While some may be nervous about headlining a promotion’s debut show on a major pay network, American Top Team lightweight Jose Figueroa isn’t.
Having gone through a series of trials to get to this point in his career, challenging for the M-1 Global lightweight championship on their first live broadcast on Showtime on Friday, March 25, is just another step forward in his promising career.
“I feel like I’ve actually gotten to the point where I’ve got a decent amount of experience,” Figueroa told MMAWeekly.com. “I’ve been in there with a lot of tough guys, this is my fourth title fight I’ve ever been in, and including this fight, that would be three fights for M-1, which is a big show.
“Before that, I had Bellator where I was the local headlining fight for that night and the three fights before that were all title fights. So I feel like I’m bringing in some decent experience to this fight.”
Figueroa has managed to get himself back on track having won his last two fights following a stretch where he lost three in a row.
As he explains it, Figueroa sees the mistake he made and doesn’t anticipate it happening again any time soon.
“I think that one of the problems I had is that I had some tough fights after having a year off,” he admitted. “I’m trying to get in there where I’m not fighting with rust.
“I’ve also had some great opponents, so I can’t blame it completely on rust, but if you don’t fight for a year and have a big fight, it’s probably not the best decision for a fighter.”
When Figueroa makes his M-1 return in Norfolk, Va., on Friday, he’ll be challenging for the company’s 155-pound title against champion Artiom Damkovsky in the night’s main event.
“I feel like he’s got great stand-up skills, but I believe I have good stand-up skills, myself,” said Figueroa of the match-up. “I believe he’s five-eight or five-nine, while I’m six-foot-three, so that could put me with a reach advantage. If I have the reach advantage, Artiom is going to have to come inside, and when he does that, I’m going to have to work some wrestling on him.
“To go out there and be a true mixed martial artist in this fight; that’s what I feel can bring me victory. To have the technique and proper mental game to go out there and stand with him, but also use my BJJ to my advantage on the ground.”
Winning the title will be the most important step in what Figueroa wants to accomplish this year.
“The biggest thing on my mind is brining back this title,” he stated. “I had a lot of injuries and time off, so I didn’t really want to take six months off, and when I did, that just tells me that it means this much to me, that I will take six months off and I will be ready and take this fight as seriously as I can.
“All that matters is bringing this belt home.”
Over the last couple years, Figueroa has proven that he can be put in a bad situation and persevere. And it’s because of that trait that not only has he become a better fighter, but he now finds himself on the cusp of his greatest success to date.
“I want to thank American Top Team: Orlando, American Top Team: Longwood, MMA Agents, my head trainer Bobby Robare, and my strength and conditioning coach Darren Hesselink,” concluded Figueroa.
“M-1 Global is doing a great thing. I feel like you mix the Russian and European guys with the Americans, you’ll get stand-up, great submissions, great Sambo and wrestling, and we’ll put on one of the best shows in the world.”