WSOF Champion Justin Gaethje: Here to Perform, Throw Down and Hurt You


Content Provided by: Matt Quiggins Combat Press

World Series of Fighting makes its debut in Phoenix next week, and fans need to pay attention to the fight in the main event slot. Current lightweight titleholder Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje, fresh off his decision victory over MMA veteran Melvin Guillard, takes on another highly touted fighter in Luis “Baboon” Palomino. Gaethje will be looking to keep his undefeated streak intact and is only interested in fighting the best fighters in the world. Guillard was easily his toughest test to date, and Gaethje passed the test with flying colors.

“I definitely always go for the finish,” Gaethje told Combat Press. “If it would have gone five rounds, I know for sure I would have finished the fight. There’s nothing bad from that fight to take away. I was a little wild, but he was running from me and the only way I was going to hit him was to go after him. We’ve trained together, so he knew how not to get hit by me. It was a good experience.”

Gaethje’s fight with Guillard should have marked the second title defense for the current champion, but Guillard was unable to make weight and the title was taken off the line as the fight was downgraded to a three-rounder instead of the five-round championship fight. Gaethje was beyond disappointed.

“I definitely was,” the champion admitted. “I was going to get the finish, but I thought I was going to get it in the first or second. I chopped those legs down and I didn’t kick as much as I usually do in the first or second. I had a point to prove to myself and I really wanted to put him to sleep. Maybe I tried a little bit too hard, but that’s okay.”

Now, Gaethje moves on to a title defense against Palomino, another well-traveled veteran. The pair meet on March 28 at WSOF 19. Palomino is the owner of a 32-fight resume, and the Peruvian is a man looking to extend his streak of knockout victories to three. This won’t be the first time that Gaethje is taking on someone with more experience than him.

“I’m excited,” Gaethje said. “I need these big opportunities, and bigger fights are better for me every time.

“I have been wrestling for over 20 years. Eventually I was a Division I All-American, and there’s experiences that it brings that you cannot learn in any other sport. And I know Palomino didn’t do that, so [for] people to say he has more experience than me is just crazy. You know, I’m younger than him, obviously. It makes sense to say that he has more experience than me because he has more fights than me, but I’ve had well over 2000 wrestling matches in front of some big crowds and some pressure on my back representing my town. I’m from a small town, and we had big matches against rivals from other small towns. People are never going to be able to understand that I have so much experience when it comes to competition that I am ready for anything. I’m here to perform and I’m ready to throw down, and I’m gonna try and hurt you. I’m ready.”

Wrestling played a huge part in Gaethje’s upbringing. After starting in the sport at age four, he went on to wrestle in high school and college.

“Wrestling has defined me in every aspect,” Gaethje explained. “In high school, I saw an MMA fight on TV when I was a kid and I was very interested then, but I was from a really small town. You might be able to find a jiu-jitsu gym, but there was nothing like that where I am from. There was wrestling, and only wrestling. I had never been in a street fight through high school and into college, so I had no idea if I could fight. I had seen it and I knew that I could do that, so I asked my coach to get me an MMA fight while I was in college and he ended up giving me seven amateur fights and I won them all.

“I almost got knocked out once, so I had to go get a gym and start training. And that’s when I really fell in love with the sport. It’s a whole different sport from wrestling. It’s something that I really enjoy, and my athleticism helped me from football to soccer to every sport I ever played, just all coming together to help me in this sport right here.

“MMA is a lot more nerve-racking [than wrestling]. Even wrestling to be an All-American was a round of 12’s, which was a crazy round to wrestle in the national championships.

“The round of 12, which has the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. It’s a crazy tournament. I’m telling you, you have to dig deep. You have to be mentally strong to do that and just to get there, it’s crazy the amount of work you have to put in.”

Gaethje will have to use all of the experience he has when it comes to his fight with Palomino, who has had his hand raised in victory over such notable names as Jorge Masvidal and Jorge Patino.

