Following losses in his first two UFC bouts, light-heavyweight Ike Villanueva knew he had to do something big in his bout versus Vinicius Moreira at UFC Fight Night this past January if he wanted to stay in the promotion.
Thankfully for Villanueva he was able to make that something big happen, picking up a second round KO of Moreira and earn himself a continued stay in the UFC in the process.
“Going half way across the world (to Dubai) was an opportunity of a lifetime,” Villanueva told MMAWeekly.com. “Going in there my back was against the wall. It was do or die for me. It was Game 7. Everything in 13 years of my life was on the line.
“I was just a motivated, focused, Ike. 2020 was ugly, so being able to get a walk-off KO on that big of a stage was amazing. It was a memory of a lifetime.”
Though he earned himself a reprieve, Villanueva knows he can’t sit back and be passive should he want to keep his UFC dream alive, and thus is being as proactive as he can be with his training.
“My coaching staff has been pushing me to the next level,” said Villanueva. “Now that we’re (in the UFC) you’ve got to have more ground game, more wrestling, it’s like a chess game, everyone’s here for a reason.
“My motivation is to push forward for my family. Getting here wasn’t luck. I had to fight. I got this new contract, so I’m ready to show what I’m about, and show my worth in 2021.”
On June 26 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Villanueva (18-11) will look to pick up back-to-back wins when he takes on Marcin Prachnio (14-5) in a preliminary 205-pound bout at UFC Fight Night: Gane vs. Volkov.
“When he gets into a slugfest he opens up a lot,” Villanueva said of Prachnio. “He’ll drop his guard a lot. It’s only a matter of time before I catch him. If it goes to the ground I actually can’t wait to show the world my ground game. To get my first submission in the UFC it would be amazing.
“Marcin is very good. Like me he came to the UFC and had his early downfalls, but I know he’s a tough dude. I won’t retreat. I won’t back up. I’ll pressure him. I’m a pressure fighter. Guys break because they can only handle so much pressure. I’m going to be in his face all day.”
With his first UFC win in toe, Villanueva is looking forward to closing out his 2021 on a winning streak in front of as many people as possible.
“I got a new four fight contract, so I’m excited to keep pushing, because still a lot of fight left in me,” said Villanueva. “I want to keep moving. If I can get this win and keep things rolling I’d like to get two more fights this year.
“I want to fight in front of a crowd. I just want the opportunity to show what I’m about. I feed off the crowd. I’m hoping to get two more in and get back in front of a crowd.”