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John Ortolani: Half Pro Lacrosse Player, Half MMA Fighter

March 18, 2016
John Ortolani is a workhorse. The 180-pound faceoff man from Billerica, Massachusetts has been all over the field this year, taking all but two of Rochester’s draws on the season. In those draws, Ortolani has gone 112-243 through nine games played, and has also picked up 42 ground balls, which leads the team.

In only his first year with Rochester, Ortolani has enjoyed a successful faceoff career. John attended Division III Endicott College where he was one of the best in the country at the faceoff X. While at Endicott, John was a three time All-New England selection and a two-time All-Commonwealth Coast Conference selection. In his senior season, Ortolani was dominant, finishing second in the nation in faceoff win percentage and was also an ECAC All-Star and was the MVP of the ECAC Tournament.

Ortolani’s expertise led him to the Boston Cannons, where he won an MLL Championship in 2011. The five-foot-eight FOGO now handles all faceoff duties for Rochester when this past offseason, he was acquired by the Rattlers in a trade with the Cannons.

Playing a professional sport is only dream for most athletes, but John Ortolani is a different breed. John enjoys the privilege of playing not one, but two professional sports. One thing you probably didn’t know about Ortolani was that when he is not on the field battling for the draw, John is busy training as an MMA fighter. A veteran of 13 professional fights, Ortolani has won six bouts as a lightweight and welterweight, and has battled UFC veterans such as Dan Lauzon. With his dangerous ground game, four of his six victories have come by way of knockout or TKO.

We already know John Ortolani, Rochester Rattler’s faceoff specialist, but we do not know John Ortolani, MMA fighter. So we decided to sit down with John for a few minutes and meet his other half…


How did you become involved in MMA?

I wrestled for 2 years in high school and fell in love with the sport just in time for it to end. One of my good friends who had been fighting before me asked me to help him train because his opponent was a good wrestler. I loved the training and the constant friendly competition. My trainer got a call one night from a promoter saying that a fighter was injured and they needed a last minute fill in 2 days later. I jumped on the opportunity. I won my first amateur fight by choke in 47 seconds. I was hooked. 

Did you ever imagine being a professional fighter when you were growing up?

I began watching MMA fights in high school thinking I could do it. But never thought it would happen.  

What’s the hardest part about MMA?

The hardest part is the weight cut. I walk around normally at 180-185 lbs. but I fight at 155. The constant grind of training and staying on a strict diet and eating schedule is very mentally stressful. 

What’s it like inside the Octagon?

 It's really an indescribable feeling. It's an intense adrenaline rush combined with extreme fear, excitement, anxiety, anger, joy, etc. There is really no single emotion to describe it. The fear isn't so much of getting hurt but more of failing. You work so hard for so long and it is devastating when it doesn't pay off. 

How bad does it hurt?

 The adrenaline rush puts most of the pain on hold. Later that night and the next day are the most painful. So many little things that you didn't realize begin to ache constantly. The most painful part during the fight is kicking someone and hitting shin to shin. 

What’s the hardest fight you’ve ever had?

My hardest fight was in Miami against Mike Rio. He was a 3 time all American wrestler in college and was about to be on the ultimate fighter reality show. I took a lot of elbows above my left eye and was KO'd with 6 seconds left in the first round. I got 6 stitches above my eye and had a bad black eye. 

Give us a basic rundown of your MMA training… 

I train brazillian jiu jitsu every day. Boxing 2-3 days a week, Muay Thai twice a week, wrestling twice a week, and run sprints 2-3 times a week. For 6-8 weeks before a fight I am training twice a day 6 days a week. Usually around 5-6 hours of training per day. 

  Which professional MMA fighter do you look up to the most?

 I love Wanderlei Silva. I was lucky enough to meet him out at a nightclub in Boston when he was in town for surgery. He is one of the kindest, most soft spoken guys I have ever met. But when you see him fight he is an absolute savage. He does whatever it takes to win and puts everything he has into every fight. It's a kill or be killed attitude. 

MMA or lacrosse?

 I've been asked this question more times than I can count. I love both sports and am dreading the day that I need to choose one if it comes. Both sports have different factors that make them appealing to me. I would hate to choose one over the other. 

Team Jones or Team Sonnen?

Jon Jones in my opinion is the best fighter in the world right now. But I love Sonnen's attitude towards fighting. He welcomes all challengers and wants to always fight the best. He fights with his heart and never stops. 

What are your goals as a MMA fighter?

My goal is to be a world champion someday. I think that is every serious athletes goal. If you're not striving to constantly improve and be the best you possibly can be then what's the point of it. Some people do it as a hobby and have other priorities. But if you are planning on having a career it's crazy not to want to be the best. 


Make sure to come out and see John and the rest of the Rattlers as Rochester will remain home at Sahlen's Stadium this weekend, hosting the Hamilton Nationals on Sunday, July 7, at 3 p.m. (ET). Season tickets, group packages, and flex packages are available by calling the Rattlers box office, and for more ticket information please contact 585.454.5424 or check out for more information.