From Small-Town Italy To ONE’s Global Stage: Get To Know MMA Rising Star Antonio Mammarella

Antonio Mammarella

Antonio Mammarella has come a long way from a tiny town in Europe to the global stage of ONE Championship.

The 24-year-old Italian will soon make his promotional debut live in U.S. primetime against the highly touted Adrian Lee in a must-watch lightweight MMA tilt on June 7 at ONE 167: Tawanchai vs. Nattawut II on Prime Video.

For Mammarella, the fight represents the opportunity to not only announce his presence in a big way but also take out one of the sport’s most promising names.

Before he enters the Circle at Bangkok’s Impact Arena, we take a closer look at the young phenom’s journey to ONE.

Home Between The Mountains And Beach

Mammarella grew up in the beautiful village of Vacri, Italy. With a population of less than 2,000 people, the town offered incredible scenery and a relatively tranquil childhood.

He spoke to about his upbringing near the Adriatic Sea:

“Life is slow-paced compared to the big cities, but still it isn’t far from the city. I really love being there, halfway between the beach and mountains. Really nice place.”

One of three children in a hard-working, blue-collar family, Mammarella enjoyed an ideal childhood.

His parents, he says, instilled the work ethic and integrity that has served him well throughout his martial arts journey:

“My parents worked really hard, and still continue to do so, to provide a great childhood for me and my brother and sister. They taught us proper education and principles.

“My father works both as a car mechanic and farmer, and as long as I’ve been there, I have always helped him in the countryside. My mother is an excellent tailor, and I had the chance to help her, as well.”

Finding MMA

Surprisingly, the young Italian didn’t have to leave Vacri to find high-level mixed martial arts training. His first coach was the respected Angelo Pompeo – a man who has been churning out top talent for years.

Mammarella started with Pompeo in elementary school, but he chose to dive into MMA full-time at the age of 16:

“I found MMA thanks to my first coach, Angelo Pompeo. I started when I was 11, when he first started to teach classes inside the school gym. Then he moved a bit further, and I was able to rejoin only when I had the opportunity to move by myself with a small motorcycle at the age of 16.

“He was already having success with guys competing in the amateur MMA World Championship. It’s crazy to think that all of this was happening and still does in such a small town with elite athletes growing up. I’ve been seven years under his guidance, and I learned so much. I’ll never be thankful enough to him.”

Under Pompeo’s guidance, Mammarella found quick success in the Italian amateur MMA scene, competing in 15 bouts to establish himself as one of the country’s best up-and-coming fighters.

Eventually, though, he realized that he had outgrown Italy’s still-young MMA scene and sought out bigger opportunities abroad.

In late 2023, he relocated to Australia, where his brother already lived, to join Sydney’s MMA Family Fight Team and train under Renato Subotic – a longtime friend of coach Pompeo.

Mammarella explained his motivation for leaving his beloved Italy:

“I moved because in Italy, the MMA world is strongly growing. We have lots of great athletes, but it’s not easy to be a professional fighter because you need to work a lot to cover the expenses.”

Challenges And Inspiration

In December of last year, Mammarella made his professional MMA debut, scoring a second-round stoppage that garnered the attention of ONE officials.

His journey to the world’s largest martial arts organization hasn’t been without difficulty, though.

On a personal level, he was hit hard by his grandfather’s death. As an athlete, he struggled with the training restrictions imposed by the global coronavirus pandemic, as well as a devastating knee injury.

His ability to overcome those challenges, he says, is what sets him apart:

“I think the loss of my grandfather was a big one. I’m named after him, and we were so close to each other. But what really turned me into the athlete I am today was the combination of COVID-19 plus my knee injury in 2021.

“I think moments like those are like a natural selection. Lots of people stop their careers there. I never thought about doing that. When COVID hit, I started training more than usual, and I really improved a lot training alone.”

Oddly enough, it was Mammarella’s knee injury – and his dogged determination to recover from it – that solidified his decision to pursue MMA as a career choice.

He added:

“When things went better and we started training together again, I tore my ACL. I acknowledged the injury was there and I couldn’t go back, so I started working straight away through the surgery and recovery process. This is the moment when I knew I was going to be a professional MMA athlete.”

ONE’s Bright Lights

From his humble beginnings in Vacri, Mammarella will now bring his talents to the global stage at a massive U.S. primetime event.

He recognizes the special opportunity before him:

“I’m very happy to have signed the deal with ONE. I know it’s not that common to sign a deal like this while being 1-0, but the chance was there, and we took it. I will show everyone the hard work I put in every single day.”

At ONE 167, Mammarella will find himself face-to-face with a fighter not unlike himself – a massively skilled young athlete with loads of hype surrounding him.

To that end, he remains supremely focused on defeating Adrian Lee in Bangkok, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have World Title aspirations down the road:

“My goal right now is to take this win on June 7. I like to see things step by step, but obviously, the goal is to reach the top of the mountain and become the ONE Lightweight MMA World Champion.”

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