Elias Egozi can't avoid putting his back against the wall. When he's not training for his first mixed martial arts fight since knee surgery, he's trying to get his new medical dispensary, Alto
, off the ground in south Denver amid medical marijuana's lowest sales in the last decade. There are plenty of reasons for optimism, however.
The amateur MMA fighter, a member of Elevation Fight Team
, plans to have Alto open for recreational sales by the start of 2023, and just released his rosin brand, Egozi
, at a handful of dispensaries in the metro area to strong reviews. As his October 15 fight against Drew Johnson at Stampede in Aurora approaches, Egozi won't be taking breaks in the lab.
"During fight week, I usually work extra," he says.
Martial arts help Egozi stay balanced. And just like the rosin he presses, the welterweight says he thrives under pressure. We sat down with Egozi, who spends his days training with UFC fighters, to learn more about his upcoming match and how he balances MMA training with running a new cannabis business.
Westword: How have the new businesses been doing since you opened in June?
The store has been good, but the medical side is a little slow. We're moving toward recreational sales, probably by the first of next year. We're already doing wholesale recreational rosin, too, which has been the main focus. The medical store was fun to open and we'll see what happens, but the focus has been in the back of the house. The first drops started last week, and we hit Eclipse in Boulder. We hit Reefer Madness, Little Brown House and the Center today.
How hard is it to train for a fight while also getting a new business off the ground?
It's been fucking hard. Really hard. Not just physically, but mentally. I don't have the same mental energy that I thought I would. I'm also realizing that my teammates are able to train harder sessions because after they train, they go home and hang out, but I have to come here to work for a few hours before going back to train. It takes a toll.
There's this constant fear that if I'm focusing on one thing, then I'm falling behind on the other. There's a lot of back-and-forth going on, but I've been managing. It's just another challenge to being a cage fighter and cannabis operator.
If you had to choose a state to do both in, Colorado is tough to beat.
Oh, yeah. There's nowhere else where you actually have a chance to be successful at both. You might be able to choose one or the other, depending on where else you were. It's really cool here, though, and there's some sick MMA and great cannabis opportunities. I know some people might not think so, but there is still plenty of opportunity in Colorado if you care about cannabis and have a good product.
Why did you start competing in MMA?
I'd always dabbled. I did karate as a kid and practiced a little MMA in my early twenties, when I lived in Miami. After moving out here, I was partying a lot and getting off track in life, and remembered that the gym was a place that kept me honest. I went there one day to break my partying habit, and if I start doing something, I usually do it a lot.
I went to the gym almost every day for about three years and kept thinking about competing. We held some in-house kickboxing fights against teammates, and I did really well. I liked it a lot, and thought it was worth going forward.
Tell us about your fight October 15. What are you expecting out there?
I'm fighting a dude who's fought two of my last three opponents, which is interesting. He's an active guy on the amateur MMA circuit. This is my first fight back from knee surgery, so getting back into shape has been a challenge. I always knew I'd be out of shape, but getting back into fight shape takes so much more. And that last 10 percent of conditioning, which is what we're looking for, that's what goes away first and takes the longest to come back. In most sports, being tired and not making good plays might mean missing balls or catches, but for me that means getting beat up and taking more damage.
It's interesting, because I get to see how he handled opponents and how they gave him or me trouble. It's the first fight where I've had data, because I'm a new fighter, and I'm fighting other new fighters without a lot of data. For me, that's an advantage, because I consider myself more of a mentally geared fighter. Until now, I've been going out there against random packages.
What's your ultimate goal with MMA?
It's an interesting question, because I'm considered old for the sport. I'm turning 34 next week and still kind of getting started, but the goal with everything is to always do it the best that I can. In this sport, that would be going to the UFC, so that's the goal. I'm realistic about it, but I think that I have an interesting perspective starting the sport at a more mature age than others. I'd like to gain enough experience to coach one day and train younger fighters as a way to stay connected to the sport.
What are you getting out of it in the short term? That sounds like a lot to put yourself through.
The challenge itself is an asset for me, because I respond to pressure and like to go big. The fact that I'm doing something that is so hard, and I'm training next to people who are great at this — UFC fighters, champions and geniuses at this — is very inspiring. The physical benefit is obvious, and the mental clarity really helps me as well. For the hour that you're doing it, you really can't think of anything else or you'll get hurt. There aren't many activities that really empty your mind of all the bullshit like that. You might be thinking something on the way in, but can't remember what it was on the way out. I love that part.