UFC FIGHT NIGHT® MANILA: LAMAS vs PENN marks the second time in two years that the world’s premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organization hosts an event in Manila, setting the precedent for all fighters competing to come in and make a statement in front of the fast-growing Asian fan base.
On October 15 at the Mall of Asia Arena, UFC returns to the Philippines, a nation whose people have shown tremendous passion and knowledge for the fight game. That being said, a lot has been placed on the line for the fighters competing on the card to put on a winning performance and leave a lasting impression in front of the rambunctious and spirited home crowd.
Let’s now take a look back at some of the big names competing at UFC FIGHT NIGHT® MANILA: LAMAS vs PENN, to understand why this fight is important for them and get to know more about what they are fighting for.
BJ “The Prodigy” Penn, the UFC Hall of Famer and former two-division champion, will be making his return to the Octagon® on October 15 and start his quest for third UFC title. Now training under Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the same head coach as Filipino-American John “The Magician” Dodson, Penn is eager to prove himself against today’s top Featherweight contenders despite his already established legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time. His reason: he loves the sport too much.
“I was introduced to the martial arts, through Jiu-Jitsu, when I was 17 years old. I just love it [(the martial arts]) so much and I still get to do it at 37. It’s a beautiful sport. It’s good that people congratulate me for stuff I did 5 years ago but I can’t live off the past. I want to come out and prove myself in today’s day and age.”
No. 4-ranked UFC Featherweight contender Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas was inspired to take up MMA after watching the earlier UFC events and seeing smaller fighters such as Royce Gracie beat their much-larger opponents. On fight night, he will now get the chance face one of the other fighters he watched growing up, the legendary Penn. Not one to let his emotions get the best of him, Lamas is on a mission to derail his opponent’s comeback, and on his first trip ever to Asia, he plans on converting the nostalgic Filipino fans who are still hoping to see Penn turn back the clock.
“When UFC told me I was going to be fighting BJ Penn, I was thinking ‘Oh my God’. This is a guy I’ve been watching since before I even started fighting. You just got put it out of your mind and think of them as just another opponent. It doesn’t matter who it is. You have to go in there and fight your fight every time and not worry about what their name is. I promise I’m going to turn everyone into Ricardo Lamas fans.”
When Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis started training in MMA, he told his family and friends that he would make it to UFC in 2-3 years. They didn’t believe him, but that’s exactly what he did in 2014 when he signed with the world’s premier MMA organization. Now that he’s actually made it to the pinnacle of the sport, Lewis made another promise on his first day as a UFC fighter: that he will become UFC Heavyweight champion in 2-3 years. Come fight night, the no. 10-ranked UFC Heavyweight contender will look to extend his four-fight winning streak and move one step closer to silencing all doubters.
“When I started doing MMA, I said that I was going to be in the UFC in 2-3 years and a lot of people laughed at me whenever I said that. Now that I’m here, I told everyone again that I’m going to be UFC champion. I believe sometime next year I will be holding the title. I promise you that. I’ll knock out anyone in the Heavyweight division.”
Japan has a rich history of MMA but to date, has not produced a UFC champion. Kyoji Horiguchi aims to be the first. Since moving to Coconut Creek, Florida to train with the famed American Top Team, Horiguchi affirms it was a step in the right direction to achieving his goal. The sport in itself is a global phenomenon and must be approached with a global perspective. Surrounding himself with some of the world’s best MMA talents, including former UFC champion and Filipino-American Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler, Horiguchi believes he is on his to way fulfilling his dream.
“I want to be Japan’s next star. MMA’s popularity took a dive in recent years but if I made a name for myself overseas as a UFC champion, I’m sure that would translate into more recognition for the sport in Japan. A lot of people see me as just a “Karate Fighter” because of my background and how I fought in the past. However, since joining American Top Team, I am becoming a complete mixed martial arts fighter. I will become the 1st Japanese & Asian UFC Champion.”
On October 15 at the Mall of Asia Arena, Cole “Magrinho” Miller will be competing in his 20th UFC fight. A 9-year veteran with the world’s premier MMA organization, the 32-year-old Miller has dedicated his entire life to the martial arts ever since he first discovered the sport back in 1993. Realizing this is what he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life too, Miller has continued to test himself against only the very best in the world throughout his entire UFC career, and in doing so has reaffirmed the same feelings he felt when he watched UFC legends Royce Gracie, Minotauro Nogueira and BJ Penn fight.
“I’ve been a fan of mixed martial arts for a long time. When I saw Royce Gracie run through the tournaments and how he was the smaller guy, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I made my style what it is based on the type of fighter I wanted to be, based on the type of fighters that I wanted to be like – Minotauro Nogueira, BJ Penn. These are the guys that fought standing and on the ground, and no matter where they fought you, it was to finish you.”
Every morning, Danielle “Dynamite” Taylor puts on her uniform as a Custody Assistant for the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department working to one day become a Deputy Sheriff. Then in the afternoon, she trades it in for a mouthpiece and a pair of MMA gloves as she gets ready for another session, training to become a UFC champion. It’s a lot of hard work and she has a long road ahead of her but growing up with a role model like her Mom, she’s ready to put in what it takes to achieve her goals. Danielle reflects on the values that her Mom taught her.
“She’s a really hard worker and she taught me to be a hard worker. She’s just the perfect role model: independent and when she wants something, she works hard and she’ll get it. It makes me work hard and if I want something, I’ll work really hard and I’ll get it too.”
Seo Hee Ham
When Seo Hee Ham first started fighting, she clearly remembers the lack of opportunity and visibility she had in the sport. Growing up in Korea, Ham recalls the time when there were only two women competing in MMA. Now with more than ten years of fighting experience, she is very enthusiastic of how the situation has since improved and looks forward to showing UFC fans just how good women MMA fighters can be.
“I’m very happy. If you grow more women fighters, then I will have more matches. More matches to make and more promotions for women, this will make more opportunities for women. It’s a very good thing.”
Walking into a room, you can’t help but notice Sam “Smile’N” Alvey and his pearly whites. With a contagious optimistic attitude and confident demeanor, Alvey can’t help but smile at the fact he gets to do what he loves on a daily basis: fight and test himself against the very best Middleweights in the world. On October 15 at the Mall of Asia Arena, Alvey will be living his dream once again, riding a hot two-fight winning streak.
“I can’t help but smile. When I walk out to the Octagon and hear the thousands and thousands of people cheering, I’m just thrilled to be doing something I’m so passionate about.”
Before Alex “The Spartan” Nicholson made his UFC debut, he proposed to his girlfriend during the official weigh-ins. In his second fight, he gave his opponent tickets to the event so more people can watch him lose. Now that he’s set to face the always-smiling Alvey, fans can only guess what Nicholson has in his sleeve for fight night. However, Nicholson makes it clear that it’s all in good fun and that he respects all of his opponents. It’s just a matter of not lacking any bit of confidence.
“Anybody that makes it here (UFC), I congratulate you. I’m just better than you. I’m here to win and take over, and I will not be beaten from here on out. I will train harder than I ever have and I will keep getting better, and I will have gold around my waist one day.”
Bullied at a young age, Jon “The Super Saiyan” Tuck found MMA as a means of self-defense and a step towards living a healthier lifestyle. Now a full-time MMA fighter, Tuck finds inspiration in his Guamanian fighting spirit and coming from a small island, similar to the Philippines, Tuck willingly accepts the role of the underdog in every fight and is ready to surprise everyone on fight night.
“I’m definitely blessed to be signed by UFC. I’ve been in the game since 2012 and I’m just getting better every time. I’m here for my island and represent where I’m from. They’re going to know who the first world champion is from this place (Guam).”
Highly regarded as one of the best fighters from Australia today, Tuck’s opponent Alex “The Hulk” Volkanovski is ready to introduce UFC fans to his action-packed and aggressive fighting style that has made him a fan favourite in the regional circuit. While he feels that the call to fight for UFC has been long overdue, Volkanovski attests that getting signed is just the first step and promises he’s going to be right in the mix for a title shot very soon.
“What you look for, I’ve got. I’ve got the record. I’ve got the knockouts. I believe I’m exciting. I’ve got finishes everywhere. I don’t ever play safe options. I’m always looking for the kill. I’m always doing what the crowd wants. Have me in there and there’s no doubt I’ll put on a performance and get that bonus.”
The first Filipino MMA champion to fight for UFC, Jenel “The Demolition Man” Lausa still cannot believe it. Fulfilling a dream come true after years of hard work and sacrifice, Lausa is ready to make the most of this opportunity with the world’s premier MMA organization. Hailing from humble origins, Lausa has been able to make a living through his fighting skill and understands that being in UFC will only open more opportunities for him to create a better livelihood for his family.
“When I got the news from my sports agent that UFC will sign me up, I was very happy and excited. It’s a very great opportunity for me; it’s something that I cannot say no to. When it comes to my fight on October 15, I am preparing and training hard for it. I know that my opponent, Yao Zhikui, and I will put on a great show, as we are both very good fighters. Lastly, I want to say thank you to all the people who paved the way for me to be part of the UFC.”
UFC FIGHT NIGHT® MANILA: LAMAS vs PENN is scheduled on October 15, 2016 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Tickets can be purchased at all SM Tickets outlets or through www.smtickets.com.