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Though he was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime when he was signed to the UFC in 2020, light heavyweight Ike Villanueva was unable to capitalize on that opportunity, going winless in his two bouts for the company last year.
It was with the motivation to remain with the promotion, along with controversy surrounding his opponent, that Villanueva was looking to make a statement on Jan. 20 when he faced Vinicius Moreira at UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs. Magny. He came out of the fight with a second-round TKO victory.
“There was a lot of things leading up to that fight,” Villanueva told MMAWeekly.com. (Moreira) tested positive (for hormone anastrozole during an out-of-competition test done in September of 2020) and that really lit my fire going into the fight. I was pissed off about that. All they gave him was a slap on the wrist and a little public warning, which is totally BS in my opinion.
“Going into that fight, I just game planned, my coach was real strict on me how to handle my business, and it was pitch perfect. Everything we planned, it happened. When I laid into him that was 13 years of work, my blue collar mentality. It was amazing.”
Villanueva knew it was most likely do or die versus Moreira, so he’s glad he was able to pick up his first UFC win and wash away the disappointment of last year and move on from it.
“This was my game seven,” said Villanueva. “My job was on the line. I have a lot of fight left in me and I wasn’t ready to close that chapter in my life. When your back’s against the wall, what are you going to do? Are you going to fold? No. I’m a family man, so I have to grind for my family.
What's next for Ike Villanueva?
“2020 you can flush it down the toilet. That wasn’t me. It happens. I swallow it with pride and kept pushing. All my hard work paid off on Jan. 20. I got that win and I’m still in the UFC.”
Even though he has saved his spot for now with his first UFC victory, Villanueva isn’t going to rest anytime soon. He’s headed right back into the gym to be ready for whatever opportunity next comes his way.
“My job is to stay busy in the gym and see what they’ve got to offer me,” Villanueva said. “Hopefully they have good options for me. I want to test myself every fight. I’m looking for a good match-up and keep the ball rolling. I trust (manager) Jason House to guide my career, so we’ll see where we go from here.”
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