Opportunity is knocking for Joaquin Lopez ahead of his Bellator MMA 242 bout on May 9.
Lopez [5-1] is scheduled to make his Bellator debut against James Terry [20-11], a former Strikeforce veteran with five-times the amount of fights as Lopez. It’s a new challenge for the 31-year-old, who takes on Terry in his backyard of San Jose, California.
A California native himself, Lopez never fought any professional fighter with more than six bouts.
“It’s a big step up, just to showcase my skills,” Lopez said. “Just because I have six pro fights doesn’t mean I’m not at the caliber of other fighters that only have six fights.”
Lopez started his professional career 10 years after Terry first stepped into the cage as a professional. With 31 fights, Terry has fought former UFC veterans like Bobby Green, Caros Fodor and Nah-Shon Burrell.
Terry is no stranger to the Bellator cage as he enters his 10th fight for the promotion.
Lopez kicked off his pro career in 2016, rattling off five-consecutive technical-knockout victories. His first four opponents hold losing records, but he fought higher-caliber opponents in his last two meetings.
He branched away from the regional scene by finishing Salaiman Ahmadyar at Legacy Fighting Alliance [LFA] 51 on March 23, 2019.
Lopez is four years into his pro career, but is not new to fighting with over 100 amateur boxing bouts to his name.
“I know he has the experience, but I have experience as well,” Lopez said.
“This guy [Terry] has seen it all, so if I can take this guy out quick, I think that will open a lot of eyes because not many people have been able to do that,” Lopez said. “I’m not going to decline fighting in Bellator because of this guy’s record or the amount of experience he has. I want to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The two share more in common than both being from California. The pair each suffered their last defeat to the same opponent, Batsumberel Dagvadorj.
Terry lost by a first-round bulldog choke to Dagvadorj at Bellator 226 on Sept. 7, 2019. Dagvadorj’s submission win came directly after he handed Lopez his first career loss.
Lopez’s original opponent dropped out before he agreed to fight Dagvadorj at Dragon House 32 on March 23, 2019. Lopez fell by unanimous decision after Dagvadorj turned the fight into a wrestling match with five takedowns.
Lopez took a lot away from the loss, especially from his approach. He implemented a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach ahead of his bout with Terry.
“I lost too much weight too quickly and I was really weak in that fight. It felt like that was a big factor in my first loss,” Lopez said. “I just felt I had to get a nutritionist and strength coach in there to make sure I feel strong for this fight.”
The fact Dagvadorj fought Terry inside the Bellator cage is good news according to Lopez. He is focusing on Taylor, but can’t help but think about an eventual rematch with Dagvadorj.
For now, Lopez is waiting patiently to see if Bellator will postpone the event due to COVID-19 pandemic. The promotion postponed Bellator 241 because of the virus on March 14.
The governor of California, Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order, limiting training for Lopez.
He can only wait and stay optimistic about his Bellator debut. If Lopez has it his way, he will fight soon and often.
“If they [Bellator] want to offer me more fights I am always down for that, I just want to keep busy right now,” Lopez said. “Right now, I like to fight a minimum of three times a year, but I would like to get five to six fights in a year.”