“He’s unbelievably tough,” Gaethje said of Palomino. “It’s going to take some work to break this guy. A couple kicks here [and] a couple big punches there to try and put him to sleep, and he’s not going to be fazed by those. And he’s going to be coming and throwing just as hard. I don’t see him cowarding out of this fight. He’s going to come and he’s gonna brawl, and it’s a perfect match-up for me because he’s someone who is going to want to fight me. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone came out who actually wanted to fight me. It’s going to be great and I’m going to be ready for that. I’ve been training hard, and we’re going to my hometown and I’m going to be the best I’ve ever been. He could land a lucky punch, but, if not, I’ll beat the shit out of him.”

Every fighter who can identify his opponent’s strengths usually has a pretty good idea of what weaknesses that opponent carries into the fight as well. Gaethje, on the other hand, doesn’t really see an opening in his opponent’s physical game.

“Oh, man, I don’t see a big… When it comes to fighters, the only weakness you can have is being able to mentally break someone and physically break someone,” Gaethje admitted. “I don’t see me being able to do that. I’m going to have to turn his lights out. I’m just ready for a freaking war because I think and I know that he’s not going to back down and he thinks I’m going to back down. But if he’s going to beat me, then he better come ready to lay it down.”

Carrying an undefeated record tends to create added pressure on a fighter, especially when that fighter is a world champion. Current champs such as Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones (not counting his disqualification loss) and Gaethje are among those who have not had to experience defeat.

“I will never be disappointed with a loss,” Gaethje confessed. “I will be upset if I get caught in the first 10 seconds and get my ass knocked out — that’s going to suck. But that shit happens. If it goes past two rounds, I don’t care if you beat me or not — you are hurting.”

Recent criticism has been thrown Gaethje’s way after some comments he made regarding his place in the world lightweight rankings and how he feels he is the best lightweight in the world. It seems that he is his biggest critic as well.

“I’d be calling me a dumbass and an idiot too right now, because I haven’t proved shit,” Gaethje admitted. “You watched the [UFC 185] fights last night. [Khabib] Nurmagomedov is a badass. [Rafael] dos Anjos is a badass. And these guys are pressure fighters. They are good wrestlers, they’re athletic, and they come to scrap. That’s what you have to be to make money and to get to the top of this sport. I have every single bit of that. It was bred into me and I’ve known only that. My athleticism will set me apart from a lot of people. Like I said, I will lose one day and I’m not scared to lose. I know it’s going to happen, but I will prove that I am the best in the world. You can call me an idiot, but when I do it you’d better kiss my feet.”

To be the best, fighters have to fight the best. Arguably, right now, the best fighters in the world are competing in the UFC. So, does Gaethje feel that he has to fight inside the Octagon to truly cement his self-appointed No. 1 lightweight status?

“I do!” he proclaimed. “I have a lot of years in front of me right now, and I’m here to make money right now. I have to take the best option for me. I’m getting paid more right now in the World Series of Fighting than I feel I would get paid in the UFC. I am a bonus fighter. World Series doesn’t have bonuses, and that hurts me because I am a bonus fighter. Every single fight I’ve had, I would have got a bonus. Win or lose, I’d get a bonus. That’s what I’m here for: to get paid. If I’m in the UFC, I’m going to get bonuses. But until I’m going to get paid what I really feel like I deserve, I’m going to be going in there and fighting the best in the world. I want to get paid what I feel like I need to get paid to put my life on the line every time.”

In a good year, a UFC champion will fight maybe twice, barring any injuries to themselves or their opponents. Gaethje has maintained a schedule of at least three fights a year since becoming a professional, a feat that is hard to continue for most.

“I’m unbelievably satisfied with World Series and how active [I am] and how much they are paying me,” Gaethje admitted. “I just think, as fighters, we need representation because there’s no set structure on how any of us get paid. If I get hurt right now in training camp, I have to rely on my own insurance to get medical attention. I mean, I’m sure that World Series would take care of me. But, for right now, I have to buy my own insurance, and things like that should not be happening at the professional level under a big organization.

“We should have a retirement plan just like any other career. To be the best, you have to put your whole life into it. It’s like all the great entrepreneurs. They took many, many great risks to get where they are at, and that’s what you have to do as a fighter. I have been doing wrestling since I was four, and I have put my life into this. So, to beat me, you are going to have to take everything from me. I’m ready to put everything on the line every single time from here until I am done. It’s what’s good for the sport. I’m not even going to have to say it in a couple years, because that will be the only way to go. You better be here to make money and make money by putting on shows and entertaining people.”

“Healthcare is the biggest thing that I think fighters need right now,” he said. “If you have a fighter under contract, then you have to have a healthcare plan for him/her. It should be a rule by the commission. I don’t know what it costs and I don’t care what it costs. We are putting our lives on the line every single time. Every training camp that I make it through healthy is a godsend, if I make it through healthy. I have a fighter who is fighting in a week, and we bumped heads and he has a two-inch gash across his head. And he has to pay out of pocket for that. Luckily, he has insurance. I am very fortunate where I am at and with what World Series is doing for me. I have progressed through the payroll more than most, and that’s because I put it on the line and I am exciting. That’s what you have to do.”

Training is always an integral part of a fighter’s camp. Gaethje’s gym, Grudge Training Center, operates a little unconventionally in that it allows anyone to come in and train. It may seem unusual, but it never leaves them short on training partners.

“Everyone is welcome to come train at the Grudge Gym with us,” said Gaethje. “There’s guys that come train with us and do their whole training camp with us. But when you do come here, we go hard. We all go very, very hard and we kick each other’s ass. I never have a very good day at the gym, and that’s the thing I love most about being here.

“We have guys — a lot of kickboxers, a lot of really good boxers, and then we got a couple Division I All-Americans — so every aspect that I need to get is there. You know LT Nelson — he’s a young up-and-comer kind of guy and you’ll be seeing more from him soon — he just fought for GLORY. Justin Salas who’s now, he’s in the UFC. Tyler Stinson. We’re just a team of killers over here. You come here, you’re not going to have a good day. There’s not a lot of new guys that come in. We don’t treat them bad, but they think we treat them bad because we go so hard. With me and LT, I don’t know how we haven’t knocked each other out numerous times, because we literally try to kill each other. We train hard and we are ready to fight.

“I’ve never made money in my life, and now I’m making some money and it’s damn hard not to stay in bed a little longer or miss a workout here and there. But my teammates will not let me do that, and I’m in a position right now where I haven’t proved enough to anybody — and certainly not to myself and my family — that I am the best in the world. And there is a lot of work that needs to be done.”

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WSOF 19: Justin Gaethje ‘crazy’ like Donald Cerrone, ready for Luis Palomino on March 28


“The Highlight” Justin Gaethje has the only statistic a lightweight needs to back up that kind of nickname: 13-0. He’ll be looking to extend that undefeated streak and retain his lightweight title against Luis “Baboon” Palomino on at WSOF 19 March 28th.

There are very few MMA titleholders at the elite level who can say they’ve never lost a professional bout. Ronda Rousey is one of them, Chris Weidman is another.

Heck, even “Funky” Ben Askren if you’re naming names.

A name that is occasionally overlooked when the topic comes up is “The Highlight” Justin Gaethje, the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) lightweight champion, 13-0 so far as a pro. He’s bested all contenders, even those who failed to make weight, and is scheduled to put his title on the line again against Luis “Baboon” Palomino on March 28.

Gaethje spoke to about the challenge of staying on top, the lessons he’s learned in his young career, and the striking similarities he shares with another tall lightweight in “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone.

Firstly, Gaethje is excited about the support he’ll receive being on “home turf” at the Comerica Center in Phoenix, as the Grudge Training Center in Arvada, Colorado, is close by and all his Arizona State wrestling fans will be in the house.

“This is huge. I’ve sold a lot of tickets and it’s gonna be really loud. I’m sure even on TV you’ll be able to tell.”

His next opponent, Palomino, has landed HEAVY knockout blows in his last two fights. Gaethje is prepared to face the challenge with one motto on his mind: always engage and never back down.

“(I gotta) stay in good position, you know? I think a lot of times people get knocked out when they’re moving backwards. If you’re gonna get punched, y’know better on the forehead than on the chin. I keep my head pointed, I move forward. It’s all reactions, you turn your brain off and turn your reactions on once that bell rings.”

If Palomino plans to go to the later rounds, Gaethje has something in mind there, too. He’s learned to weather a storm and come back with devastating leg kicks, something that worked well against Brian Cobb.

“He did not hit hard by any means. I knew he wasn’t gonna knock me out no matter what what happened, no matter where he hit me or what position I was in. So I started taking chances I shouldn’t have, making mistakes I shouldn’t have, but those are things I’ve learned I can’t do.”

There’s not much Gaethje can’t do in a fight: win by leg kicks, win by TKO with elbows, even use his kicks to set up a highlight-reel knockout with his hands.

But what does an undefeated champ do to relax when he’s not kicking ass?

“You know I cannot sit in the house so, I live in beautiful Colorado there’s so many things to do outside. I love to snowboard during the winter, I love to be on the lake during the summer. I’m crazy, I’m crazy just like Donald (Cerrone). I know Donald, we’ve hung out before. If I have money I’m gonna be out doing something.”

That’s the kind of thing that keeps promoters up at nights worried their main events will fall apart when a fighter takes his love of extreme sports too far, but Gaethje insists WSOF President Ray Sefo has nothing to worry about.

“I don’t think so. This is who I’ve been since I was a little kid. Yeah that would suck, but I don’t do anything half-assed, so I tend not to get hurt so far. Right now I haven’t snowboarded in three weeks. I won’t be going until after my fight. I can’t risk not getting a paycheck.”

Gaethje applies the exact same philosophy in training camp: going full force all the time as he readies for a fight.

“If I did get a cut over my eye, I would try my best to hide it and still fight. I give 110 percent every workout, every sparring session, it’s hard to get hurt when you’re giving 110 percent the whole time. When you take a second off here or there, that’s when you get hurt.”

Knock on wood and hope that nothing happens to Justin Gaethje between now and March 28th, because “The Highlight” aims to go 110 percent at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix on NBC Sports and give fans another exciting fight.

The complete audio of our chat with Gaethje is below.

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10 Must-See MMA Fights in the Month of March


Sean Smith, Featured Columnist Bleacher Report

These days, there aren’t many non-UFC fighters worth watching every time they compete, but Justin Gaethje is quickly becoming one of the few.

Only 26 years old, he has already defended his WSOF championship twice, with those wins coming against UFC veteran Melvin Guillard and Nick Newell. Having beaten Guillard, who has 12 UFC wins on his resume, Gaethje has already proved he’s UFC-ready.

Luis Palomino should be another steppingstone on Gaethje’s path toward stardom, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth tuning in to see this rising phenom develop. WSOF is going to hold onto him as long as it can, but it seems inevitable that Gaethje will eventually make his way to the big show.

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Dana White has found UFC’s next Ronda Rousey on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’

 By Kevin Lole Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – Season 20 of the UFC’s reality series, “The Ultimate Fighter,” was the first to feature an all-female cast and marked the first time the winner of the season would win the championship.

UFC president Dana White raved about the bouts on the show before it went on the air and predicted fans would be enamored by the season because it represented the best 16 strawweight fighters in the world competing against each other.

