Chris Padilla ‘lost hope many times’ on long journey to UFC on ESPN 55

LAS VEGAS – Chris Padilla has been riding high for a minute now, and after this past Saturday he hopes the momentum keeps on going.

Padilla (14-6 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made his short-notice UFC debut on the prelims against James Llontop (14-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) at UFC on ESPN 55 and pulled off the event’s biggest upset with a second-round submission. Llontop, who also was making his UFC debut, was as much as a 5-1 favorite.

Although Padilla is just 28, he said his journey to the UFC has been more than half his life.

“When I say literally 16 years in the making, it was 16 years in the making,” Padilla told MMA J Junkie and other reporters after UFC on ESPN 55 in Las Vegas. “I told my coaches – we talked about it – I talked to myself and I told myself I wasn’t going to rush a single minute. I know most people want to get in and out, but nope – I wanted all 15 minutes if possible.”

Padilla gave credit to his Fight Science MMA coaches for helping take him to the next level. Before his current four-fight finishing streak, he was mired in a 1-4 rut that included losses in promotions like Bellator and CES MMA.

And going back to 2016, Padilla said he had an early shot to impress the UFC brass, and it went awry, extending his life outside the UFC even longer – nearly eight more years, as it turned out.

“I don’t want to blame outside forces,” he said. “I’m going to take responsibility for myself and say I just wasn’t ready. I was just too much of a kid. I had an opportunity … where I fought for ‘Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight,’ and I fought Jason Gonzalez. He ended up beating me, but I hurt him and I rushed to finish and I got super desperate and I blew all my gas. Second round, he finished me. So I just don’t think personally I would’ve been ready to fight at this level.”

Nowadays, though, it’s a different story. Padilla thinks he’s ready to stick around a while.

“I lost hope a bunch of times, man. I won’t even lie to you. … Every second was what I imagined,” Padilla said. “When I started this sport, I was 13 years old, so I felt like that was the wild West of the UFC, where it was (all kinds of) sponsors, Dennis Hallman wearing a thong, all that stuff. I felt like I came in at the right time because I don’t know how I would have done in the early UFC.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 55.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie