Source: TSN: The Canadian Press
Stabbed and shot, Edward (Falo) Faaloloto knows all about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He lived on the streets and ran with the wrong crowd.
Today Faaloloto is studying to be an English teacher and looking to take the next step in a fledgling mixed martial arts career.
The 26-year-old lightweight, who credits martial arts and the U.S. Navy for helping him turn his life around, makes his World Extreme Cagefighting debut Thursday against Anthony (The Assassin) Njokuani at WEC 52 in Las Vegas.
Former featherweight champion Urijah (The California Kid) Faber moves down to 135 pounds in the man event to face Japanese bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki in the main event of the WEC's penultimate card before it is absorbed by the UFC.
Faaloloto came to the attention of the UFC-WEC through past training connections with veteran UFC middleweight Chris (The Crippler) Leben, who is now based out of Hawaii.
Asked how to properly pronounce Faaloloto, the soft-spoken fighter offers: "It's just every letter sounded out" before intoning far-ar-low-low-toe.
"Mostly everybody calls me Falo," he added.
Faaloloto, whose heritage is Samoan-Italian, was born in Hawaii but left as a baby and grew up in Long Beach, Calif.
Little about his story is routine.
He was brought up by his grandparents and didn't meet his mother until he was 10.
"I had no idea she even existed," he told The Canadian Press. "The way I was brought up was my grandparents were my parents. That was what I was told until I was 10 years old, when my grandfather had a stroke and was no longer able to care for us and he told us the truth. And they told me I need to go back to my mom so somebody could care for me."
The move reunited him with his mother and he got to meet a half-brother and two half-sisters.
"It works out well now, but for the most part, no, it did not work out at all. From about 10 'til now I've basically always lived on my own. I had a lot of trouble with my family, we never really got along, saw eye to eye. And I would leave home a lot, basically either live on the street or just with friends."
He has never met his father.
"I have no idea who he is or what he looks like. The only thing I know about him is that he was an Italian service member."
The family shakeup was severe, but Faaloloto said it forced him to grow up. Unfortunately it also led to running with the wrong crowd. He never joined a gang but was surrounded by them.
Martial arts became his saving grace. But it could not keep him safe.
He was shot in the hand when he was 17, two weeks before his high school graduation. Faaloloto and a friend were hosting a pre-graduation party and the multi-ethnic guest list was apparently targeted by the local African-American gang.
"It was a flesh wound, it actually ricocheted off my bone," said Faaloloto. "But the deepest wound wasn't the fact that I was shot, it was one of my good friends was actually killed right next to me during the shooting."
He was stabbed about a month before he was due to enter the navy.
"I was just walking back from a party. There was that one homeless guy you always see around the neighbourhood, you don't know who he is, you don't really talk to him but you always see him," Faaloloto said. "And I was drunk one night walking home and he had asked me for some change and I told him I didn't have any. And he tried to rob me.
"I fought him off and I guess another one of his friends came in from the side and all I saw was a flash, the light reflecting off something metal and he did like an overhand downward stab movement towards my face. I just reacted with a martial arts block, but I blocked the blade instead of his hand and the blade went into my arm. I fought the guy off, then I ran home. I was about maybe 50 yard from my front door when I bled out and just passed out on the ground. I guess my uncle saw somebody fall on the ground, he walked over to see who it was and it was me. And they rushed me to the hospital."
In the navy, Faaloloto continued a martial arts education that had started as a kid.
He started training seriously in Long Beach -- another bid to escape "getting into trouble and messing around with the wrong people."
He was around 14-15 in the 10th grade when a cousin brought him to his dojo and introduced him to his sensei, Paul Padilla, "and from then on he just straightened me out, started me on the path to martial arts."
"It saved my life, I would say," he said of martial arts.
The Navy also threw him a lifeline.
"A very good experience ... it straightened me out a lot. That's actually why I joined the military."
"I decided it was time for me to either get my life together or wait until it ended," he added.
He spent five years in the Navy, getting out in October 2008.
Based in San Diego, he was a bosun's mate, part of a team that would investigate and search ships coming out of the Middle East.
"Everything from search and seize to controlling the ships, to taking over a ship if needed."
His job was a breacher, tasked with cutting open doors.
"I was basically the guy with big tank carrying the torch. So I was a walking bomb, walking on the ship."
Most of his amateur fights took place in San Diego when he was in the military. But a transfer to Hawaii put a stop to that.
Faaloloto was an admiral's bodyguard/driver. The job involved being around a lot of dignitaries and the Navy wasn't impressed when Faaloloto showed up with a black eye courtesy of a training session. They put an end to his fighting.
That prompted him to leave the navy, so he could combine fighting with school.
"It was really hard," he said of the decision. "Because at the time I had every intention of finishing out my 20 years. But I had to decide whether I was going to pursue my dream or pursue the military. And I decided to go for my dream."
He remained in Hawaii to be closer to his four-year-old daughter who lives with her mother.
A student at Kapi'olani Community College whose ultimate goal is "to help others" as a teacher rather than pursue fame and fortune as a fighter, Faaloloto says life is more tranquil these days. But he sees positives from his tumultuous path to where he is today.
"I can honestly say I am in a way grateful for everything that's happened," he said. "I think that if some of those things didn't occur, I wouldn't be the way I am now, I wouldn't have grown up as much as I did and needed to.
"So to some degree I actually am thankful for the shooting and stabbing."
The WEC lists Faaloloto as 5-0 although other websites have him as 2-0.
He says he's not surprised he got to the WEC, although perhaps he got there quicker than expected. "I always pictured myself being here at some point in time."
For WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby, the Faaloloto-Njokuani fight offers a couple of endings.
Once built up as a promising striker, Njokuani (13-4) has been stopped twice in his last two fights. A win over Faaloloto and he is back on track. Should Faaloloto win, there's a new lightweight on the scene.
"He's a very talented fighter," Faaloloto said of Njokuani. "I'm really looking forward to seeing how I fare against him."