Finalists Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza, who meet in the Fox Sports 1-televised finale for the inaugural UFC title on Friday at The Palms, are clearly elite-level fighters.

Namajunas was regularly the most aggressive fighter and she won all three of her bouts in the house by submission. She submitted Alex Chambers with a rear naked choke and defeated Joanne Calderwood and Randa Markos by Kimura to make it to the finale.

Namajunas’ boyfriend, former UFC heavyweight Pat Barry, predicted long ago that Namajunas would win the world title. She fought like she was defending the belt, fighting with a passion few others showed.

“I went into the house knowing in my heart and in my soul that I was the best in the world,” Namajunas said. “But to get out there and prove it was something else. I’m surprised by how much fun I had and I’m pleased by what I was able to do.”

Namajunas earned White’s respect early because of her attitude. She wasn’t looking to win by decision, and she fought as if she were behind and needed to finish to win.

White told reporters before the season aired that he’d found the second coming of Ronda Rousey.

It turned out that he was referring to Namajunas.

“Rose is really dynamic and explosive and she’s mean,” White said. “I said we have a little Ronda Rousey in the house at the beginning of the season and she is who I was talking about. She has that mentality that Ronda has about wanting to go out there and finish.

“I really like this fight [between Namajunas and Esparza]. Esparza is very tough. She’s a great wrestler and she takes control when she’s in there. Maybe she’ll outwrestle Rose or maybe Rose has too many weapons. There are a couple of ways this could go and that’s why it’s an interesting fight.”

Carla Esparza knew it was just a matter of time before strawweight women made it to the UFC. (MMA Weekly)

The best fights came in the semifinals, when Namajunas and Esparza were pushed by their opponents. Esparza, in particular, didn’t show her all-around game until her semifinal victory over Jessica Penne.

In her earlier bouts, Esparza controlled the match with her wrestling skills. Penne, though, pushed her and Esparza showed a robust all-around game.

In her first two bouts, her wrestling was the difference, but she was a true mixed martial artist against Penne.

“I wouldn’t say it was my game plan to wrestle [in the first two bouts],” Esparza said. “Going into every fight, I want to do what is smart in order to get the win. If that happens to be heavy on wrestling, that’s what I’ll do.”

Her fight against Penne, though, was one of the best of the season. Penne, who will meet Markos on Friday’s main card, was good enough that she brought out the best in Esparza.

Overall, though, the competition wasn’t nearly as good as it would have been had the top 16 fighters in a different division were stuck in that house for six weeks. There is more competitive balance in the UFC’s other divisions and that would have led to some incredible competition.

Imagine if White had put the top 16 from the men’s lightweight division into the house and instead of watching the women strawweights we were treated to a season featuring Anthony Pettis, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gilbert Melendez, Donald Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos, Benson Henderson, Edson Barboza and the other top-rated lightweights.

It’s clear that while the women were at least 16 of the 18 or 20 best – since fighters like Claudia Gadelha weren’t in the house – the division right now has precious little depth.

The gap between the top fighters and the bottom is large in the strawweight division. Namajunas and Esparza, in particular, are sure to be standouts, and the winner of their fight Friday will give the division a high-level champion.

Building depth at strawweight remains an issue for White and matchmaker Sean Shelby. White, though, is optimistic. He raved about Namajunas and Esparza, and said he was also high on semifinalists Penne and Markos.

“When you think of our lightweights or our welterweights, and even the middleweights, we spent years and invested a lot of money in building up those classes,” White said. “The same thing is going to happen with these strawweight girls, believe me. Girls are going to start popping up everywhere.

“There’s so much exposure now and so much money. There are some really good girls coming out of this season, but you’re going to see this division explode not too long from now. We’re literally launching a brand new class. They came from a small promotion where there was no money but now [expletive] is getting real. There’s money, exposure, sponsors, the whole nine yards, and you’re going to see this division grow so quickly you will be shocked.”


