by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
At one time, it seemed as if Luke “Lil Hulk” Caudillo was going to be one of those good fighters that had a serviceable career, but never quite made it to the big time.
During his first eight fights in MMA, Luke managed just to break even, and appeared to be on the journeyman’s path as a stepping stone for fighters on their way up the ranks.
But times have changed, as Caudillo managed to win eleven of his next fifteen fights and more specifically, his last four in a row in impressive fashion, all leading up to his UFC debut on June 12 at Ultimate Fight Night 10 in Hollywood, Florida, where his opponent will be Nate Mohr.
Not too bad for a fighter once labeled a “gatekeeper.”
After finishing one of his final days of hard training in Colorado, Luke spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss transformation into a UFC fighter, his upcoming fight with Mohr, and where he feels he stands in the ever crowded UFC lightweight division.
MMAWeekly: Well Luke, we’re not too far off your UFC debut. Tell us how you’re feeling right now.
Luke Caudillo: Man, I’ve been waiting for this for a while, so I’m looking to put on a big splash in the UFC at the 155-pound division. I’m looking to stand and trade with whoever they put me in against. Nate Mohr is just the guy now, and I plan on taking him down and making quick work of him.
MMAWeekly: At the start of your career, you were 4-4 overall and it wasn’t quite clear where you were headed. Was there at any point where you were questioning whether or not you’d get this kind of shot?
Luke Caudillo: At times I didn’t, and at times I did. It was tough, because I jumped right into the pros real fast. I took only two amateur fights, and I went right to pro shows fighting pro fighters, and the fighters I fought were legit fighters. So, yeah and no…I just knew that I could hang with the best as long as I kept training hard and learning everyday. I knew I could hang with anybody.
MMAWeekly: Where you find yourself now looks to be the dividends of your recent move to Colorado and rededication to the sport…
Luke Caudillo: It pays off. Once I committed to training full time and closed up my business… to succeed and get the call to the UFC is a dream come true. You don’t really hear about it too often. I left my family back home, I closed my dad’s business that he helped me open up, moved out here and started training full time. Now I can pay them back by showing that I do belong in the sport in the biggest show in the world.
MMAWeekly: No more ramen noodles or mac ‘n cheese for you, huh?
Luke Caudillo: Yeah, exactly…I’m starting to be paid good now. I have good sponsors now, and Tapout has been really good to me, so I can’t complain. It’s just a dream and I would have never expected it this fast, to move up to Denver, train with the best [fighters in the area], and get my call right away.
MMAWeekly: Okay, let’s talk about your task at hand on the 12th against Nate Mohr. Have you had a chance to check him out at all and set a gameplan for the fight?
Luke Caudillo: We saw a couple films on him. He’s a phenomenal striker, a real good striker. He’s training with Jeff Curran right now, so he’s going to be game. You know, anybody that’s in the UFC now is going to be well-rounded, but my plan is to go in there and beat him at his own game.
If he wants to stand and trade with me and show who has the better hands, he’s going to find out who hits harder. I plan on stealing Fight of the Night, honestly, or Knockout of the Night.
MMAWeekly: A lot of people might be hesitant to stand and trade with an opponent like yours, but you’ve faced some hard hitters like Bart Palaszewski, and kept coming.
Luke Caudillo: Right, I’ve been up there and stood toe-to-toe with all of them. I haven’t been dropped yet, and I don’t plan on it, knock on wood. [Laughs]
MMAWeekly: Training in Denver, you’re literally training a mile above sea level in high altitude. Do you think that will play a factor in this fight, having acclimated your stamina to those conditions?
Luke Caudillo: Definitely. We’re going down to sea level, and I have no intentions on going three rounds with him, but I’m prepared to do five with him. I’m looking forward to it, I’m stoked, and I can’t wait for it. It can’t come any faster, any sooner.
MMAWeekly: The UFC lightweight division is one of the deepest in MMA, and will get even more so with the addition of the TUF guys and fighters from Pride. How do you feel to be part of such a talented group of athletes?
Luke Caudillo: I’m stoked. I feel privileged, but at the same time, I’m ready to make my statement in there. I’m here to stay in the UFC and make my name known world-wide. I want everyone to know who Luke “Lil Hulk” Caudillo is, so if they’re from Japan, England, America, I don’t care – if they’re fighting against me, they have their work cut out for them.
MMAWeekly: Should all go well on the 12th, what kind of plans do you have for the remainder of the year?
Luke Caudillo: I’m at the UFC’s will, and I’m looking forward to fighting whoever they match me up with. I’d like to fight one more time by the end of this year in the UFC for sure, but it’s their decision, so we’ll see. I plan on making some noise at this next Ultimate Fight Night and making some fans. I’m going to take one fight at a time, keep training, so when they call I’m ready to go.
MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time Luke, is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Luke Caudillo: I’d like to thank Sven Bean for sticking with me; my team back home in Nebraska; and the team now that’s helped me get prepared for this, Duane, Elliot [Marshall], Christian [Allen] and the rest of the clan. I want to thank my family and my girl; and my sponsors: Tapout, CA Technologies, Cool Tattoo, Club 3, LA Boxing in Westminster, and T’s KO.
I also want to thank you, MMAWeekly.com, for helping me get my name out there, and I want the fans to check me out, check my website LukeCaudillo.com, and come to Ultimate Fight Night, because I plan on putting on a show for them.