Flyweight Juan Puerta is riding an 11 fight win streak into his upcoming fight on Dana White’s Contender Series. The Georgia native is prepared to swim in the deepest waters to ensure he leaves with a contract.
In this interview with Puerta, he details the matchup with Zhifa Shang, how he persevered after dropping back-to-back fights in 2016-17, what his thoughts are on fighters missing weight for their Contender Series fights, and more.
Puerta will make his 29th pro appearance when he graces the octagon at the UFC APEX. Meanwhile, this next fight will mark bout number 40 for his opponent Shang. This is one of the most experienced matchups that has ever occurred on Dana White’s Contender Series. Puerta is well aware of the challenge ahead of him and he’s ready for anything.
Juan Puerta Interview
“Man he’s tough, he’s on a 20 fight win streak and he’s got tons of finishes in his 32 wins,” he began, “I’m expecting a war man. I’m expecting the toughest fight of my career, but I’m also expecting to be the toughest fight of his career. He has great submissions and he hits really hard with his backhand so he’s gonna really try to land that right hand on me. I’m gonna work what I always do, which is my wrestling. Gonna cut those lines until I get a submission or a TKO.”
The Contender Series has long hosted the moniker of being the world’s hardest job interview, in large part because winning sometimes isn’t enough. Puerta knows Dana and the UFC brass love finishes, but he’s not going to force anything.
“I’ve been worrying a lot about performing and giving Dana what he wants to see,” Puerta revealed, “But to be honest, I think that we’ve pretty much done all the work that needs to be done. We’re not like other flyweights who have been on the Contender Series. A lot of them have like 5 fights, I’m going on my 29th fight. So I’m keeping focused on doing what I do best, fight my heart out, and do fight the best to my abilities.”
Ability To Bounce Back
Puerta suffered the only losing streak of his career a few years back, but he persevered and came back in a big way. His first loss was especially unfortunate because it was due to a shoulder injury that forced the referee to stop the fight. A decision defeat would follow that. Then, Puerta rattled off 11 consecutive victories, with six coming by stoppage.
“I was training down here at (American) Top Team and it took me a little while to get adjusted to training with those killers,” he replied. “I think I finally just hit my groove and really started hitting new levels. Also, I realized what kind of dedication I needed to do to reach my goals. Just put everything into it, no cutting corners, really put in the work, and I think you’ll start seeing success and luckily I’ve been able to do that.”
Origin of the ‘Leadfeather’ nickname
“That started off because I’m skinny and light as a feather, but when I get on top of you I’m heavy like lead,” Puerta explained. “Brazilians gave me that name early in my career and it kinda just stuck with me. Yeah man, I’m skinny and small but when I get on top of these guys I don’t let them go. I suffocate them.”
In his 10 plus years of mixed martial arts, Juan Puerta has never missed weight. That’s unlike several competitors on this season’s Contender Series, as five fighters have weighed in over the limit.
“Man I don’t know how it’s happened so much,” he stated, “A few weeks ago Jake Hadley got a contract after missing weight, which is a little crazy to me, but Dana’s the boss. At this level, you gotta make weight. It’s unprofessional, you’re undisciplined, you gotta hold yourself accountable. And man this fight is to get into the UFC, how do you show up overweight? It’s crazy.I don’t know what to say. All I know is I’ve never missed weight and I’ll make weight next week.”
Make sure to tune in on Nov. 2 as Juan Puerta takes on Zhifa Shang on week 10 of Dana White’s Contender Series.
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Ryan Truland is an MMA writer who conducts interviews with athletes, provides creative pieces, and whatever else is needed to keep readers up to date on the latest and greatest MMA news.