ortizvsdibartWhile there is a bell to signal the start of an MMA match and a bell to signal its end, the battles waged in this sport extend well outside those chain links; hours, days and even years into the past. The dedication to the craft, to diet, to gym battles and past losses are all tied into that moment, with some fighters carrying accursed scars few know about, some acting as catalyst to action and others as hindrance on the mind. It is these battles we cannot see, enveloped inside that moment of victory or defeat, that defines those who would call themselves warriors and differentiate chaff from champions.

On April 9th, the recently vacated amateur Lightweight title is up for grabs, with two fighters from opposite ends of New England meeting in Plymouth, yet both with ghosts at their back.

For Ryan Dibartolomeo, his fight began as a baby, his mother passing away before he’d ever had the chance to know her. Dibart would grow from boy to man with a chip on his shoulder and a hole in his heart, yet would find positive outlets for that simmering anger, playing hockey in his youth before making the jump into martial arts. Getting his start at The Factory, Dibart would find himself thrown to the wolves to start his MMA career, his debut at 170lbs against Cody Anderson, as well as playing welcoming party for Addison O’Neil short months later.

Dibart would go 0-3 to start his career, yet he wasn’t about to hang up the gloves. Jumping ship to Triumph BJJ, the home of former adversary Cody Anderson, Dibart would start to pick up those pieces he’d been missing early in his career, adding skill sets to a frame built for endurance, and yoking a heart that won’t stop pumping in the cage. The time on the mats at Triumph changed Dibart from a floundering fish on the mats to a relentless pressure grappler, forcing opponents to match will for will and come up wanting. Dibart would see himself go from 0-3 amateur to 4-3 amateur champion, snatching Combat Zone’s Lightweight Title in a short notice fight where he was counted out as the underdog. A loss in Maine to Josh Harvey, as well as team and management conflicts have seen Dibart switch views, heading to Team Link Hooksett where he will sharpen the ax en route to another title tilt in his Cage Titans debut.

Opposite Dibartolomeo will be a different breed of fighter in Speed School’s Alex Ortiz, who will look to vanquish the ghosts of his first loss, suffered in search of the same title he seeks now. An exceptional natural striker, Ortiz has worked to refine his game over years and fights, yet it was his last battle at Cage Titans that wounded him deeply. Contesting for the Lightweight title against Don “Shameless” Shainis, Ortiz would walk into the bout on short notice and with injury, yet it wasn’t his body that was hurt in the fray, but his confidence.

“I came up extremely short in that fight and it taught me a lot about myself” Ortiz spoke about the title tilt with Shainis, in which he suffered a TKO in the first championship round. It was a nasty grind of a fight that left Ortiz physically and emotionally spent and set him to making bold decisions about his career moving forward.

“I took some time to allow my body to heal and relocated to a new team in Speed School. I’m reinvigorated and I’m ready to claim something I feel I could’ve already won if I made better decisions.” Explained Ortiz, with the change of gym having already yielded a win that positions him to contest for the same title he’d lost.

Regardless of loss, regret, mistakes and misfortunes, these two will come together and leave their baggage at the bottom of the cage stairs; the strongest will and sharpest skill taking home the 155lb title on April 9th.

~ Mike Hammersmith

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