Frank Sforza has served the US military for the past 14 years. He toured on active duty around the world for 6 of those years. Since 2010, he has been serving the US Air Force Reserves, and presently holds the title Master Sergeant. Frank is also a serving Police Officer in his home state of Massachusetts, and has an outstanding athletic background on top of that. If ever a man was primed to become a hero to MMA fans the world over, Frank Sforza is that man. He is, after all, already a hero beyond the cage.
A four-time state champion wrestler, Sforza boasts a 190-11 record from his high school wrestling days, and was duly inducted into the Rockland High School Hall of Fame in 2015. The term ‘dominant’ does not do this man justice. But talk to Sforza and there is no bragging. Yes, you can find an undeniable sense of competitive determination, and yes there is an appreciation of his athletic ability and military accomplishments, but Frank is not one to run his mouth about how he will achieve this, or that, or the other; instead, he tends to leave that to other, often inferior, mixed martial artists.
Frank began training in MMA around the time he joined the Reserves, and quickly achieved success in the amateur ranks. That success, though, even as Frank turned pro, would not deter him from the military duties in which he takes such great pride: “My feelings about defending the United States are as strong as they come,” Frank told The MMA Vanguard. “I love this country and what it has to offer, the foundation it was built on, and it’s because of those feelings that I swore an oath to defend it against all enemies, and that’s something that I don’t take lightly.”
The military, in turn, has imbued Frank with even more tools to succeed in Mixed Martial Arts. “It has definitely played a part,” Frank explains. “The military provided me with the discipline and maturity I needed at a crucial time in my life. I have always had the work ethic and drive, but it wasn’t until I joined the military that I realized how to apply it.”
Those mental attributes have been every bit as important in Frank’s prize fighting career as his outstanding athleticism. However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Master Sergeant Sforza. A quick glance at his perfect 6-0 professional record shows two multiple year lay-offs, spells of inactivity that have been beyond Frank’s control.
“There have been times were I was unable to compete or train for extended periods of time because of both my military career as well as my civilian Law Enforcement career. But when it comes down to it, I have obligations and responsibilities greater than my MMA career, and at times more important. As much as I would love to train full time and fight every month, it’s sometimes just not an option and I have had to accept that a few different times. With that said, my leadership within my military unit as well as my Police Department have been more than supportive of my fighting career. Just sometimes real life takes priority, and you have to put things you enjoy to the side for a bit.”
Spells spent not training and not competing can have disastrous consequences for athletes in any sport. In MMA in particular, the game has evolved a huge amount since Frank’s amateur debut in 2010, and athletes have become ever more dedicated, and more skilled. With a greater talent pool to draw from, a seemingly endless list of world class coaches in all martial arts disciplines spread all over the world, as well as improvements to the sporting sciences, it’s testament to Frank Sforza that he has bridged all of those gaps, and remains one of the most promising, intriguing, and marketable prospects in MMA.
It started, as has already been ascertained, in 2010. “I started training in MMA right after I separated from active duty USAF in April of [that year],” Frank told The MMA Vanguard. “It’s actually one of the reasons I got out of active duty. I had been on several deployments and I was ready to begin a different chapter in my life. I had been watching the sport grow since the first episode of [The Ultimate Fighter]. After watching, I instantly knew that I could compete at a high level and so it had been a goal of mine for years. I walked into South Shore Sportfighting as soon as I returned home and started training immediately, while pursuing my BA degree full time [alongside]. I went 4-0 as an amateur relatively quickly, captured the Cage Titans Amateur Championship and turned Pro.”
After successive finishes of Curtis Moore, Anthony Hargrove, and Damon Owens, Sforza fought a name that might well prove familiar to MMA fans: recent UFC debutant, Andre Soukhamthath. Speaking of that fight, Frank tells us: “At that point Andre and I were ranked #1 and 2 amateur featherweights in the North East. When the fight was pitched, I didn’t hesitate to accept. Andre is an excellent fighter and a great guy and I’m happy for his success. Getting a win over him in a tough fight was huge for me at that point.”
