Cape Verde ia an island nation on an archipelago of volcanic origin in the Atlantic Ocean of the northwetern coast of Africa and about 600 km west of Senegal. It is made up of ten islands which combined, are slightly larger than the size of Rhode Island. The 2015 census said there were 525,000 people living on Cape Verde, and until 15 years ago Yorgan De Castro was a resident there.
De Castro lived in Cape Verde till he was 18 years old, he describes the life there as one of poverty and not much hope, he simply wanted to be able to have a job and support himself, that was his dram. He left to Portugal to find a better life and in Portugal, he found kickboxing.
I went to the gym to get into shape and my first coach, Ricardo Rivera scheduled me an amateur fight. Like six months later I was fighting alrighty.”
De Castro lost that fight but he showed up to the gym the next day which impressed his coach.
“I show up next day at the gym, my coach was like, “oh my God, you have really worked for this, after that you’re still coming? That was really cool.”
Then in 2014, De Castro made another transition, this time he moved to the United States where his mom’s family, including his grandparents and uncle lived in Massachusetts. That is when his uncle pointed him in the direction of MMA and from there De Castro changed his goal of being a professional kickboxer to a professional MMA fighter.
“I came here and my goal was to be a professional kickboxer. My uncle brought me here, brought me to MMA. Same thing happened here, I trained for six months and I did my amateur debut again, I lost in MMA.”
In fact, De Castro calls his amateur MMA career a disaster as he lost four fights, all against wrestlers.
“Amateur in particular was a disaster, I won two fights by knockout, then lost all my fights against wrestlers. They took me down and I lost four by decision.”
Now, he is training with Regiment Training Center including with one of his past opponents Pat McCrohan, who have helped him work on his wrestling. He is also working with Brown University wrestlers everyday and since then he has gone 4-0 as a professional and now will compete on Dana White’s Contender Series for a shot at a UFC contract. At first, De Castro thought that he was being pranked.
“It was funny, when I go the call it was April 1, I thought it was April fools so I didn’t believe it. I got a facetime with my manager, he said this is real, we got a fight, you’re one step closer to your dream so let’s go to work. It means everything to me.”
“I call him next day to make sure it was real.”
De Castro knows when he makes the walk to the cage, he knows he isn’t fighting only for himself, he is fighting for all of Cape Verde.
“I’m probably going to be the first one and only one. We are really small, the country is small, small population. This is big, this is going to be big. I’m not fighting just for me, fight for everybody. This is for all the kids that have a dream, one day they can get it. I’m fighting for a lot of people.”
And he looks forward to one day going home and inspiring his fellow countrymen.
“Show people that no matter where we come from we can reach our dreams and be successful and give our family a better life.”
De Castro is taking the approach that this is a job interview for him and he plans on showing he belongs in the UFC.
“They should expect an exciting fighter, I’m going there to fight and give it my all. This is like a job interview for me, so I’m going to prove I belong in the UFC, I hope I’m going to do it impressively. I’m not just going to win, I’m going to win impressively. I’m going to put everything on the line. This is kill or be kill. I’m 33, I might not have this opportunity again, so I’m going to give it my all.”
In the way of accomplishing his dream is Alton Meeks. Meeks is a former division one football player and well-known wrestler, making this a classic, striker vs. grappler match up.
“I know for a fact he will rush in and try and take him down, he is pretty strong with a strong single leg and doubles, my game plan is on point and I think I can get the job done.
His game plan is to incorporate a lot of movement and use angles in order to get a finish in the first or second round.
And he has a simple message for the UFC’s president.
“Dana White get my contract ready.”