Ariel Zuniga tests skills against Harley King at BTC 13: Power. This is part of the $10,000 bantamweight tournament and transpires on Saturday, November 20th live from Meridian Centre in St Catharines, Ontario.
I spoke with Zuniga ahead of this clash. Excerpts from our chat are below.
His last MMA bout happening pre-pandemic and the excitement with returning
“I’m pretty excited, man. I’ve been waiting for what, two years I think. Since the last time, I fought Teshay (Gouthro). I really wanted to get back in there. But with all the delays and everything with this pandemic, they’re delaying the fights. So I’m happy to be there.”
The shift in his training methodologies and working with Joseph Valtellini prior to BTC 13
“Yeah, I’ve been training at Bazooka Joe’s. I’m actually with Joseph Valtellini now. I’ve been training with him and with another fighter from BTC, Matt Speciale. I’ve been training with them and they’ve been pushing me a lot. And they’ve been really helping my game. I’ve been fighting out of Bazooka Joe’s now.”
“With him, it’s a lot more intelligent the way that I fight. He nitpicked a lot of things when I came in. He started showing me a system and everything. He’s really improved the way my stand up is, for sure.”
Ariel Zuniga continued, “There’s a Jits coach in there as well who specializes in MMA grappling. He’s been showing me some new things as well. You’re gonna see an evolved guy inside there. I have a whole different game plan, game set, Bazooka Joe style.”
The lessons that were imparted from that previous prizefight against Teshay Gouthro
“What I learned from that fight was more to play around with footwork more. Just the breathing and everything because that fight was pretty fun that I had with Teshay. It went the distance and everything. But I could see that I was able to push myself the whole way. I still had energy afterwards. You could see we were both pretty tired after. But I felt like I could go more. It opened my eyes that I have a supply of cardio that you don’t experience until you go in there. I just learned that I can go the distance off that. Just sort of small adjustments to my game. Just improvements, you know.”
Being a part of this $10,000 bantamweight tournament
“I got a call by Rob (Veevers). Maybe like two and a half months ago, I can’t even remember. But he just called me. He was trying to get a hold of me but I’m notorious for breaking my phone at work. And then he got a hold me last second. And I said yes, right away. Pretty much he was trying to chase me around, trying to get my attention. But everything was off on my phone. He got my attention. And I said right away, Yes. I’m down to do it and let’s go.”
How much of a gamechanger that tournaments like this can be for prospective MMA combatants
“Oh, yeah. It’s pretty interesting because there’s gonna be more eyes on it. The spotlight’s gonna be us and the bantamweight division. We’ll see, maybe it’ll push forward towards getting a championship belt in that division as well with BTC. Because I can imagine what’s going to happen afterwards as well. Whoever participates in this and they win all three, it’s also gonna add to their record too. So I think it’s going to push us forward. Just a good push for all of us.”
BTC 13: Power
If there is a tape studying methodology for this Harley King fight
“With him, there’s not much that I can go off of. I know he hasn’t fought around the same amount of time as me. There have been some videos here and there. But I’m pretty much just focusing on being a better version of myself. Because you have to adapt when you’re in there. Obviously, you’ve got to train in every aspect of MMA. So I’m just going to try to impose my will in there.”
Parting thoughts for Ariel Zuniga
“Yeah, just come by. You’re going to see some beautiful violence over there. It’s going to be a good card and you’re going to see a better version of myself.”
I’ve been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I’ve hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I’ve been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I’ve provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I’ve worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.