Biaggio Ali Walsh was in a dark place only a few years ago. Alcohol, drugs and depression led him down a dangerous path. And then he found purpose in the family business, combat sports.
Ali Walsh is the grandson of Boxing Hall of Famer Muhammad Ali.
His aunt, Laila Ali, also built a Hall of Fame boxing career. His brother, Nico, is a professional boxer. And now it’s his turn, although he’s decided to take up mixed martial arts, not his famous grandfather’s sport.
Yet the late great heavyweight champion is the main inspiration for Ali Walsh, who recently signed an amateur contract with the Professional Fighters League and will fight on the PFL World Championship card on November 25 in New York. (ESPN + Pay-Per-View)..
“He’s been an inspirational figure since I was a kid,” he told Boxing Junkie. “…It was weird when I visited him. On the one hand, it was like, ‘OK, that’s my grandpa.’ On the other hand, he was an icon. He was someone I looked up to, someone the world looked up to.
“He’s always been an influential part of my life.”
Biaggio Ali Walsh got off to a late start but is confident he can succeed in mixed martial arts.
Ali Walsh blazed his own trail in sports. Fast and physically strong, his passion was football. He was a standout at Bishop Gorman High School in his hometown of Las Vegas, then played at the University of California and UNLV.
However, at the end of his career, he had no idea what might come next. It was then that he “got lost,” as he put it.
Then he made a fateful decision: he enrolled in Xtreme Couture MMA in Las Vegas, a mixed martial arts school founded by Randy Couture. Ali Walsh’s intention was to stay in shape, but he quickly found his place in the sport, to which he now devotes himself.
Why not boxing? He turned to MMA largely because of the variety of disciplines needed to be successful, which he has always found fascinating.
“I went there just to practice a bit,” he said. “The more I went, the slower I fell in love with her. I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’m still young, I still have a chance. I don’t want to be 35, 40 and wonder if I could have been a good fighter.
“So I dove into the world of MMA.”
Ali Walsh, 24, had no experience other than occasional street fights. When your name is Ali, he says, some people are forced to fight with you. “I would kick ass,” he laughed.
The world of MMA was another story, however. He was starting late and the learning curve was steep, which he knew would make the business a tall order. He even Googled: “Is it too late to start MMA at 21?”
Well, Ali Walsh (1-1 in his first two amateur fights) doesn’t believe he started too late. He works full time with coach Dennis Davis and believes he is improving every day.
“I’m going balls against the wall,” he said. “…Randy Couture started MMA at the age of 34. I know it’s different but it’s not impossible. If you have the will, you can acquire the skill. I just take one step at a time.
“I want to gain as much experience as possible and let my coach decide if he thinks I’m ready to go pro.”
What about the pressure that comes with being the grandson of a legend?
It will always fly over him, but he’s used to it, having lived with the expectations since he started playing sports as a child. At the same time, he now feels that mixed martial arts is what he was born to do, his destiny. There is strength in that.
“Fighting,” he said, “is in my blood.”
The story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie