Lightweight prospect Zach “Juice” Juusola hadn’t intended to take nearly two years off from mixed martial arts, but personal circumstances dictated otherwise.
Juusola made the best of his situation and never stopped working on his game. And so when he came back to fighting this past January, he was able to finish opponent Codie Kahler in the second round of their Driller Promotions: Mecca 3 bout.
“I did a lot of mental evaluation and a lot of training and skill building and I felt like I came back and performed really well,” Juusola told MMAWeekly.com of his win over Kahler.
“I felt like my eyes were a lot better. I felt like that year I took to get everything correct; I felt like everything was good. I felt loose. I felt like my fight IQ and vision was really good.”
Even with the time off, Juusola felt like nothing had changed and he didn’t miss a beat.
“Everything just clicked and felt like I never took time off,” he said. “I feel like I was a better fighter when I came back. I am having more fun doing it.”
Having built himself up in the local ranks, Juusola (10-2) will get an opportunity to shine on the national stage in the main event of RFA 21 in Costa Mesa, Calif., when he takes on fellow up-and-comer Mehdi Baghdad (10-3).
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m ready to seize it,” said Juusola of his bout with Baghdad.
“I feel like I’ve just got to go out there and be a complete fighter. I have to mix my strikes up, my level changes, and just go out there and be relaxed and have fun. I can’t second guess myself. I have to commit and perform.”
Juusola has been at the cusp of taking the next step in his career before, and now that he’s got things taken care of in his personal life, he’s ready to fully commit to that move in 2015.
“I’m planning on going to the UFC,” he said. “I actually got a short-notice offer a while back, but I had a custody battle going on, so there was no way I could have taken it because it would have made me look bad in court and everything, so at least I know I’m close.
“Hopefully this is a steppingstone to go in the direction I want to go.”