Coming into 2019, bantamweight Justin Wetzell most likely could not have predicted how his year was going to play out.
Following his first round TKO win over Steven Merrill at Caged Aggression 24 in March, Wetzell was forced to wait eight months before he could return to the cage following the cancellation of his October bout versus Adam Martinez for the LFA.
“I had a fight with Merrill, who was an LFA veteran, it was good to get him out first and then lift myself up from that,” Wetzell told MMAWeekly.com. “I wanted to keep training and keep leveling up and getting better.
“The fight in October with Martinez was going to be kind of my chance to break through, being on AXS TV, and kind of be the chance to show that I was going to be ready for the next stage. I was so pumped for that and ready to go, and we all know what happened. AXS TV got dropped, my opponent dropped out, and it seemed like anything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
Rather than get disheartened, Wetzell stayed in the gym and worked on his game, and eventually his LFA debut was rescheduled.
“I told the LFA that I would be ready for future shows, and sure enough a couple weeks later I get an email that the fight was going to happen on UFC Fight Pass,” said Wetzell. “It’s been an interesting year, but it’s been a good year.
“I’ve made some big changes in my fight game the past two and a half years being out here at Elevation Fight Team, and I’m ready to showcase it. It’ll be awesome.”
This Friday in Broomfield, Colorado, Wetzell (4-1) will make his promotional debut versus Michael Aquila (1-0) in a main card bantamweight bout at LFA 79.
“He’s pretty good off his back, and on the bottom, but I don’t think it was a smart choice for Michael to take the fight,” Wetzell said. “He’s going to get hurt.
“He’s more of a specialist. He likes to take the fight to the ground instantly; he’s not looking to stand and work on his feet; he’s looking to grapple. I’m going to out-class him. I don’t know him. I don’t have anything against him. He’s just going to get hurt.”
While he’s happy to have finally made the move up to the national stage with the LFA, Wetzell doesn’t intend for this to be his plateau, but rather the beginning of a move up to the next level in the coming year.
“I think where I’m at right now, an impressive showing at the LFA it could lead to a bigger stage,” said Wetzell. “I’m happy to be here in the LFA, but it’s not enough, I want bigger, I want more.
“I think if I showcase an impressive fight, maybe one more fight for the LFA title, the bantamweight title, then after that maybe a shot at the Contender Series. But for now I’m not looking past the LFA.”