Biaggio Ali Walsh, grandson of Muhammad Ali, taking his own path into MMA

Biaggio Ali Walsh was in a dark place only a few years ago. Drinking, drugs and depression were leading him down a dangerous path. And then he found a 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 decided to go into mixed martial arts, not the sport of his famous grandfather.

Still, the late, great heavyweight champion serves as a primary source of inspiration for Ali Walsh, who recently signed an amateur contract with the Professional Fighters League and will fight on the PFL World Championship card Nov. 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 would visit him. On one hand it was like, ‘OK, this is my grandfather.” On the other hand he was an icon. He was someone I looked up to, someone the world looked up to.

“He’s just always been an influential part of my life.”


PFL signs Muhammad Ali's grandson, Biaggio Ali Walsh, to amateur contract

Ali Walsh carved out his own path in sports. Quick on his feet and physically strong, his passion was football. He was a star running back at Bishop Gorman High school in his hometown of Las Vegas and then played at the University of California and UNLV.

However, when his career ended, he had no idea what might come next. That’s when he “got lost,” as he put it.

Then he made a fateful decision: He enrolled at 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 soon found a home in the sport, to which he’s now devoted.

Why not boxing? He gravitated to MMA in good part because of the variety of disciplines required to succeed, which he has always found fascinating.

“I went there just to train a little bit,” he said. “The more and more I went I slowly fell in the love with it. I said to myself, ‘Why not?’ I’m still young, I still have a chance.’ I don’t want to be 35, 40 years old and wonder whether I could’ve been a good fighter.

“So I dived into the world of MMA.”

Ali Walsh, 24, had no experience other than occasional street fights. When you’re name is Ali, he said, some people are compelled to pick fights with you. “I’d whoop ass,” he said with a laugh.

The MMA world was a different story, though. He was starting late and the learning curve was steep, which he knew would make the endeavor a daunting challenge. 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 gets better every day.

“I’m going balls to the wall,” he said. “… Randy Couture started MMA when he was 34. I know this is different but it’s not impossible. If you have the will, you can get the skill. I’m just taking it a step at a time.

“I want to get as much experience as possible and just leave it up to my coach when he thinks I’m ready to turn pro.”

What about the pressure that comes with being the grandson of a legend?

That will always hover over him but he’s used to it, having lived with the expectations since he first took up sports as a child. At the same time he now feels mixed martial arts is what he was born to do, his destiny. There is strength in that.

“Fighting,” he said, “is in my blood.”

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie