Not too long ago, bantamweight up and comer Zac Riley was under .500 and chances of him getting up to the bigger stages of MMA seemed like a longshot.
However, Riley has been able to turn things around in his last two fights, coming in as a heavy underdog and defeating two of the sport’s more promising prospects in the RFA.
First, Riley toppled previously undefeated Shai Lindsey last December in just under a minute. Then Riley followed that up by pulling off one of the biggest betting odds upsets in MMA history when he got a unanimous decision win over Hugo “Wolverine” Viana in January.
“With Shai, I think it was just being explosive,” Riley told MMAWeekly.com. “He didn’t expect that. Knowing that I cut 17 pounds in 48 hours, I don’t think he expected me to be explosive and as aggressive I was.
“Against Hugo, I was just having fun. That’s all I wanted to do: just have fun with it. Everyone tells me that I’m unbeatable when I’m having fun and I’m doing me.”
Coming in on short notice and being a huge underdog might deter some fighters, but for Riley it’s all par for the course and it’s a role he relishes.
“I like things when they’re short notice because you don’t have time to think about it,” he said. “I’ve had short notice fights my entire career, so I’m pretty used to it by now.
“I think for the rest of my career I’m going to be the underdog until I become No. 1. I’m used it to now. I like it. I like being doubted. I’ve been put at 1-percent chance of winning and have still come out victorious.”
Riley (4-3) will look to pick up his third straight win for the RFA this Friday in Broomfield, Colorado, when he takes on another rising star in Boston Salmon (5-0) in a main card 135-pound fight.
“I just need to do me and have fun,” said Riley. “I’ll just beat him and out-power him, and do what everyone else couldn’t do before.
“He’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a battle. He’s well-rounded. He’s going to be quick, strong, and it’s going to be a good fight. I can’t wait to get in there with him and see what he’s about.”
Having turned his career around in the RFA, Riley knows now is the time if he’s going to make his move up and prove he can hang at the next level of MMA.
“Every single fight I’ve been pushing myself further and further,” he said. “I know this is the best time for me continue this career and stay on this path, and hopefully get to that #1 spot.
“I take it fight by fight for now, because you never know who’s going to call. Anybody can call with a big fight at any moment, so you’ve just got to go fight by fight.”