In 2008, Ike “Hurricane” Villanueva made his professional MMA debut, though it didn’t turn out to be a successful debut, it ignited a passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. A little less than 12 years later and Villanueva will make his UFC debut on May 13 against Chase Sherman in one of the most unique time periods in modern history. But for Villanueva, there was no doubt in his mind he was going to take this opportunity and run with it even in these times. Right now, he is just enjoying his time.
“It’s amazing feeling, a lot of years, a lot of hard work. It finally came true, putting the UFC next to my name, it’s unbelievable. I think it will finally hit me when I head to Jacksonville next week but it’s an honor. It just shows all the hard work, so excited though.”
He says the real party will begin after the fight though.
“I think I’ll enjoy it after the fight, everything happened so fast.”
But it was occasionally hard for Villanueva to fathom making it to the UFC at times, he is thankful for the support of his family and coaches who kept him positive.
“Back of my mind it was there, I was just trying to keep all my faith. My wife said stay faithful and it’s going to come true. It’s just a test of my will, just a road block, stay positive. But it was in the back of my mind a lot, I just tried trying to push it to the side, not think about it, just work hard like my coaches and family said, just keep pushing and my time will come.”
When he initially got the call he was in the UFC, Villanueva wasn’t sure it was real but once his manager convinced him it was, the emotions came out.
“Jason of Iridium Sports Agency, my manager, he’s always a phone call a text,” hey how you doing” checking on my weight, my family, this time he Facetimed me. I was like there better be something.” Took my work boots off and put my shoes on and said let me see what he wants. I answered and first thing he said was “we did it, we’re in there.” When he told me that, I was full of emotions cause of all of the hard work I put in. I told people since I came back in 2015, I was going to make to the UFC. It was…finally. I’m not satisfied, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Though the UFC was always his dream, it has been a very long journey, in fact, Villanueva took three years off from fighting starting in 2012 after his father passed away in order to get his family life in order. But as he said previously, he was determined to make it. But as little as a few months ago, it still felt far away after the UFC past over him for a spot on his hometown card in Houston. But that night, UFC matchmaker told him that it wasn’t over, but he needed to realize a few realities.
“I got a chance to talk to Mick Maynard that night, he told me it’s a business with your age (36). He also told me, don’t think you’re going to get six weeks to prepare, it’s going to be a short notice fight, you just gotta jump on it. And I’m thankful it finally came, I knew deep down I just had to stay down, age is nothing but a number so I had to stay ready.”
Now “Hurricane” will have a chance to show he is worthy of having the UFC next to his name when he faces Chase Sherman in Jacksonville on May 13. Though the bout is at heavyweight and not Villanueva’s normal weight of light heavyweight. He says moving up a weight class isn’t an issue at all.
“We understand this at heavyweight and I’m a light heavyweight but I’ve been fighting at heavyweight during my career and I’m undefeated at heavyweight. It never affected me, I still have the same power and I’m a lot stronger than heavyweights.”
The matchup itself is an interesting one. Sherman is making his return to the UFC after being cut previously. He put on several good performances but was mostly known as an entertaining fighter and that’s why Villanueva is looking forward to this fight. He thinks the fans will be the big winners of this matchup.
“This is a dream matchup.”
“Crowd is going to love it, I think striking wise he looks good striking but he is not all around, he is always staying striking. I got a lot more I can show, BJJ and wrestling. I got a lot more in the tank that I haven’t shown in this comeback. I only show it if I need it. I was hoping in the Roger Navarez fight I’d show it, I didn’t have to, Coutler fight I thought I’d have to, I didn’t have to. I’m just looking forward to an all-around MMA guy. At this level in the game, everybody is in the UFC for a reason, so I just gotta be ready for everything. But I’m excited for this matchup, Chase is a tough guy, I look forward to banging it out with him, the crowd is going to win on May 13.
And of course it wouldn’t be a dream come true if Villanueva didn’t see himself coming out victorious.
“I see myself winning by TKO.”