Rose Namajunas ready for shot at strawweight title in UFC


By Nick Groke
The Denver Post

Rose Namajunas fights like a triton spider — all long limbs and sharp movements that seem quick enough to walk on water. Her flying armbar lockup in a bout in Kansas City, Mo., last year forced a submission just 12 seconds in.

The Denver mixed-martial artist is moving just as quickly through her career.

Friday, the 22-year-old Namajunas will fight Carla Esparza of Redondo Beach, Calif., for the first women’s strawweight (115 pounds) title in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The championship bout airs live from the Pearl Theater in Las Vegas on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m.

“I always wanted to fight in the UFC because it’s the largest stage,” Namajunas said this week from Las Vegas. “I knew it would eventually happen but not this quick. I thought I’d have to open all those doors for a while.”

Namajunas, who is 2-1 as a professional, fought through the UFC’s reality TV show competition, “The Ultimate Fighter,” by winning three bouts, all by submission, during the summer.

It earned her a shot at the strawweight title in the UFC’s second women’s division. Ronda Rousey owns the only other women’s title in UFC, at bantamweight (135 pounds), which she won when it opened in late 2012.

“It never happens too soon,” Namajunas said of her rise. “Any- time I stumble or make a mistake, I learn from it. I’d rather take it on when I’m young. This is not a career you can stay in forever.”

Namajunas, a former high school wrestler in Milwaukee, started training in kickboxing and jiujitsu when she was 16. Last year, she moved to Colorado with her now-fiancé, former UFC heavyweight Pat Barry, to train at Grudge Training Center in Arvada.


She quickly made a name for herself in the Invicta Fighting Championship circuit, including the armbar submission of Kathina Catron last year.

But her break came when the UFC invited her to appear in the first all-female season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Her skills quickly stood out. And, despite a reputation as a striker, she won three bouts by submission.

“I’ve changed a lot as a person,” she said. “I’m a lot more happy having fun with my job. It’s not as serious as some people make it out to be. It doesn’t have to be painful.”

If Namajunas gets by Esparza (10-2) to win the strawweight title, she’ll immediately face a growing field. An international crop of fighters at 115 who didn’t get an invite to TUF are waiting to join the fray.

“I feel moments of nervousness before a fight still. I want to break down and cry sometimes,” Namajunas said. “But most of the time, I feel on fire. I’m on point. I’m looking to own this title for a long time.”


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Manny Perez: Thankful Times


by Eric ‘Sugar Foot’ Duran

As family and friends gather around the nation to share thankful memories and delicious food, Manny Perez has a few new things to be thankful for.  On November 1st, Perez decisioned Cesar Holguin over ten, beautifully boxed rounds.  In the process, he picked up the UBF Welterweight title, adding to his WBC Continental, Latin American, Youth and NABA Championships, ” It was an honor to fight for the UBF title, it was fantastic to win it and bring it home.”

It wasn’t winning the belt that he was more impressed with though, it was his performance and how he won it. “My last performance showed I have a lot left in the tank and more great fights to give”.  Perez put on a clinic that night, using his experience and a educated defense to escape pretty much untouched.

After such a rejuvenating performance, Perez quickly returned to the gym for nothing other than love for the sport. No fight contracted.   And for a fighter who has seen it all, battling the demons of unjust decisions, he understood the big phone call can come at anytime.  So when the phone call came to face Victor Ortiz, Perez was quick to answer the challenge, “He’s standing in the way of where I want to be.”

Considering Perez had just competed in a ten round bout two weeks prior and with the bout roughly four weeks away, Perez isn’t concerned with the timing, “My last fight left me hungry.  I’ve never been more focused and ready in my career.  I need to knock this guy out.”

Perez isn’t concerned with the high profile name of Ortiz, he’s tangled with Brandon Rios and Mercito Gesta, drawing with Rios and losing a highly disputed decision to Gesta.  Perez certainly understands the importance though, “This is it, make or break. I know a loss probably means never getting another high profile opportunity”.  He certainly can care less about the judging, he understand his only job is to perform.

