145-pound professional fighter William “Billy” Quarantillo starts every morning the same way.
Before anything else, Quarantillo will down a liter of water and a thousand milligrams of vitamin C.
“I will drink between two and two and half gallons of water a day,” the 26-year-old says. “Being dehydrated is just something you don’t want to worry about.”
Or worry about being too far from a bathroom.
Then comes a “power bowl,” a recipe of Quarantillo’s invention. A true breakfast of champions consisting of: oatmeal, chia seeds, blueberries, raspberries, almond
butter, and raw honey all stirred together.
He blends into the Sunday afternoon crowd at the Dale Mabry LA Fitness. He is not causally breaking a sweat; he is here to sharpen his profession.
Quarantillo is 5’10 wearing a grey hoodie, black basketball shorts and a backwards baseball cap. He has a slim waist, broad shoulders and skinny legs. He is not a fitness enthusiast. He is a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
Today is his day off from waiting tables at Carrabbas on Dale Mabry, but he is still punching his card into work. Quarantillo will start off a lazy Sunday’s training with some cardio on the treadmill. Then, he will do some light body weight work: pull-ups, pushups, and situps.
He will finish with “Hot Tub” rounds, 5 to 10 minute intervals where he will start submerged up to his neck and slowly rise, leaving less and less of his body in the hot water
“It helps the body sweat naturally,” says Quarantillo. “This is where I will start a pre-cut, practice for the real weight cut this Thursday. This is also where I mentally
Last week, he weighed in at 173 pounds. On Friday before his fight, he will weigh 145 pounds the day before he fights for the featherweight Strikeoff title in Fairfax, VA.
Quarantillo has been fighting for five years. He had his first fight in August of 2010 after training for four months. He has 14 wins and two losses under his belt, one coming as an amateur and the second coming as a professional. Five of those wins have come by stoppage, meaning that Quarantillo has either knocked out or submitted to his opponent.
Quarantillo grew up in Louisville, NY, a suburb of Buffalo. In high school, he played football and hockey, but had always been fascinated by fighting; by, “the aspect of two guys competing, and the violence of it all.”
Quarantillo’s interest peaked when he was shown a simple Triangle Choke (when the attacker encloses an opponent’s arm and head between locked legs to stop blood flow to the brain) and an Arm Bar (when the attacker uses their own hips as a fulcrum to bend an opponent’s elbow past the breaking point).
Learning the Triangle Choke and Armbar, the simple techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, brought Quarantillo to the gym, and soon after that, to the cage.
Quarantillo’s sister went to the University of Tampa. During a visit, a friend of hers showed him around one of the area’s prominent gyms: Gracie Tampa.
“Gracie Tampa was putting a lot of fighters in the UFC back then, and we didn’t have instructors like that in New York,” says Quarantillo.
So he moved. Disguised by gym clothes and a fun loving smile, Quarantillo’s routine rivals the discipline of a Buddhist monk.
The first workout of the day is either a long run or a session with a Ukrainian kickboxing champion, Bogdan, whose blonde head towers over Quarantillo.
Boxing training can seem barbaric. The wet impacts and grunts echo across the training complex on Gray Street in West Tampa. The trainer with padded mitts is the conductor, and Quarantillo with 16oz boxing gloves is the orchestra percussionist. Bogdan’s Eastern European accent calls out combinations of punches and Quarantillo punches back in eighth and quarter notes.
“One,” for a quick straight left.
“Two,” for a straight right.
“Three,” for a left hook.
They start with simple combinations, and build into complex crescendos. The early combinations are drills, and during the longer sequences Bogdan mimics the punches of an opponent by lashing and looping the mitts out for Quarantillo to dodge.
The drills are meant to program the fighter; there will be no time for thought during fight time. The point is be concerned with the music, not the individual beat.
After a morning of striking or running, he will take the early afternoon to get some food and even take a nap if the training is hard.
The nights are hard sparring on Monday and Thursday, with Jiu-jitsu every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, wrestling on Wednesday, and kickboxing drills every night.
Training occurs at Gracie Tampa South. It is a bare bones monastery of a 10,000 square foot gym consisting of an ocean of red mats, an MMA cage, hanging heavy bags and a utilitarian collection of free weights.
The gym’s students congregate on the mats before training sessions like churchgoers before mass. Sermons are given in the form of about two dozen training sessions a week. Baptisms are given daily in the form of dripping sweat. Fighters like Quarantillo are the monks, whose comings and goings you could set a watch by.
Quarantillo will be at the gym by 9 A.M. sharp, wrapping his hands while office workers stand in line for Starbucks. His life is rhythm and discipline. He would not have it any other way.
He builds his schedule to maximize his time at the gym. He waits tables on the weekend, but only to save extra money. Over the last five years, as his career progressed, he has worked less and less and trained more and more. He is supported mostly by his sponsors and by teaching private lessons, his client base growing with every victory.
“My goal is to train full-time and be profitable from it,” he says. “My ultimate goal is be world champion.”
He took more steps towards that goal on Feb. 28. “Billy Q” knocked his opponent out in the second round and took home his first featherweight pro title.
Jake Van Loon can be reached at Jake.firstname.lastname@example.org