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Frankie Perez: “Suavemente, The kid is back!”

UFC Lightweight Frankie Perez ends retirement and will face Marc Diakiese on December 9th at UFC Fight Night in Albany, NY

Last August, fans of the UFC got to see the first organizational victory for an up and coming lightweight over an established veteran. What happened after that victory was a very surprising moment, Frankie Perez announced his retirement from the sport.

Perez (10-2, 1-1 UFC) had a lot of fans scratching their heads. As it tends to be forgotten, these tremendous athletes are more than just fighters. They experience ups and downs, wins and losses, not just inside the octagon, also in life. It was a roller coaster 2015 for Perez, a January loss to Johnny Case in Boston, losing both of his grandparents, and getting his first UFC win over Sam Stout before announcing his retirement.

Frankie Perez

Frankie Perez (Photo courtesy of MMA Fighting)

In June, Perez announced on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that he is ending his retirement early. Last month, the UFC booked his return against undefeated lightweight Marc Diakiese on December 9th at UFC Fight Night in Albany, NY.

It seemed like a short amount of time for a change of heart, but it took a lot of soul searching to get to this point.

Listen to the full interview below

“After I got done with my Sam Stout fight, I kind of just took off. I shut my phone off, and I hung out with my family and just started traveling for like a year and just picking up and leaving whenever I wanted to,” Perez said while on the SFLC Podcast.

“I was just traveling and I just wasn’t…content. Something was missing and it was weird. Last year was a lot going on. I had two family members pass away on me that I was super close with, so that took a big-time toll on me. Due to that year of traveling, man I was so happy, dude.”

Perez got the opportunity to fight in a charity event to raise money for multiple sclerosis. The fight was scheduled under full pro Muay Thai rules. While Perez trained for six weeks to prepare, it was for not, as the bout was cancelled. While he lost the chance to compete, Frankie Perez gained insight on what he wanted to do. Retirement was no longer it.

“When my manager came into my apartment and told me that the fight was cancelled, I literally broke down and started crying,” Perez said.

“I put a 6-week camp into it, you know? I was just having fun and right there I realized, I was meant for this. But I still wasn’t 100% going back to MMA. Honestly, it took a time after I got done traveling and I was helping my teammates train. I was always in and out of the gym. It was on a Wednesday afternoon and I was super depressed for like three weeks for no reason. Everything was great, my business was great, family was great, but I was just super depressed and I was hiding it. I never knew depression was real until it happened to me. I always thought it was just a lame excuse for not getting what you want.

“ I was sitting on a couch on a Wednesday afternoon drinking a beer with my two dogs and I realized, I’m like, what am I doing with my life?,” Perez continued. “Right after that I started training again and started having fun. I was going to practice and training with all my teammates, getting them ready for fights and having fun training full time and just enjoying doing jiu-jitsu, doing Muay Thai, going back to boxing with Mark Henry, having fun again. I slowly started talking to my teammates and everyone thought I was gonna come back, but it wasn’t 100%. I talked to Frankie (Edgar), I talked to my coaches, and they were like, ‘whatever you choose is in life, man, you do whatever makes you happy’. “

While Perez was ready to get back in the cage, he wasn’t sure what cage it would be in. It didn’t take long to find out he would be returning to the infamous octagon.

“My manager called Joe (Silva). They were super excited and happy to have me back, they didn’t even second-guess me,” Perez said. “They didn’t ask me any crazy questions, they were just like ‘alright, cool. I’m glad to have you back’, they reinstated my contract and (we’re) ready to rock and roll. I had to be in the USADA system for 4 months before I could even get on a fight card, let alone get a fight. I got a phone call about Albany. I was really trying to get Madison Square Garden, being in my back yard, but I got the next best thing and got Albany.”

Perez gets no easy test in his return to the octagon in his home state, as he will take on a young, hungry and undefeated Diakiese (10-0, 1-0 UFC) who was victorious in his UFC debut last month at UFC 204 defeating Lukasz Sajewski via 2nd Round TKO. Perez is well aware of the hype and potential surrounding his upcoming opponent.

“The kid’s good, I got nothing bad to say,” Perez said of Diakiese. “He’s super explosive, tends to showboat a little bit. I wasn’t impressed with his debut, but maybe that was the jitters. I think the guy they put in front of him was terrible. I think to date I’m the toughest dude, and the most well rounded dude he’s gonna fight. I know he’s got a lot of hype coming from Europe, and that’s all great and dandy. Good for him, I’m glad his country has his back…I don’t care what color he colors his hair that day or how explosive he’s gonna be, it’s a new Frankie Perez in there. I’m super excited. The kid’s got a lot of fun stuff that he throws…but he’s got a lot of stuff there that I’m going to take advantage of.”

While preparing for Diakiese, Perez has also acted as the main sparring partner for the reigning UFC lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez for his title defense Saturday Night at UFC 205 against Conor McGregor. With the extra role, Perez feels his game will be ready for anything that Diakiese brings to the octagon.

“I’m adapting to a lot of different styles right now, and I love it because now all these styles are part of my game,” Perez said. “A lot of these guys don’t know what’s coming at them. I can fight righty, I can fight lefty, I can box, I can thai box, I can wrestle. Marc Diakiese never really fought anybody like me; super well rounded everywhere. Granted, I wasn’t impressed with my debut in the UFC either. I lost! I looked like crap. Everybody who knows me knows that wasn’t me. I just had a lot going on and it just didn’t perform. Maybe he comes out here a whole other animal, which I’m hoping. Let’s win some money.”

Throughout the history of the UFC, the term “octagon jitters” gets thrown around a lot, especially with the organizational newcomers. Is it prevalent to someone like Frankie Perez who has fought inside of it twice, retired, and now re-entering?

“You know, it’s crazy, when I first got the fight it was like, “Oh SH*T.” Now it’s real, now it’s real. There’s no pulling back now,” Perez said. “Every time I book a fight, that first week, two weeks, I’m always like, man, do I want to do this? Do I have to do this? Now, after those first two weeks, I’m so pumped now, I’m so ready. I don’t think about the fight too much because I think if you do, it gets in your head, you overthink things and you take it to practice, you don’t perform like you should at practice just because you’re overthinking the fight. I put a lot a of stuff on my schedule to where it keeps my mind off of the fight, and I know when I go to practice I’ll put 110% into every practice, and when I leave, I don’t even think about the fight. Right now I’m super relaxed.”

One thing is clear; on December 9th the fans inside the Times Union Center in Albany, NY, and watching on UFC Fight Pass will see a new Frankie Perez. A Frankie Perez who is having fun and, more importantly, is relaxed as a fighter again.

“That’s how I live life now. I put no weight on my shoulders, I just enjoy every minute of life that I can and I’m back,” Perez said. “I’m excited to be back and I’m excited to make some noise. I’m ready to take it fight by fight and start this second breath of fresh air in the UFC with a nice big “W” on Dec 9.”

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Mike Heck

Mike Heck

Founder of the SFLC Podcast at SFLC Podcast
Mike Heck is the Founder of the SFLC Podcast This is an MMA Podcast for Fans by Fans. We bring you conversations with the biggest names in the world from the sport of Mixed Martial Arts!