Six years ago, when he was 23 years old, Matt Bienia had a goal, get in shape for his wedding. He was already in the midst of a successful career working as an engineer on government projects. More specifically on military projects where he helps our troops with the technology they need to serve our country. For his goal of getting in shape for his wedding, Bienia walked into an MMA gym and since then he has become one of the top amateur lightweights in the state of Massachusetts. That of course was not the plan.
“It just kinda spiraled out of control,” said Bienia laughing.
“I just got hooked, I went to pretty much every class they had for the entire six months before my wedding. I was there five/six days a week, I probably trained some weeks, 15-20 hours just because I had nothing else to do. My hobbies prior to that was coming home and hanging out with my roommate and trying to think of elaborate meals to cook.”
He had always been an athlete, physical sports at that. In high school, he played goalie in lacrosse, always getting hit with the ball and loving it. It was also around that time that he became a UFC fan. He and his fraternity brothers would stream the fights and he wouldn’t miss a single fight, not even the prelims. He still tries to watch all of the fights but because of his career, training for his hobby, his family (including a 14-month-old daughter) and miscellaneous things he isn’t able to keep up as much. But he keeps a list of what he has missed and goes back to watch them when he can.
Though he only officially started training and fighting after college, his fighting experience started when he went on a study abroad in London, where he and his friends started their own little fight club.
“So my junior year of college I actually went to London for two months to do some project work over there. From the beginning when we were over there, there was like 25-30 of us, we would just go out and drink and blow absurd amounts of money and just be college kids in London. After two or three weeks, we realized how much money we were spending, so we started staying in some nights and we would clear out the common room and have no punches to the face fight club. It was lame looking back on it. We had nothing better to do. We were stuck in London and we had nothing better to do. So we were like let’s fight and see what happens.”
With that experience, when he started training at ZenQuest Martial Arts Center taking an actual fight was in the back of his mind.
“I was willing to do it once I started training, it was in the back of my head. If this goes well, and I don’t suck at it, I might as well try it for real.”
What put him over the edge to get in the cage was the success of his teammate whom he was the main training partner for.
“My teammate, Neil Von Flatern, who is fighting for the 170 title the same night, he had his amateur debut about the year after I started training and I was his main training partner. The fight team at that time was really just us and we kinda just beat the hell out of each other. He went out and he won his fight pretty dominantly. And I went ok, if I can fight with him in the gym multiple times a week and hang with him, him winning proves that I can probably win too. I took my first fight and it kinda just spiraled out from there.”
Now at 29 years old, Bienia has amassed a 5-1 record and is the Reality FC lightweight champion and will face Cage Titans lightweight champion Chris O’Brien in a superfight at Cage Titans 40. This matchup has been awhile in the making and Bienia.
“I’ve been seeing Chris as a good opponent since back in January when he won the title.”
An obstacle Bienia had to overcome to make this fight a possibility was to accept his wife wouldn’t attend. She has previously attended all his fights but life is life and she had somewhere to be. But she gave him her blessing because of how badly he wanted this fight.
“I pitched the fight to her and she was really bummed that she wasn’t going to be able to go but she told me to go for it and she’s been supportive ever since.”
With the fight made and the champions set to face off, Bienia began to have some fun and try and get under the skin of an opponent he respects and thinks is a good person.
“It’s fun, I’m not saying things just to build hype, I talk the same to crap in the locker room. I’m trying to get under his skin to mess with him, but it’s not personal, I think he’s a good dude.”
As for the stylistic matchup, Bienia says it’s no secret.
“We both know the other person’s style. It’s really not hidden what we’re going to try and put the other person put them on their ass.”
“We’re going to see who is left standing at the end of the fight.”
As much as he respects O’Brien and that they are similar fighters, Bienia believes he is more advanced which will lead to his victory.
“I’ve been telling people, he is me, a year or two years ago. We’ve got similar styles but his is a little bit behind mine, a couple steps behind, a little less refined. When we go to the ground, it’ll become evident that there is a big skill disparity there, the same on the feet. He’s got a couple good shots on the feet but he makes some pretty basic errors that I’ll be able to capitalize on it.”
“Before that fourth round is over, I’m going to knock him around, I’m going to put him on his ass and then punch him until the ref pulls me off. So, fourth round TKO.”
If his prediction comes true and he is able to take out Chris O’Brien, he will become one of, if not the top lightweight amateur fighters in Massachusetts. But, Bienia’s goal isn’t to become a UFC fighter. He enjoys his job, his family and the life he has now. But if he can’t find challenges in the amateur ranks, he will turn pro and continue to fight. But for now, he just wants to win and continue to challenge himself.
“I just like competing and winning. I don’t like winning when I know I’ll win.”
Another fight camp done! Last night was the last hard sparring of camp, and everything felt on point. Now just time to heal up the bumps and bruises to come in at 100% next Saturday. Its, belt season, baby! 2 belts coming back to the berkshires, be there! . . #beltseason #andnew #andnew #155champ #170champ #teamzenquest
35 Likes, 2 Comments – Matt Bienia (@mattbienia) on Instagram: “Another fight camp done! Last night was the last hard sparring of camp, and everything felt on…”
#andnew . . #Repost @cagetitans ・・・ On Saturday, August 18th at Plymouth Memorial Hall…Chris “The Bearded Dragon” O’Brien puts his Amateur Lightweight Title on the line against Matt ‘Machine’ Bienia. These two have only wanted to face the best so far in their careers and this fight is no exception, the #1 ranked lightweight in New England verse the #2 ranked. On fight night, who stakes his claim as the hands down best…#andnew or #andstill
32 Likes, 7 Comments – Matt Bienia (@mattbienia) on Instagram: “#andnew . . #Repost @cagetitans ・・・ On Saturday, August 18th at Plymouth Memorial Hall…Chris “The…”
“I like winning when I put myself in a situation when it’s challenging and I can lose but I have to overcome, I have to do something where I push myself to win.”
“I enjoy fighting, I enjoy competing, I enjoy being challenged. I’m not doing this to build a big record, to get fans and to build my ego. I’m doing this for the challenge. And when the challenge doesn’t exist at amateur, I’ll go pro. That could be later this year, that could be never.”
“I’m taking it one step at a time and we’ll see where this journey takes me.”