So as Perez sits down with his family this thanksgiving, he does so with a big smile and a life changing opportunity ahead of him, “My life is good, my health is good and I have a beautiful family.  Now, I get to perform on the big stage once again.”

Manny Perez faces “Vicious” Victor Ortiz on December 13th as part Showtime’s card headlined by Amir Khan facing off against Devon Alexander.   The telecast also features Interim WBA Welterweight Champion,  Keith “One Time” Thurman.

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Manuel “Manos” Perez inks contract to fight Ortiz Dec 13

Manny Perez Signature Black T

When Manuel Perez won the UBF International Title just two weeks ago in his hometown, he knew the win would bring great opportunities for his career.

Perez put on an impressive and possibly his best performance Nov. 1 in Denver against Cesar Holguin to claim the title. What Perez didn’t expect was that opportunity would come knocking so quickly.

Perez (22-10-1) signed a contract Monday to face Victor Ortiz on Dec. 13 in Las Vegas, as part of the Amir Khan vs. Devon Alexander undercard. While most fight fans were hoping for an Andre Berto rematch, Ortiz (29-5-2) is planning to revive his boxing career by facing “easier” opposition.

Coming off a three fight losing streak, Ortiz possibly bit off more than he could chew with Perez. Perez is no stranger to delivering upsets to his opponents and their promoters.

In 2008, Brandon Rios fought Perez to a draw and at the time was the first blemish on Rios’ record. Two judges scored the bout 95-95, and the third judge had the bout 96-94 Perez. A year later, Rios avenged his draw with a TKO in the seventh round, the only stoppage in his career.

“Rios broke my nose in the second round and although I tried my best to stay in the fight, it was hard with blood flying everywhere”, Perez said.

In February 2012, Perez faced Edgar Santana on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights for the NABA light welterweight title. Perez outboxed and outclassed Santana in front of his hometown crowd in Dover, Delaware. and took a title back to Colorado. The impressive win opened the door to a better opportunities as it led to his beating Jose Miguel Cotto later that year in Mexico. Perez dominated the fight and sent Cotto into retirement.

Perez is known as a road warrior and has seen his fair share of disappointment from bad judging and robberies. But that’s never stopped him from always wanting to fight the best possible opposition.

“At the end of my career I want people to see me for the fighter I am, not for my record,” Perez said. “I’ve gone to a fighter’s backyard and proven a lot of people wrong.”

Perez has shown heart, not just in the ring but where it counts the most. Perez works a full time job, punching the clock Monday through Friday to provide for his family, three boys and his wife of six years.

“Boxing won’t make me rich, but it helps give my family extra to live a good life,” Perez said.

When most fighters argue over their purse and being put on the A side or B side, Perez has been patiently waiting for the right opportunity to enter into the next level.

“The fights have been there, I’ve been called to face some pretty big names, but it was either on a short notice, or for no money at all.”

Perez feels that this fight with Ortiz is the perfect platform to show the world who he is and what he can do. Perez finds himself in the same situation Josesito Lopez was before their 2012 fight in Los Angeles. Lopez upset Ortiz and the win boosted his career.

“I’m excited for this fight,” Perez said. “But while Ortiz is planning his comeback, I’m planning on sending him back out. My career is taking off right now and Ortiz is in the way of my goals and plans.”

Perez is not the only one with a lot to prove, as Ortiz has not won a fight since 2011. He is coming off a 10-month layoff since being knocked out by Luis Collazo, who went on to fight Khan in May. But he has since started training under the watchful eye of Joel Diaz in Indio, Ca.

“I’m only 27 and there is a lot of fight still in me, I will go on and be a champ again,” Ortiz said.

