by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Of all the top middleweights that could be in line for a title shot in the next year, one name that has dropped under the radar is Greg Jackson fighter Joey Villasenor.
Sure, the former King of the Cage champion has won four fights in a row, and seems poised for a run at the 185-pound title, but several months off due to contract negotiations and then waiting for Strikeforce to give him a fight, and Villasenor has become the forgotten contender.
The New Mexico based fighter understands the business side of the sport, and how politics get involved in who gets up front status when it comes to marketing, but at the end of the day he’s a fighter and he just wants to fight.
“Overly frustrated,” Villasenor told MMAWeekly Radio about his mood lately. “It’s the business part of the sport. Elite went down then all that melee for six months, then Strikeforce buys the contracts out and I fight for them, and then after a few delays, and now it’s been 11 months since my last fight. We had contract negotiations, and then it took five months to finally get a fight solidified. Even then it wasn’t confirmed until like a week and a half ago.”
A fighter’s shelf life can be long or short depending on how things go, and for Villasenor it’s been two years of healthy activity in the prime of his career that he’s missed due to the business side of MMA.
“Two years of being healthy and ready to fight, and just two years of unfortunate circumstances. Frustration is probably the key word. I’ve been really frustrated, but I’ve overcame it, preparing to fight, ready to fight, and actually going in there and fighting is going to be such a relief,” Villasenor said. “That’s my job, just saying that I’m going back to work it feels good.”
Finally scheduled to fight, Villasenor will fight grappling guru Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in his return bout this weekend. Jacare has been mentioned as a top contender to Jake Shields’ middleweight title, but somehow Villasenor’s name hasn’t gotten the same kind of billing.
He knows that ultimately if he puts in the work and does away with Jacare, Strikeforce and everyone else will recognize the body of work he’s strung together and Villasenor will become the top contender in the division.
“I really don’t mind that they’re not talking about me,” said Villasenor. “I don’t mind being the snake in the grass. I was the No. 1 contender when Elite folded, and now I’m in the position to be the No. 1 contender again, and nobody’s really talking about me. I know it’s inactivity, and my face isn’t plastered all over. I don’t have my own TV show. I really don’t mind it.”
Winning changes everything and while Jacare may be poised for a title shot, it’s Villasenor that can snatch it away by beating him this weekend and that’s exactly what he intends on doing.
“If I win this fight that puts me at No. 1 contender, no doubt about it,” Villasenor stated. “I know Jacare’s going to be favored going into this fight, and I don’t mind that. It takes all the stress and the pressure off me. I get to go into this fight being the underdog, and I get to go into this fight with a lot of people not believing in what I’m capable of doing.”
What he’s capable of doing is beating Jacare and then calling for a title shot as the promotion’s top contender at 185 pounds. Villasenor squares off with Jacare Saturday night in St. Louis.