multiple times a day, all the while staying busy with competing as well. He’s particularly excited to show his skills on the stage this evening. “It’s been a personal goal of mine to be on one of [F2W’s] shows for years now, Seth [Daniels] and Missy [Estrada] put on some sick events. And on a card with legends like Romulo Barral? Super dope. I plan on putting on a show as I always do, not going to want to miss this one.”

As Micale looks toward the future, he’s continuing his pursuit of greatness in all its forms. “I want a Fight 2 Win belt bad, and as many as I can get,” he says. “I’m becoming an old man now, so I would love to go after the normal adult or even masters title in any weight class from 125-145 and only have so much time left to do it. The competition is only getting more fierce and I’m not getting any younger! I would love the opportunity to go against tougher competition and want to test myself as often as possible. I’d be back down and on next week’s event if it didn’t fall on my son’s birthday! I am lucky to have such an awesome travel companion and support at all these shows and through this process in Andrea Scalisi, my best friend.”

Fight 2 Win 152 takes place tonight and can be streamed live on FloGrappling.


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