Local Fighters

A Comeback 10 Years in the Making: Nick Janowitz Returns at XFO 62


XFO 62 Nick Janowitz

by Matt Lo Cascio

Ten years is a long time. Ten years ago, Ronda Rousey was an Olympic Judoka, not a UFC champion, nor a WWE superstar. Donald Trump was not the POTUS, but a reality TV star/businessman who wanted to meet Fedor and promote MMA. I still had a full head of hair — and most of it was not grey. Ten years ago was also the last time Nick Janowitz fought in a professional MMA fight.

Rousey won’t compete in the Olympics again, Trump won’t be promoting MMA, and my hair isn’t coming back anytime soon. But come Feb. 17 at XFO 62 in Woodstock, Nick Janowitz will once again don the 4 oz. gloves and enter the cage to do battle in a professional MMA fight.

Can you think of another professional athlete that took ten years off and then mounted a comeback? I can’t. Now 37, Janowitz attempts his comeback after many years away from the sport — and many surgeries. Undefeated fighters don’t choose to retire at age 27 without some devastating injuries.

“They were pretty severe,” Janowitz told Chicago’s MMA. “I had a hip replacement, three knee surgeries and hand surgery. The hip obviously was the biggest problem. I was dealing with that from 2003-2013. The only pro athlete I know who competed with a fake hip was Bo Jackson and lets just say baseball isn’t MMA. That’s one reason why I want to fight now. The hip, knee, and hand feel great.”

Everything is back in place for Janowitz, but that begs the question: Why come back to the sport that broke your body down now that it’s finally all healed up? “I always wanted to fight again. I just had to get the surgeries done. Now that I feel back to 100% I’m ready for the next chapter of my athletic career. Also, my kids are old enough now and really want to see me in the cage.”

XFO 22

Janowitz scored his second professional MMA win at XFO 22, a card that featured future Bellator champion Pat Curran.

It’s not as if Janowitz was just chilling on the couch for a decade, guzzling beer and eating chips. During that time he built a successful business with Patriot Sports and Fitness, and he also decided to break some world records. Janowitz set out to conquer epic feats of strength and endurance and he did just that. “Two years ago I did 10,164 burpees to break the world record. After that I went for the pull-ups record. David Goggins, a former Navy Seal, made the record famous a few years back. He did just over 4,000 and it took him three tries. I did 7,621 in only 18 hours. I broke his record in just over six hours.”

Since Janowitz was unable to fight he knew he had to find other challenges to quench his robust competitive thirst. “I read a book a few years back called UnBreakable by Thom Shea, who was a Navy Seal. In it he had a test of walking for 24 consecutive hours. Pushing my body to the limits was nothing new, and because of some of the things I’ve done in my younger years I’ve always thought of myself as one of the toughest human beings on this planet. So I walked for 24 hours to prove to myself I could. Then I started finding other challenges.”

Guinness isn’t exactly cooperating with Janowitz, even though he has video evidence to prove his feats. “You have to submit a ton of paperwork, videos, etc. I’m still waiting for them to make it official, but who knows if they will ever give it to me? They are still dicking me around on the burpee records and I broke those two years ago. So until they make my records official I guess fighting at 37 and with a fake hip is my next test. I’m pretty sure fighting professional MMA with a fake hip has to be some kind of record,” Janowitz said with a laugh.

Even though he couldn’t fight in the cage, he could coach and corner fighters, and Janowitz built up an excellent team at Patriot.

“I coached a lot of guys,” Janowitz said. “Great guys like Chris Conway, Josh Estrada, Mario Lozano, Gabe Salinas, Danny Ortiz, Anthony Gasso, Jordan Santiago, Sergio Lopez, Jeremy Miller, Matt Slonoff, Fil and Johnny Marino. All of these guys have been helping me train for this fight over the past few months and I’m grateful for them. It’s awesome to see them pushing me and coaching me. It has been very rewarding. Conway and Estrada will be in my corner. I hope to see Conway back in the cage and if Anthony Gasso ever fights again the UFC better watch out. He is one of the hardest hitting and most talented stand up fighters around. Most of these guys just need to find time to train and they can go very far. A lot of guys in the MMA game are what I call misfits. Not these guys. They are all very successful and have great jobs. To be honest, seeing their accomplishments outside of fighting is such a bigger deal than fighting. I’m very proud of all those guys and what they have been able to accomplish in life.”

Nick Janowitz and Josh Estrada at APFC Revenge

Nick Janowitz takes a post-fight victory picture with Josh Estrada at APFC Revenge in 2013. (Photo Credit: Herb Staten/Scales Off Media)

Conway loved having Janowitz as his coach. “Throughout my MMA career Nick was my coach, manager, and friend,” Conway said. “He pushed me to be the best I could be, taught me everything he could and helped me to be a successful MMA fighter. I am honored to be giving back to him as a training partner and coach for his return to the cage at XFO 62. The man is one the most mentally tough and tenacious people I’ve trained with. Expect to see compete and total domination in the XFO cage.”

One of the coolest things about covering MMA and sitting cageside for events is getting to hear just about everything the corners are telling their fighters. But when it came to Janowitz, pretty much the entire arena got to hear his instructions. When I told Janowitz I considered his coaching style to be loud and brash (in a good way), he laughed. “I love it! Yeah, I guess you can say that.”

It’s not much different than his approach inside of the cage. “I usually say my style is constant pressure and constant punishment. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I can finish this kid quick. However, that’s not what I want. I want a war! I want to test myself. I hope he is game and makes me work real hard for the win,” Janowitz said.

His opponent is Cody Garness, a slick submission specialist from Minnesota. Garness is younger, taller, and coming off back-to-back first-round finishes. If it’s a war Janowitz wants, Garness is more than happy to give it to him.

“I’m the fighter people call when they can’t find guys to fight tough guys,” Garness told Chicago’s MMA. “I always come to bring it. This time is no different. I have fought guys when I had injuries that most guys wouldn’t think twice about before pulling themselves out of the fight. He better back it up in there or it will be a rough night for him. I have been through adversity early in my career. I always come out on top. I’m here to fight killers, and it doesn’t take long to figure out who isn’t one.”

The XFO is where Janowitz got his start and it was his choice for his comeback fight. But he has bigger plans in mind. This won’t be a one-and-done deal for him. “If everything goes the way I plan then I plan on fighting next in Bellator or the UFC,” he said.

When you’re married with children, no such decisions are made solely by the fighter. But Tracey Janowitz, Nick’s wife, doesn’t seem too concerned about his comeback attempt. “After witnessing him break the burpee and pull-up records he is mentally the toughest person around. When you accomplish goals like those, fighting at his age doesn’t seem too extreme.”

It’s also a chance for the Janowitz kids to see their Dad fight for the first time. “My son turns 5 and my daughter 8 in May. They like watching fights with me, and yeah, they like any thing their Dad does. I just want to set a good example for them when it comes to work ethic, setting goals and following through. My parents instilled a great work ethic in me and I want my kids to have even a greater work ethic than myself. In order to do that I believe it’s best I show them and not just tell them. Actions are much stronger than just using words.”

Click here to purchase tickets to see Nick Janowitz fight at XFO 62.

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About Matt Lo Cascio

Matt Lo Cascio is the co-founder and editor of Chicago's MMA. He is the former play-by-play announcer for the XFO and other organizations, and he has been published by ESPN.com, DraftKings, The Comeback, FanSided, and more.

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