Billy Quarantillo has always been the poster boy for the “No Days Off” movement. So just one day after undergoing PRK eye surgery in February, the Buffalo native was working, cornering some of the amateur fighters he works with.
“The doctor said, ‘Don't go to any dusty, dingy environments.’ And if you've ever been to an amateur MMA fight, it's the most dusty, dingy environment you can go to.”
Quarantillo laughs, knowing that he’s not going to change anytime soon.
“I'm obsessed with the sport, and I want to do everything I can with it,” said the 32-year-old featherweight, who faces Gabriel Benitez this Saturday in Las Vegas. “I want to commentate, I want to coach my fighters, I want to coach a world champion, I want to get my own world championship, I want to put on fights that the fans want to see, and I think when you miss practice because you're tired or something like that, that's when people start passing you.”
It’s a mindset to be respected, but after seeing an eight-fight winning streak snapped by Gavin Tucker last December, Quarantillo was forced to take some time off due to the surgery. He did take advantage of the layoff by getting married to his lady, Brianna, in March, but as far as being content with some down time to himself, that wasn’t happening. But hey, at least he can see properly again.
“Coming into this next fight will be the first time that I'm actually fighting with 20/20 vision,” he said. “And I'm super excited. I've grown as a fighter, I've gotten a lot better, I've been working on everything, so I think this little bit of time off is gonna be a big difference in my next fight.”
If you’re looking for the genesis of Quarantillo’s refusal to stray too far from the gym, consider that it was a long and winding road for him to get to the UFC, one that included the usual journey on the regional scene, as well as stints on The Ultimate Fighter and Dana White’s Contender Series. In 2019, he finally made his Octagon debut, and he won three straight to kick off his UFC career, defeating Jacob Kilburn, Spike Carlyle and Kyle Nelson. Tucker spoiled the party, but “Billy Q” has no excuses for the decision defeat. It just wasn’t his night. But for someone who didn’t grow up in the gym, whether as a boxer, wrestler or jiu-jitsu player, Quarantillo has always felt he had catching up to do as a mixed martial artist.
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“I was brand new to the sport, not really knowing anything,” he said. “So I kind of always had that mentality where to catch up to all these guys who have been training their whole lives, my whole life from 21 to now has been 95 percent MMA training and learning.”
And no days off.
“I see a lot of other guys coming up now that are taking days off and missing practice and stuff like that, and I feel like they have no chance to make it to the UFC because everyone is so good right now,” Quarantillo continues. “Everyone who I've been fighting, they're like, oh, this guy has been training since he was eight years old, he's been doing jiu-jitsu, he's a kickboxing champion, he's this, he's that. So I've kind of been only focusing on MMA. I do think there are times where after a fight you have to set some time for your personal life, or else what's the point of this whole thing anyway? But I'm pretty much dialed in to MMA training.”
That means not too much else on the weekend, unless the Bills are on during football season.
“People are like, ‘What are your hobbies, what do you like to do?’ (Laughs) And I've kinda been on this quest to be a world champion and along the way do everything I can do to make enough money to where I can retire or at least have some time to think about what I want to do next. But mostly, I'm all-in on MMA. After this last fight I had to take a little bit of time off, which was a great refresher, but I think sometimes people take too much time off or they miss too much, and when you're not working, someone else is, and someone else is gonna try to take your spot in line.”
Not Billy Q’s spot. He’s guarding that with everything he’s got. Why? It took him too long to get here to step back now. And after putting the pursuit of his bachelor’s degree aside to chase this dream, he’s content with the reality that all his eggs have been in one basket for the last decade and change.
“When I lived in Buffalo, I had my first amateur fight and I lost a split decision in a really close fight, then I decided to move to Tampa in August 2010,” he said. “I got my associate's degree and I planned on getting my bachelor's degree. But instead of doing that, I basically just started training at Gracie Tampa South and I remember telling myself, I did not like the school I was gonna go to to get my bachelor's degree; there were just a lot of things about it that I just didn't feel right about. So, I knew I was committing to be an MMA fighter, and I told myself, your new goal in life is to do whatever it takes to get to the UFC and to be a world champion. This is your goal, this is your vision quest. We have to do everything we can do to get in the UFC and to fight for a world championship.”
He’s halfway there.