I’ve been in front of the cameras before, so being in a big show wasn’t that new to me. But when I fought in the UFC for the first time, there was a noticeable difference in the small things.
I have never left California, so just being able to fight somewhere new was exciting. I’d never been flown anywhere by a promotion and that was a cool experience. Everything from getting picked up at the airport, to staying in a new city was awesome. The fight was in Hidalgo, Texas, which is a big difference from where I am from.
The way the UFC runs everything is really smooth, like a system. They're on top of things behind the scenes, that’s for sure. It’s like a machine, everyone has their job and their place to be.
Another thing that was different was the weigh-ins. We were able to get up early in the morning and weigh in before the televised weigh-ins so we could rehydrate. I was the first in line for the early weigh in because I was dreaming of some pancakes! It was a super easy weight cut for me, so having the rest of the day to relax was nice. It’s funny, I was so excited for pancakes, but I didn’t even eat them until the morning of the fight.
Another funny moment (funny now anyways) was when the commission realized I was missing a test I needed before I could be allowed to fight. In the state of Texas you need an MRA, and I only had an MRI. The UFC hopped into action and drove me and another fighter who was missing a similar test to the ER, got us VIP, front-of-the-line access. We got the tests done super fast so we could fight the next day. Ironically, after we left the hospital, they realized they had done the wrong test on me, so I had to go back again. In the long run, everything was taken care of, and I was able to fight.
One thing that really sticks out in my brain is the meal (of course food) after weigh-ins. Uncle Dana gave us some spending money for food and stuff while we were there, but I didn’t spend much of it because I was cutting weight and not eating much. So when my team and I were able to have our first real meal, we kind of splurged. We went out for steaks -- really, really good steaks. The place had three different kinds of salt on the table and the most amazing macaroni and cheese with bacon. Everything was hand crafted, and everything was awesome. I got a filet mignon and jalapeño mashed potatoes: it was fire.
After we had that fancy dinner, we found a group of food trucks and ate some more. By the time I entered the Octagon, I was already 155 pounds, I had eaten so much.
Leading up to the fight, I was on a mission to get into Alejandro Perez’s head. Everywhere I saw him, I dogged him, I kept on him. I’m pretty sure it worked, and I don’t think he’s used to anyone as menacing as me. I stared right into his soul.
The fight itself was an all out war, and while I wasn’t happy with the judges declaring it a draw, at least that fight will be remembered. It was controversial, gritty, bloody and we both showed that we were not going to just give up - the kind of things fans like to see. I believe that’s why I was given the shot I have now. Honestly, I feel like that fight was almost better than a win because it was a spectacle.
I felt like I belonged there, in the Octagon. There was no pressure, though. I am a professional fighter, this is what I do. Every fight is just as big as the one before it. The only thing that really changes are the checks.
Watch me as I face the Number 11 ranked bantamweight, Thomas Almeida when we head to Brazil on November 19. I fully intend to dominate him in his hometown and propel myself into the top 15.