A couple of South Florida city leaders fighting wouldn’t be unusual, but two Northwest Miami-Dade mayors are taking it to a new extreme — with a real “mixed martial arts” match in front of an audience.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez and Michael Pizzi, mayor of neighboring Miami Lakes, say they will take to the ring, or in this case an octagon, this summer. They say it’s all for charity, but that doesn’t stop them from trash-talking.
“He will last 30 seconds,” boasted Pizzi, 50. “I will knock him out, but I am going to catch him and lay him on the ground so he doesn’t get too badly embarrassed in front of his colleagues.”
They have not yet set a date, but the fight will take place on Hernandez’s turf, in Hialeah’s Milander Auditorium, on an unannounced date. Money raised from the brawl will go towards children’s programs in each of the cities.
Pizzi’s share will go towards the city’s youth center, which is slated to open by the end of the year. He said he wants to put money toward activities such as dance classes, martial arts classes and scholarships.
Hernandez, 52, is considering Best Buddies as one of his charities, and is still weighing other options.
Pizzi said he and Hernandez came up with the idea over dinner at Shula’s Steakhouse a few weeks ago.
“This is what happens when two middle-aged men meet and have dinner and talk about who was tougher in their childhoods,” Pizzi said
During that story swap session Pizzi, who hails from Brooklyn, told Hernandez he was known as the “Brooklyn Brawler.”
Pizzi earned that nickname after he won some 25 street fights and boxing matches in a row as a teenager.
“At heart I am a middle-class street kid,” Pizzi said. “In my neighborhood, I used to box at the YMCA and I used to get into two or three fights on the way to school. I came from a tough neighborhood.”
Hernandez has been involved with martial arts since he was a teen.
He calls this fight a contest between “the street bully versus the trained athlete.”
Pizzi said he expects the fight to generate at least $100,000. .
Hernandez said has already had locals contact him to contribute.
“I’ve had plenty of calls from people wanting to buy front-row seats,” he said.
Hernandez said they hope to make the mayoral throwdown an exhibition match on a slate of professional mixed martial arts fights.
Although the fight is weeks or months away, both mayors already have come out swinging, albeit verbally.
“We’re going to have a weigh-in downstairs in the chambers and we’ll probably get into a fight at the weigh-in,” Pizzi said. “This will be really great.”
Hernandez said he won’t add on to his normal training routine. He works out with his 13-year-old son, who studies Brazilian jujitsu.
“I’m going to train as hard as it takes to beat Mayor Pizzi,” he laughed. “And that’s not a lot of training. I might have to pull back to make it a fair fight.”
Hernandez is coming into the fight at 5 feet 10 inches and 193 pounds, while Pizzi is 5 feet 9 inches and 205 pounds. But Pizzi said he already has started a strict diet to get into fighting shape.
“I am down to only one beer on Saturday and I only eat pizza three times a week for dinner,” said Pizzi, adding he tries to fit work-outs into his schedule. “I have lost a couple of ounces.”
Hernandez said he’s concerned about Pizzi’s training routine.
“If he is cutting back on beer and pizza, then he’s serious.”