On Sunday evening, unbeaten UK flyweight Pietro Menga announced that he has signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC that will see him step in on short notice to replace Justin Scoggins in his bout against former flyweight title contender and TUF winner, Tim Elliott, at UFC Winnipeg.
Menga was hopeful of signing a deal with one of the world’s leading MMA promotions after his explosive first-round knockout over Spencer Hewitt at Bellator 158 last year, but until recently, the call never came.
“I really didn’t think it would take this long, but I was sitting patiently waiting for an opportunity,” Menga told MMAFighting.com.
“I was trying to call people out, I went for the direct route too and contacted the UFC myself. I did try a few different angles, but nothing came of it. I just kept getting my training in and started looking at some other fights.”
Menga felt let down by Bellator after they offered him a second fight in Milan for later this month. According to the MMA Academy fighter, the promotion later contacted him and told him that they couldn’t stretch the budget to facilitate his second outing under the banner.
“Bellator sh*t on me a little bit. They verbally offered me a fight for the Italian card in December. I had my heart set on that and then around September I was informed that it wouldn’t be happening because it didn’t fit their budget, so they aren’t going to give me the fight,” he explained.
“I needed a fight somewhere else. Karl Prince from ICE FC got me an opponent, but then he got injured. ICE FC got me someone else but because he came in way overweight, the fight got scrapped.
“I had four training camps last year and three fights fell through. On paper it doesn’t look like I had a busy year but it definitely was.”
After his win over Hewitt, Menga told the Liverpool Echo that he believed he could announce himself in the UFC’s top 10 after one fight with the promotion. Although the contract offer took over a year to come, Menga knows a win over Elliott will bolster his stock significantly with the UFC.
He also claimed that he was considering moving up to featherweight to compete on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter to get his foot in the door with the promotion.
“This is massive opportunity and when opportunity knocks you open the front door and front kick it to the face – that’s what my whole approach to these next two weeks are,” he said.
“It’s a massive opportunity and it’s a dream come true. There was no way that I was turning it down. Of course, I’d love a full training camp and it probably could’ve come at a better time.
“The situation with the flyweights is that UFC aren’t really signing people for that division at the moment. I decided I was going to move up to 145 and tryout for the Ultimate Fighter.
“Over the last month, I’ve been trying to force my weight up and then out of nowhere I get this email and I was thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’. Look, it is what it is. I’ll fight, I’ll stick it on him and we’ll see who wins.”
Menga thinks he and Elliott are polar opposites in terms of their fighting styles and although he has great respect for the submission ace, he thinks he has what it takes to knock him out on Dec. 16.
“It’s a massive clash of styles, it’s like chalk and cheese. The guy’s so unorthodox, you see him forward rolling into front kicks and all kinds of sh*t,” said Menga.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for him. The guy can go all day and his unpredictability has won him a lot of fights and sometimes it can be his Achilles heel. I respect the fact that he goes balls to the wall and he’s willing to put a fight on the line to please the crowd.
“I think I can knock him out. Honestly, I can see myself knocking him out. A shot will put him down and I might have to finish it from there because he’s a durable guy.
“I’m a realist, this is going to be a tough fight. There will probably be spells in this fight where I’ll have to weather the storm and I do that in the gym all the time. Just because people haven’t seen that in my fights, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have that side to me. If I need to dig deep, that’s what I will do.”