The Elevation Fight Team product is riding a four-fight winning streak with back to back finishes heading into this contest. I caught up with Wetzell on his last day of sparring for this fight.
This fight booking, despite being short notice, came at a great time as Wetzell was getting a tad stir crazy. “I wasn’t having a mid-life crisis but I missed the past two events for LFA. That was kind of digging at me. I’m 28 and I’ve been training very hard. Just being ready for anything short notice to come up.”
The fight offer certainly came at a fitting time for Wetzell. “I was actually at my house watching fights on Fight Pass and playing poker with some friends in the garage. My manager texted me Joey, and he’s just like ‘hey, we have this matchup. This man has already accepted. What do you think?’ Passed it along to some others, liked what they saw, and they gave me the green light.”
Wetzell, like many prospects across regional MMA, has been ardently studying the competitors on Contender Series and would love a spot there but also realizes he’s UFC ready right now.
“I was really stoked when I found out they were doing season five of Contender Series in November. To be honest, man. I’m looking to show up and perform well enough that I don’t have to be on Contender Series. They can see me and say ‘this guy’s ready for a short notice call to the UFC'”
Despite not having much of a heads up on this fight, Wetzell has still done his tape study on Mapa ahead of this one. “I’m a nerd who fights, dude. As soon as I found out who the person was, I was watching tape instantly. I’ve probably watched all of his matches available online. Kind of gauged a sense of his fighting style.”
Justin Wetzell also studies tape of himself as do his coaches. Wetzell has been with Elevation Fight Team for almost four years now and they’ve made gigantic strides in becoming one of MMA’s more notable gyms.
“I give so much credit to my team, man. When I came here, I thought I was someone who was ok at fighting. But I quickly learned that I didn’t really know much about fighting at all when I got out here. Being surrounded by bodies and people that want the same exact goals as you, it’s just going to be a matter of time until you get there. Not necessarily just the coaching of how to throw punches and kicks. Behind the scenes too, taking the right fights, recovery, making sure your brain’s right before you go in to spar.”
It helps the preparations when your primary sparring partner is himself readying for a UFC main event coming up.
“It’s wound up perfectly, man. I’ve been helping Cory (Sandhagen) a lot getting ready for Marlon (Moraes). In order to help him, I’ve got to be in top shape too otherwise I’m going to get hurt during those training sessions. Me helping him get ready has pushed myself to be in fight shape and ready…I’m super sketchy about taking short-notice fights. That’s not something I do but I’m in fight shape.”
Justin Wetzell is interested in 145 lb fights if it makes sense but 135 pounds is the optimal division. A disciplined lifestyle and a clean diet gets his long frame to bantamweight.
A good diet is just as important as proper recuperation and Topical CBD rubs are great for Wetzell. Curtis Blaydes recommended it after a bad kick to the elbow was causing lingering pain and the UFC heavyweight contender also gave him CBD oil in the dropper. It resulted in a ten-hour sleep for Wetzell and now he’s a big believer in the powers of CBD.
Wetzell also made some impressions with his tip of the hat to Dragon Ball Z fandom by wearing the vaunted power scouter to a variety of pre-fight appearances.
“Well, really it kind of came into marketing for myself. I have to stand out and I’m an anime geek. Love that shit. I was watching that stuff when I was a kid, Dragon Ball Z. It was kind of one of the influences that got me into fighting, really. I knew in LFA, my debut I needed to do something to stand out. Saw that and it was just a no-brainer to me…I had a bunch of people that wouldn’t have said anything to me otherwise.”
Justin Wetzell continued, “I would have just been another fighter on the card. But I got eyes from it, people hit me up from podcasts or whatever. It just opens up more opportunities when you separate yourself from the crowd.”
The power scouter is coming out this coming Friday but he doesn’t think the opponent is going to be quite over nine thousand. Wetzell vs Mapa goes down on UFC Fight Pass and it kicks off this Friday at 9 PM ET.
I’ve been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I’ve hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I’ve been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I’ve provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I’ve worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.