The “Royal Battle” was to be a triple headliner before the withdrawal of the Jermell Charlo vs.  Demetrius Andrade match up. This may now create the bump-up in position for Ortiz vs. Perez to see a major TV spot on the Showtime card.

Either way Perez guarantees a war and the rise of one man and the fall of another.

“I don’t think Victor has the heart to go toe to toe with me for ten rounds, but I hope he does,” Perez said. “The better the person in front of me, the better I perform.”



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Justin Gaethje: Why Are You Sleeping on the Best Lightweight in the World?

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Content Provided by Scott Harris, Bleacher Report

We can work out the details later. For now, just know that Justin Gaethje is the greatest lightweight on this planet, and he is hereby inviting you to watch him paste Melvin Guillard this Saturday at World Series of Fighting 15.

“Do I think people are sleeping on me? Absolutely…I do think I’m the best lightweight in the world,” Gaethje proclaims. “As long as he shows up, it’s going to be a good fight for me, for World Series of Fighting and for MMA and for the fans.”

Gaethje is aware that you have a lot on your plate, what with UFC 180 and Bellator 131 and it being the weekend and you being a normal person and all. He knows Guillard, with 21 career knockouts and a redemption story to unfurl, may have something to say about his claims. So might other people.

But coming into the highest-profile contest of his career, the 25-year-old WSOF lightweight champion (the only person to ever wear the belt, by the way) has a pretty unassailable track record to match his confidence. Extremely powerful in the striking, ground and clinch phases, Gaethje (12-0) has only gone the distance once in his pro career. He’s more than a prospect now, and if any other fighter has a problem with that, well, they’ll probably meet sooner or later.

“They can call my bluff when I get to fight the top 10,” he said in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report. “Someone’s going to have to take that fight. I feed off that energy.”

But for now, Guillard. Gaethje has no waver in his voice when he tells you that the manner of Saturday’s action is not in doubt, and neither is he.

“He’s fast and he hits hard, but he doesn’t like going deep into fights. He’s not willing to get injured in there,” Gaethje said of his opponent. “I’m going to knock him out. If he gives me his back, I’m not even going to choke him. I’m going to knock him out.”

Yeah, it sounds like fast talk, easy to let run right out of your ears, especially in this post-Chael society we all share here. But when you glance at Gaethje (pronounced “GAGE-ee”) on paper, differences start to emerge. Ten of his fights—that’s 83 percent—have ended in a knockout victory. That’s unusual. And he’s not crushing cans, either; wins have come against notables like J.Z. Cavalcante, Dan Lauzon and Drew Fickett.

Like a lot of other MMA fighters, he first got some shine as a college wrestler (he wrestled for the University of Northern Colorado and is now based at the Denver-area Grudge Training Center, where he used to train with Guillard). When he found he had power in his fists, he found he had a career as a pro fighter.

But Gaethje transcends the heavy-handed wrestler stamp. His stopping power is pretty remarkable. And at such a young age, he’s still improving, throwing more combinations and body shots to complement his formidable head-hunting.

“My timing is going to be what people realize most in this fight,” Gaethje said. “And with Melvin, people will realize I don’t move back from a punch. I can take shots and give shots.”

Speaking of business, with three fights left on his WSOF contract and this “best in the world” mantra in play, questions about the UFC are unavoidable. But that’s one of the beauties of being 25.

“I don’t care about [the UFC],” he said. “I don’t even know if I have a champion’s clause. I have three fights left on my contract and I’m going to fight those fights.”

So the jawing is justified, then? Time will tell, as it always does, but right now it seems it just might be. What adds the spice in the meantime is not only the raw potential converting into kinetic energy before our eyes, it’s that he understands the business end of the game, too, based on his talk. He knows what people want out there.

“I know plenty of wrestlers who are 15-0 and going nowhere,” Gaethje said. “This is a making-money business, and the only way to make money is knocking people out. Lying on someone? That’s pathetic to me. You gotta drop a bomb.”

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