At 37 years old, UFC light-heavyweight Ike Villanueva is rejuvenated after picking up his first octagon victory back in January.
Villanueva is coming off a walk-off knockout just 39-seconds into round two against Vinicius Moreira at UFC on ESPN 20 this past January. His highlight-reel finish fell short of earning a bonus, but “The Hurricane” left with a new-four fight contract after meeting with UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard over the weekend.
With plans to retire at the age of 42, Villanueva is trying to make the most of his contract extension. The chance to make a run starts against Marcin Prachnio at UFC Fight Night 190 in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 26.
“I was shocked. I shed some tears because as a journeyman and being in the fight game for so long, stuff like that doesn’t come easy,” Villanueva said. “It feels like being born again. Now they believe in you, they’re like, ‘He’s here for a reason.’ It’s my job to make the most of it.”
JUST. LIKE. THAT. 🤯@Hurricane_UFC with an insane right hook KO!
— UFC (@ufc) January 20, 2021
Ike Villanueva is staking his claim in the UFC
Villanueva’s road to the octagon took a long time, fighting 26 times before making his UFC debut in May 2020. The Texas resident sat cage side for UFC 262 in Houston on Saturday, May 15.
It marked a surreal moment for Villanueva, who was still trying to earn a spot inside the octagon at UFC 247 in February 2020. The light heavyweight is three fights into his UFC career more than a year later.
“To come back this time on the roster, that was amazing. I got to share the experience with my wife and she loved it,” Villanueva said. “People were coming to me, asking for pictures, it was amazing bro. I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome. This is what it is all about.’”
— Ike Villanueva (@hurricane_ufc) May 16, 2021
Ike Villanueva is the older guy
Villanueva is one of the oldest fighters in the UFC’s 205-pound division. After making his pro debut in 2008, he spent 12 years trying to earn his place inside the octagon.
Villanueva is coming with something to prove against younger competition. He is five years older than his counterpart, Prachnio.
With age comes experience and Villanueva has 10 more professional bouts to his name than Prachnio. He is coming accustomed to showing younger fighters he can still hang with them.
“These little young kinds want to try to knock me off, it’s not going to happen, I need to show them I still got it.” Villanueva said. “It’s funny, I get in the gym and these young guys, I say, “Bro, you are my step son, I’m going to beat your [Expletive]. You better go clean your room.”
Ike Villanueva expects Prachnio to shoot
Like Villanueva, Prachnio’s UFC started out slow. The Poland native dropped his first three octagon bouts before beating Khalil Rountree by unanimous decision at UFC 257 last January.
Prachnio is one to let his hands go after earning nine of his 14 victories by TKO/knockout. Villanueva is a well regarded striker in his own right, earning 15 of his 18 victories by TKO/knockout.
Villanueva is confident Prachnio will try to force the fight to the ground nonetheless.
“He is going to try and shoot and if he wants to, I’m ready for it,” Villanueva said. “Whatever he wants to do, I’m up for it, but if he tries to shoot, he’s in for a bad night.”
“I’m not done yet”
Getting closer to 40 years old, Villanueva still has more to accomplish if you ask him. His new deal is only giving him more confidence he can still compete at the highest level.
He waited a long time to be a part of the UFC roster and he plans to make it a long run inside the octagon. He expects everyone to take notice during his next fight.
“I think my right hook is going to catch him [Prachnio] in the second,” Villanueva said. “I’m not done yet.”
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.