Muscle Sport Magazine

James Funaro, Amateur MMA Fighter, Looks Ahead

“I don’t care if it’s $50 or a million dollars. It’s just new motivation for me.”

The 23-year-old amateur mixed martial arts fighter has viewed his potential professional career with a ‘devil-may-care’ attitude well beyond his years. But who could blame him? James Funaro has been into single contact sports for a decade now and is also a part owner of a gym, a place where he can hone his skills while training others. Like most teenagers, he took up karate and wrestling and has used those early experiences to be on the cusp of something special.

With a 9-4 record, Funaro has shown the promise to convince himself that he is ready to take that next step. “I need something more beyond amateur MMA,” he said. The Long Islander has mixed it up in cages and rings in New Jersey, Ohio and Virginia, as well as in his own backyard.


Because New York is still not a sanctioned state for MMA, Funaro and others like him have had to go underground to participate in the sport that they love. One promotion that has catered to their skills has been the Underground Combat League, in which Funaro has a 2-1 record.

“The UCL? It’s pretty bad-ass,” Funaro said recently while taking a much-deserved break from his clients at BoxFit in Patchogue, New York ( “It helps people out to have a place to fight and uses valetudo, which is the roots of the sport. The level of talent ranges from a random dude off the street to guys who are now in the UFC.”

One of the UCL alum is none other than Frank “The Answer” Edgar, 28, who has a 6-1 UFC record (11-1 overall) and will be challenging BJ Penn for the lightweight championship in April at UFC 112 in the United Arab Emirates. Not bad company to emulate if you’re a guy like Funaro.


With a black belt in kempo and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, Funaro has an arsenal at his disposal and can be effective fighting standing up or down on the mat but admitted, “I prefer to be on the ground in my guard.”

Up or down, Funaro has decided that his last amateur fight will come at the February 21 UCL card in a highly-anticipated match that has garnered a plethora of attention on the Internet. His opponent will be Christian Darrow, the target of much of that attention from the negative side.

Although the two have had their differences in the past (including a physical altercation in the parking lot of Funaro’s gym), both combatants are not viewing the battle as a grudge match, but rather just two guys that want to fight and have the proper venue for it now.


“We really don’t have a problem with each other,” Funaro commented. “It’s going to be fun. I definitely want to fight him just because of the whole back story.”

Whatever the outcome, Funaro will be looking at a payday the next time he enters a cage after the Darrow fight. But as he made perfectly clear, money is no object.

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