Chris Cariaso (right) throws a big left hand against Takeya Mizugaki (left) at UFC 144 earlier this year. Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting.
Once the inaugural UFC flyweight tournament concludes later this year, the first UFC flyweight champion will be crowned between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.
But after that fight takes place, there's little to nothing in terms of potential contenders waiting in the wings to challenge for that belt.
Enter Chris Cariaso.
"Kamikaze" will be making his flyweight debut later tonight (July 11, 2012) against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 veteran Josh Ferguson on the preliminary card of UFC on FUEL TV 4 in his hometown of San Jose, California.
Cariaso is on a nice little two fight win streak, having defeated Vaughan Lee and controversially squeaked by Takeya Mizugaki in his last two bouts via split decision but he feels that everything is going to translate for him by cutting down and finally facing opponents his own size.
The 16-fight veteran was recently a guest on Bloody Elbow Radio where he discussed his place in the newly formed UFC flyweight division, how close he feels he is to a potential title shot and why he believes his fight against Josh Ferguson is the perfect opportunity to showcase his skills tonight.
Check it out:
Matt Bishop: Even though you traveled to Japan and England in your last two bouts at 135 pounds but now you're down at flyweight. How has that process been going?
Chris Cariaso: It's been going great other than the fact that I love food so much that I had to cut a lot out. Everything is going great. The weight loss has been good. I'm in better shape than I've been for any of my other fights. My training sessions have been better. It's definitely a good weight for me to fight at. I'm feeling awesome.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is your first career fight at flyweight. You announced that you were gonna come down to 125 even before your last fight, but how does it feel now that you're actually dropping down to your more natural weight class because you were always a bit of an undersized 135-er?
Chris Cariaso: It's like all these guys are coming down, all these huge 135-ers walking around at 170 pounds and it's like with me, I'm just a natural 135-er so I was trying to stay big so I could at least try to keep up but now that I'm going to be fighting guys my own size, it's definitely going to be more of an advantage for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Has it been different? Is it different in your body to be dropping those extra 10 pounds?
Chris Cariaso: Yeah, it's been different. My wife keeps telling me, "You're so small. You're so small! I don't know if I like you this small!" but for me, I don't know. I feel like I"m more athletic and I'm doing things that I'm normally doing and I just feel stronger this light. As far as training and stuff goes, I've just been trying to focus on being fast. I was fast before but just trying to focus on being even faster now and try to push that pace, keep that pace nice and high. I think a lot of people dropping down from 155 or 145, those weight classes, they're just not prepared for that speed and the pace and it wears them out but for me personally, I've been really focusing on in training being the fast guy and making it so people can't keep up with me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've got a bit of momentum with two big decision victories in a row at bantamweight before dropping down. There's a bit of a dearth of title contenders right now in the division after the Benavidez-Johnson fight so where do you see yourself in the division if you can pull out a victory?
Chris Cariaso: Oh man, I see myself in the top three. I think that after a great win this week, I think maybe throw another fight at me at 125 pounds and I'm right up there in the title mix. I see myself in the top three.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about Josh Ferguson a bit. He was a member of The Ultimate Fighter season 14. He was also an undersized bantamweight but he put up some tough fights against some pretty big guys. How do you scout him out? From my perspective, he's got some nice power in the stand-up with some decent skills when he's on top but he's in trouble when he's on his back.
Chris Cariaso: Yeah, he's kind of the typical wrestler. If you put him on his back, he's in trouble. He kind of comes wild with his hands and he works a submission game. All his wins came from submission and I personally, I think this is a great fight for me to showcase my skills. I think that I'm gonna definitely go out there and put it on him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you kind of wish that you had been a bit of a main card attraction for this fight? To you, this is a really big flyweight fight plus it's right in your backyard of San Jose and it could have future title implications.
Yeah, I definitely wish I was on the main card but I think what the UFC is looking for is some spectacular finishes and spectacular wins for me and that's what I'm looking for is a spectacular win and then you'll see me up on the main card. I've had some close decisions on my last two fights. They were pretty exciting but that's the one thing they were looking for for me. I think going down to the 125 pound division is what's going to really open that up for me.
Matt Bishop: Is that something they specifically told you?
Chris Cariaso: No. If I'm like going and looking and my career and I'm looking at my last couple fights, that's what I'd be looking for from me. That's what I'd be asking for. They haven't said that specifically but I feel like that's what they want.
Matt Bishop: What have you thought so far of the fights we've had in the flyweight division specifically the tournament fights? Josepth Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson are going to be fighting for that title, what did you think of their fights already and what do you see in their title fight?
Chris Cariaso: Actually, watching the tournament fights and based on Demetrious Johnson's last performance, I thought he looked awesome against Ian McCall and I would actually give him a slight edge over Benavidez in that fight. I think his speed is definitely pretty hard to deal with and I definitely foresee Demetrious Johnson taking that win. Seeing those fights, I feel I deserve to be up there with those guys and I want to be be in the title picture. I want to fight for that belt.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now Chris, this question is more about getting to know you a little bit better. This sport is full of ritual and superstition at times. Do you have a lucky pair of underwear or something that you have to have before a fight?
Oh man. The funny thing about me is I always have to have a new pair of shoes before every fight. I'm about to go shopping for them today or tomorrow to pick up some new kicks. That's my pre-fight ritual. It's always a new pair of kicks and a grilled cheese sandwich for my cornerman so that was the superstition for us. Grilled cheese sandwich for the cornerman and a new pair of shoes for me. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now is there a specific brand or color or do you just kind of see something, your eyes gravitate to it and you just go "That's the one! That's what I've got to wear?"
Chris Cariaso: It's just kind of what I'm feeling at that moment. Sometimes it's an all-white fresh pair and sometimes I need a pair of everyday kicks that I can just wear everywhere. Kind of depending on the day and how I'm feeling at that moment. I guess that's just how it is. Whatever hits me at that moment is what I get.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're in the cage, the doors are closed and Bruce Buffer has just finished announcing your opponent, what's going through your head? Some fighters are relaxed, some are incredibly hyped up. What is the last thing that goes through your head before a fight starts?
Chris Cariaso: I don't know. The only thing I think is, "I'm gonna beat you up!" Once that cage door closes and the referee brings us out to the middle, the only thing I think is, "It's on!" It's like the switch has been flipped and I just think that there's no stopping me right now. I'm gonna win this fight.
Matt Bishop: How do you see your fight going with Josh Ferguson? What's going to be the biggest key to victory for you in that fight to get a win in your flyweight debut?
Chris Cariaso: The biggest key is gonna be my speed, power. I think I'm gonna go out there and I haven't lost any strength at all. You're gonna see some awesome striking from me and if it goes down to the ground, I've got a really sick and dangerous game down there too. Anywhere it goes, I'm ready for it but expect to see speed and power from me.
You can follow Chris on twitter @ChrisCariasoMMA.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Does Cariaso have a case a potential title contender with an impressive showing tonight on the UFC on Fuel TV 4 preliminary card? Will his bout against Ferguson be the perfect "showcase fight" he's picturing in his head?