The two featherweights were prepared to punch, kick, and choke — and everything else you can do in mixed martial arts — each other with intentions of finishing the other man at UFC Fight Night 50 in September 2014. Skelly, who stepped up on very short notice after fighting two weeks prior, handed Soriano his second UFC loss by decision.
Now, in 2017, the former opponents are training together at Combat Club in Florida. Soriano, who’s no longer a UFC fighter, is fighting Jacob Bohn at CES MMA 44 on May 12. Skelly, on the other hand, is fighting Jason Knight at UFC 211 on May 13.
At first, Soriano said, it was strange training with a former opponent — a man who beat you inside the cage — but it wasn’t too big a deal. Now, he and Skelly have grown closer, and the fact that they’ve fought is a running joke in the gym.
“The room wasn’t weird. I guess it was weird for me and him,” Soriano told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I knew why he was coming; he wanted some good striking in. We’re such a close bond that my guy, Henri, he talked to me before [Skelly] came. We show each other some respect in that sense.
“I didn’t care. When I saw him in person come to the gym, I was like, ‘I might have to get a couple of my licks back.’ We always converse about it, laugh about it. He’s actually one of my main training partners now. He fights the next day after me, so we’ve kind of been doing this whole camp together. And honestly, doing a whole camp with him, I know why he’s where he’s at, and why he’s so good. The motherf—ker’s good.”
Soriano’s relationship with Skelly is mostly similar to his relationships with everyone else (besides the fact “The Scrapper” hasn’t trained in Florida for too long). But there is a slight difference in the way they train compared to either fighter training with someone else. All professional athletes are incredibly competitive, even in the training room, but there is a noticeable mini-competition between Soriano and Skelly when they spar, Soriano said.
“Chas is a funny ass guy. Everybody jokes about it. Sh-t, sometimes when we’re hitting pads, Henri’s like, ‘Hey, can you believe you beat this guy?’” Soriano said. “But you can tell when we go, it’s still a little competitive. We still got that competitiveness where we understand we fought each other, and we’re still trying to compete with each other.
“You should see some of our scraps in the gym; I can tell you they’re way better than our scrap [in the UFC].”
The Blackzilians was recently in the news for a split that resulted in striking coach Henri Hooft opening his own gym called Combat Club in a nearby area. Many former Blackzilians now train at Combat Club, one of them being Soriano.
The 27-year-old is more than happy at the new gym and has chosen to avoid any and all drama.
“The aura at Combat Club right now is great,” he said. “We’re not worried about no drama, no split. Most of the thing that had to do with the split was the management and the coaching. The team, we’re still friends. If you went one way and you didn’t go this way, it’s cool. By all means, you gotta do what you gotta do for your career.
“You’re not worried about no drama when you got ex-champions around you. You’re trying to focus on your thing. If I focus on drama, I’ll never get back to the UFC.”