Sometimes dreams do come true. And all it takes is opportunity and hard work.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) provided the opportunity by giving Michael Chiesa a chance to fight his way into the house on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 15, the first edition of the long-running reality series that would broadcast live fights every Friday night.
And that's exactly what he did.
Chiesa submitted Johnavan Vistante inside of a few minutes with a rear-naked choke, immediately looking to the camera and telling his father, "that was for you." Fortunately, his dad got to see that moment. Unfortunately, it would be one of his last.
Death is a part of life, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with once it comes. Chiesa was able to leave the TUF house to go and take care of business with his family before returning just one day later to get back to the business at hand. That's a stunning turnaround after such a tragic loss.
Yet, Chiesa pushed forward. And he won again. And again. And, somehow, again. Despite his emotionally torn mind and his tired and taxed body, he kept pressing on, winning fight after fight until he was at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, inside the Octagon and staring across from his final obstacle, Al Iaquinta.
Chiesa found himself in a bit of trouble early but, as he did all season, he relied on his heart and will to win to battle through the adversity. Before you knew it, he was on Iaquinta's back and sinking in a rear-naked choke (the same submission his father watched him use to win his way into the TUF house) to seal the deal.
After the victory, which earned Chiesa a six-figure contract with the UFC and a big glass trophy (one he is quite fond of, by the way), he spoke of the influence his father had on him.
"My dad showed me hard work. My dad was the type of guy that showed up to work whether he was sick, whether something was wrong with him, no matter what the circumstances were, he showed up to work, put in his full effort and came home. The one thing he taught me was hard work, how to carry myself as a man, and how to be humble. I'm really blessed. I owe all this to my dad. I don't even know where to begin, he's just an amazing man. If I could say anything to him, I'd thank him"
Just an opportunity and hard work. The dream lives.
Hear more from Chiesa after the jump, including why it is he's so very fond of the glass trophy he won. And for complete coverage of his run through the TUF house, check out our archive right here.