Frank scored a Unanimous Decision win at Cage Titans 3, solidified his status as the number one amateur featherweight in the North East, and turned pro just two months later – all just nine months after his amateur debut. Today, Andre’s success is a motivator for Sforza: “It was actually his signing to the UFC that partially motivated me to return to MMA after over 2 years off tending to family and career obligations,” he told us, though The MMA Vanguard suspects Sforza’s competitive drive wouldn’t have allowed him to stay away too long regardless.
A first round submission of Nick Maikowski in his pro debut was followed by impressive wins over 3-1 Evan Parker and 9-5 Bill Jones, both five round title fights, with the latter lasted only three-and-a-half before another Sforza submission win. By now both the Cage FX and Cage Titans Featherweight Champion, Frank was showing the world exactly what he was capable of, and he considers this period one of his MMA highlights:
“Every fight I think I would consider a highlight for me. Your average person or fan, I don’t think fully understands the discipline and time it takes to compete at a high level. So every time I step into the cage I would consider a highlight simply because of the amount of hard work and dedication I put into each fight and fight camp. But capturing both the CFX and Cage Titans Featherweight Championships in a relatively short period of time probably is top of the list,” he proclaims.
Holding a 7 fight win streak amassed over just 15 months, then, onlookers would have struggled to predict that he would compete just four times in the next six years – yet if Frank had the chance to roll back the clock, we doubt he would have changed any of the decisions made during that time.
In what he calls his ‘biggest challenge’, juggling personal and career obligations alongside his MMA career would have defeated most men. But as has already been ascertained, Frank Sforza is not most men.
“I had to take a year and a half off when I got hired full time as a Police Officer in order to attend the Police Academy and complete my year long probationary period,” Frank told us. “I returned to the cage for two fights [in 2014-15], ready to continue down the path I had started, then my mother fell ill. She was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and underwent several rounds of chemo. So in order to focus on helping her and the rest of my family I decided my MMA career had to take a back seat. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer in April of last year, and for a while I just wasn’t right mentally to start competing again.” A family man as well as a man’s man, Frank focussed on the needs of his loved ones, and after this heartbreaking loss, he wanted to make sure those around him were coping. Only then could his MMA career resume.
“Once I was sure my family was all set and that mentally I was ready, I decided to come back and that’s where I’m at now. Ready to finish what I started in what feels so long ago.”
Those aforementioned wins in 2014-15 over 20-fight veteran Steve McCabe and 5-2 Taylor Trahan in a Cage Titans Featherweight title defence advanced Sforza’s record to 5-0, with four finishes to his credit. He was, still, one of the bright lights of the North East MMA scene, and yet after a second career absence, questions would be asked about the usual things in these kinds of circumstances: rust, emotional wellbeing, drive, and desire.
The latter two, however, are hard to question in so consummate a professional, and so driven a competitor. A dominant Unanimous Decision win over Spencer Higa at Cage Titans 33 in April of this year saw Sforza display his outstanding wrestling, grappling, and top control game against another experienced opponent. If form is temporary, class is permanent – and Sforza’s skills remain at an extremely high level.
Next, Sforza will face a veteran of almost 80 fights in the form of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Jay Ellis. While Sforza will be a hot favourite, Ellis presents a submission threat, one Sforza is unlikely to overlook. Of the fight, Frank told The MMA Vanguard: “I’ll be competing June 17 at Cage Titans 34 in Plymouth, Mass. After that I hope to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves. I take one fight at a time but I hope to compete a few more times this year at least.”
Keen to make up for lost time once again, Frank represents a dangerous opponent for anyone, and an extremely marketable prospective signing for MMA companies throughout the US. Sforza, for his part, has his eyes on one of those companies: “If I have anything to say about it the future for me is stepping on to the big stage in the UFC. That’s always been the goal since the first day I walked into the gym. I know without a doubt I have the ability to compete at the next level and I’ll prove it every time I step into the cage, no matter who is standing across from me. All I can do is keep busting my ass day in and day out in the gym. Continue to improve my game and evolve my skill sets, which I can promise you is what I’m going to be doing. Like I said before, one fight at a time. Nothing and no one is going to stand in my way.”
The MMA Vanguard has little doubt about that!