At one time, Anthony “Antdawg” Figueroa was one of the most promising young fighters to come out of Cung Le’s Universal Strength Headquarters (USH!) in San Jose, Calif.
Wins in four of his first five bouts showed that Figueroa could make a successful transition to MMA like his mentor, Le, but then things went awry.
Figueroa proceeded to lose five of his next six bouts (with one No Contest) and it appeared his run may be coming to an end, but he refused to give up.
“I kept my head down and kept grinding,” Figueroa told MMAWeekly.com. “I knew where I was and I knew I wasn’t fighting to my full potential.
“I had a lot of things going on in my life, like starting my own gym, keeping that going, and not being able to find fights at 125 pounds. I took some tough fights (at 135 pounds) that I probably shouldn’t have taken or been more prepared for, but I have no regrets.”
Figueroa was able to right the ship and finally make a run at 125 pounds, and has since won five of his last six fights, including a unanimous decision win on Nov. 30 over top prospect Josh Paiva for the King of the Cage junior flyweight championship.
“I thought I finished (Paiva) in the second, but the ref let him up and let him recover, saying I hit him behind the head, but either way it was a great fight,” said Figueroa. “He was a tough kid. He took a lot of shots and kept coming.
“It allowed me to display kind of how I’ve evolved from stand-up to wrestling to grappling to knee strikes and elbow strikes. I had a good showing and thought it was a good fight.”
Having started strong only to fall into a slump and then rise again, Figueroa put himself back on track, no longer a prospect, but a seasoned veteran who is looking to make waves in 2014.
“My record is 9-7 and I’m on my way back,” said Figueroa. “I’m looking to make a name and get into the big shows. I want to win fights and win impressively. Every fight going forward, I’m coming in to finish fights and not mess around.
“I was supposed to fight at Tachi Palace Fights in the February show, but unfortunately I fractured my hand in the fight with Josh, so I’m out four to six weeks. I’m looking to get back as soon as I’m healthy and defend this KOTC title and put on good fights.”