At one point in the era of combat sports, UFC was the only game in town, but with the rise of Bellator and now the Professional Fighters League (PFL), there is healthy competition for those eyeballs that like to consume MMA fight cards. On the day the nation goes crazy for some ‘Black Friday' (November 25th) shopping, PFL will host an ESPN+ PPV card live from the Hulu Theater inside the Madison Square Garden in NYC.
On that night, an amateur MMA athlete will be making his PFL debut by the name of Biaggio Ali Walsh. If that name sounds familiar, it should, as he is the other grandson of the great Muhammad Ali and brother of Top Rank prospect Nico Ali Walsh. The 24-year-old from Chicago, IL, moved to Las Vegas, NV when he was about six years old. He and his brother Nico always got along, but like many brothers in this world, they fought a lot as kids. Those scuffles happened, but as they grew older, they didn't fight much as they became more supportive of each other.
Walsh stayed in Vegas until after High School as he attended the University of California/Berkeley to play football for them. After two seasons, he transferred back to Las Vegas, where he attended UNLV and, shortly after, started training in MMA. Walsh told NYFights, “I just didn't really like my lifestyle. I was going out and didn't like what I was getting into. I started training initially just to stay in shape, but over time, I started to fall in love with it (MMA). And then one day, I just told myself, ‘I'm just gonna take this serious (MMA),' and I don't want to regret any of my decisions now because you can't go back in time later in life.”
That journey began in 2020, right before the pandemic. Once that happened, everything was closed, and Walsh was trying to figure things out just like everyone else in the world. He would purchase a heavy bag and place it in the garage of his residence. It was there where he trained with his brother as Nico put Biaggio through some workouts. Biaggio kept working until the gyms finally opened back up, and he could continue his path toward becoming an MMA fighter.
Fast forward to this year, when he signed a contract under the PFL. The PFL has been making noise for a while now as their events have unique cash prizes and incentives that brings a different level of interest. Biaggio will be making his amateur debut with the PFL against Tom Graesser. It's an opponent that his old teammates are familiar with, so there are some tips on how to get the better of Tom on the 25th.
Thinking of his grandfather, who headlined in the same building he is about to fight in, would bring chills to anyone, especially Biaggio. So, what does he remember from his time with the great Ali?
Every year, we would go to his house for Thanksgiving, and the whole family would get together, and it was just fun memories. We would go to his house, even when it wasn't Thanksgiving, just to visit him and spend the weekend with him. We wouldn't do much because his Parkinsons worsened over the years, so we just hung out at the house. We would do magic tricks for him because he loved magic. We would also watch old western movies like “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and old Clint Eastwood films. We would watch the old Dracula movies as he liked classic horror.”
Biaggio continued, “So yeah, a lot of the time that we spent with him was just quality time. I would ask him questions about his past fights, like Joe Frazier, and he would give short responses. We would give him books, like picture books or documentary books about himself, and we would have him read it, and his eyes would get big, and he would light up, you know, reliving his old memories. Every time we went to a restaurant, it was weird because one person would notice who came in, and the whole restaurant would stand up and start clapping. It was almost a surreal moment like ‘dang, my grandfather was super important.' Those are some of the just core memories that I have.”
Getting back to the task at hand, Biaggio had a message for those that will be watching live or tuning in on ESPN+ PPV. Biaggio told NYF, “They should expect a dominant performance. I want to be able to showcase my athleticism, speed, and my explosiveness. I just want to show the world that this is who I am and where I'm starting as an amateur. I want the PFL to see the potential in me, but I want the world to see the potential in me as well. It'll be a fun night. I'm the second fight on the card, so I expect to set the tone for the whole night.”