When the novel coronavirus send MMA and businesses into a state of shutdown, the extent of how much it affected fighters differed, but for featherweight Cris Lencioni it was particularly rough.
For Lencioni, who makes a living owning and teaching at a gym, the lockdown made life understandably difficult, yet throughout it all he pushed through and maintained a positive outlook.
“My martial arts academy got shut down, so it was a hell of a ride,” Lencioni told MMAWeekly.com. “I applied for all the loans, grants, yadda yadda, and a couple of people got it, but I didn’t get anything, so it was an interesting couple months.
“Faith is a hell of a thing, and a positive attitude can go a long way as well. I picked up some Submission Underground matches, and that kept me motivated and in shape. “
Throughout the lockdown, Lencioni was able to stay as busy as he could, and feels like the fighters who maintained motivation throughout the downtime will be the ones who will shine in the coming months.
“This was a really good time for people who were really self-motivated to show the levels of their drive and desire to get better,” said Lencioni. “Everybody’s having a hard time, so you have to figure it out.
“Just the other day I was watching all my fights with my wife and watched the evolution of myself. I don’t know if a lot of fighters do that. I’ve changed so much. It’s a new year, a new me, and I’m ready to go.”
On Friday in Uncasville, Conn., Lencioni (6-2) will look to pick up his third win in a row when he faces AJ Agazarm (3-1) in a preliminary featherweight bout at Bellator 243.
“This guy is a frickin’ nutcase,” Lencioni said of Agazarm. “You know this guy has himself listed as 6-foot on the Bellator website; this dude is like 5-foot-3. Let alone, he thinks coming from the Diaz camp makes him a good fighter. That alone should be more than enough information. I’ve been training with legitimate mixed martial artists my whole career.
“It’s going to be very clear which one of us is the actual fighter and which one of us is looking for some new TikTok or YouTube followers from this.”
While remaining active through the remainder of 2020 is fine with Lencioni, his priorities lay outside of actual competition, and it’s those things outside of fighting that will be his priority in the coming months.
“I love fighting and it’s a great way to push myself, I like to be uncomfortable all the time and it creates real growth, but I’d like to get back to the real world,” said Lencioni. “I have a big academy with a lot of kids that needed a lot of help.
“We were in the process of doing a non-profit after school program, and so (the lockdown) messed with all of that, so now there’s new things that we’re going through with the state to grow that program in this post-Covid world. Yeah, I would like to stay busy (fighting), but if not there’s a lot of other real world issues I’d like to get back to.”
AJ Agazarm sparring with Nick Diaz
(Video courtesy of UFC)