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Palo Verde grad pushed exhaustively for World Series of Fighting 9 opportunity

Spicuzza makes major-promotion debut Saturday against Gil Guardado

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Steve Marcus

Mixed martial arts fighter Jimmy Spicuzza of Las Vegas poses in the World Series of Fighting offices Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Spicuzza will take on Gil Guardado at the Hard Rock Hotel on Saturday, March 29, 2014.

MMA Fighter Jimmy Spicuzza

Mixed martial arts fighter Jimmy Spicuzza of Las Vegas poses in the World Series of Fighting offices Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Spicuzza will take on Gil Guardado at the hard Rock Hotel on Saturday, March 29. Launch slideshow »

World Series Of Fighting 9 complete card

  • Middleweight championship bout: Steve Carl vs. Rousimar Palhares
  • Bantamweight championship bout: Marlon Moraes vs. Josh Rettinghouse
  • Middleweight bout: Yushin Okami vs. Svetlozar Savov
  • Welterweight bout: Josh Burkman vs. Tyler Stinson
  • Lightweight bout: Ozzy Dugulubgov vs. Jonathan Nunez
  • Featherweight bout: Mike Corey vs. Shane Kruchten
  • Featherweight bout: John Gunderson vs. Chris Gruetzemacher
  • Bantamweight bout: Sean Cantor vs. Bryson Hansen
  • Featherweight bout: Brenson Hansen vs. Boostayre Nefarios
  • Welterweight bout: Phil Dace vs. Danny Davis
  • Lightweight bout: Gil Guardado vs. Jimmy Spicuzza
  • Card begins at 3 Saturday afternoon at Hard Rock with NBC Sports Network airing the main card at 6 p.m.

Sprawling across Jimmy Spicuzza’s bulging left forearm in black ink is a message that reads “no time for weakness.”

It’s a near-perfect tattoo for the local 29-year-old, who truly hasn’t found much time for anything other than chasing his professional-fighting dreams over the past five years. Since setting his goals to become a top mixed martial artist, Spicuzza has developed a strenuous training regimen he supports with a job at a commercial cleaning company that tidies venues, restaurants and nightclubs.

“I work from 4:30 in the morning to anytime between 8 and 10, then I have my two training sessions,” Spicuzza said. “I squeeze in more stuff for my job in between there. My days are long. It’s a grind trying to go to bed at 9:30 every night so I can get back up and do it all over again.”

But Spicuzza won’t complain about the trying lifestyle, especially not now that it’s beginning to pay off in the way he always envisioned. His big break comes Saturday night at the Joint inside the Hard Rock.

Spicuzza, who’s 2-0 professionally after amassing several amateur fights, meets Gil Guardado (2-0) in a lightweight bout as part of the preliminaries of the ninth World Series of Fighting card.

“This is why you do it,” Spicuzza said. “Ever since I’ve been training, I’ve believed I can fight the best guys in the world. Getting on a stage like this is where you prove it. This is where the ups, downs, the countless hours, the blood, the sweat and tears come through. Everything was for this.”

Spicuzza’s family moved to Las Vegas from Chicago when he was 6 years old. He got involved in taekwondo and karate from a young age but eventually ditched the martial arts for other interests.

Spicuzza focused on more traditional sports like basketball while in high school at Palo Verde. It wasn’t until his senior year that tragedy sent Spicuzza down a path that would lead to him getting involved in MMA.

Spicuzza’s father passed away, which he said made him destructive. He called himself “that guy” with a near-daily routine of going out to party and looking for trouble afterward.

“I needed something to get my anger out,” Spicuzza said. “I always wanted to try fighting, but it wasn’t until my best friend told my mom, ‘Get him signed up at a gym or somewhere or else he’s going to kill somebody,’ that I did it.”

Before long, Spicuzza turned into a fixture at many of the finest MMA gyms in town. He’s worked out alongside the majority of the valley’s most well-known professionals — including UFC lightweight Evan Dunham, whom Spicuzza calls the training partner who's helped him the most.

Putting in hours with established and elite fighters has done wonders for Spicuzza’s progress and confidence. But it’s also messed with his psyche at times.

“To be training alongside guys who are world-class and already in the big show and not have had my shot for quite a while, it makes you look inside to see if you really want to do it,” Spicuzza said.

The answer Spicuzza always comes up with is, “yes” — he’s willing to wait for as long as it takes. It’s the same attitude he employs every day when embarking on a schedule that would cause those allowing weakness to wilt.

“It wears you down sometimes,” Spicuzza said. “I’ve been through some times where I can’t get it off my mind and can’t catch my breath. But I don’t mind it. It gives me a roof over my head, allows me to pay for training and puts food in my fridge. I’ve come to terms with it.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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