"It's something that I was good at and I just fell into. It started off with me just defending my friends, now its my calling," says Christos Piliafas. A cage fighter for only about a year, Piliafas has been training in the martial arts for over 20 years.
Christos Piliafas helps a student put on a pair of gloves before MMA training at the Great Lakes MMA Center. Piliafas is an instructor at the center in Traverse City and at his own gym in Flint. Certified in Russian Sambo, a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and an all-state wrestler, Piliafas is well rounded in all aspects of MMA.
"I work out with fellow fighters like York Ash and Rhyan Glezman. All of use have pro-debut fights coming up. We teach student's moves but also learn from each other," says Piliafas. During a typical work out with each other they practice holds, sparring, kicking, and blocking techniques.
"I've dislocated a knee, hyper-extended an arm and elbow, pinched nerves, and had tendinitis. My biggest dislike is cardio, but it is necessary, otherwise in the ring you feel like your hands are 35lbs weights," says Piliafas. With Piliafas's pro-debut on April 17th, he has been going full-force at training.
Christos Piliafas circles a 45lb weight around his shoulders during a station workout. Stations included crunches with a medicine ball, lifting weights, hitting a tire, kickboxing, punching, and grappling. Piliafas works out Monday through Friday, 4pm til 10pm and Saturday 9am til 1pm.
"I've got around 6 or 7 seven layers on right now, with a sweatshirt, some t-shirts and thermals, so that my body will feel cooler and lighter during my match," says Piliafas. The extra layers proved difficult Piliafas's sparring partner to get ahold of, and provided a good source of laughs at the end of the round.
"There is nothing greater to me than watching one of my students win a fight using a move that I taught them," says Piliafas. Christos teaches both men and women, and from teenagers to adults. All students go through the same stations and lessons in technique. After showing how to use the move, Piliafas watches each student to make sure they perform it correctly.
"So far as an amateur, I'm 8 and 0. I'm lucky to train with the people I do. We all watch each other and give good advice on what to improve," says Piliafas as he receives instruction on his pivot kicking, the week before his King of the Cage pro-fight.
"People call me The Mad Greek, or the Crazy Greek. They fan get into calling me that," Piliafas says. Fans cheered out Christos's name and nickname and he faced off against Jason Fish in his pro-debut fight at the Leelanau Sands Casino.
Piliafas led the fight the first two rounds, but after the third round officials called the match in Fish's favor.
"You know tomorrow could be my last fight, but as long as I live MMA through my students I'll be happy," Piliafas says. Ties to his students and to his fans keep Christos fighting and loving what he does.