Pietro Menga’s plan was to be in Las Vegas on Dec. 12. He sent in his application to be a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter 27 and there was a casting call on that date. Menga, a flyweight from England, was already bulking up for the featherweight season.
Then an email came in from the UFC. Tim Elliott needed an opponent for UFC on FOX 26 on Dec. 16 in Winnipeg, Manitoba — at flyweight.
Menga told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he was somewhere in the range of 152 to 155 pounds when the message came in less than two weeks from the fight. Menga would have about 11 days to cut nearly 30 pounds.
He accepted anyway. Menga wasn’t going to let the chance to be in the UFC go by the wayside. Accoring to “Pitbull”, he never thought about turning it down.
“Not really,” Menga said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s something I feel like I’ve warranted for a few years and for some reason its only been short-notice fights on the table for the division.”
The problem was his body did not cooperate. Menga, 29, was too heavy and the weight cut was too steep. He said he got to about 131 pounds and UFC doctors pulled the plug. Menga said the UFC gave Elliott the choice to fight him at a catchweight, but Elliott turned it down. Elliott tweeted over the weekend that he was never given the choice and doctors told him Menga was unfit to fight.
Menga (13-0) said he woke up Thursday morning, one day out of weigh-ins, in “a world of pain” and during the weight cut he was “borderline collapsing on the floor.” He said if the UFC doctors, whom he thanked, were not there, he would have continued until he made it — or something terrible happened.
“I was going out on my shield,” Menga said. “No one was stopping me from making that weight. … I was trying to sneak back in the bath to cut some more weight. The UFC doctor was in the room and the phone rang and I kind of stopped.”
When the UFC doctors told him the fight was off and there was no sense cutting anymore, Menga said he “broke down.”
“I was devastated, I was in tears,” he said. “I can’t really remember. It was really blurry the whole phase of events. But from when I remembered, I was absolutely devastated.”
Menga admits now that if the fight had gone off after the horrendous weight cut, Elliott would have had a major advantage.
“I’m a realist,” Menga said. “I don’t think the fight would have gone well for me. Right up until fight week, I’m thinking I’m probably gonna put this kid away. Give me a full camp and I finish him inside a round. I truly, honestly believe inside a round I can finish.”
Three days after the weight cut, Menga said he was still having pain in his back, but didn’t expect any long-term issues. He maintains that it was something he had to do for the opportunity. The UFC called on him twice previously and one time he was injured and the other he was too late getting back to them.
“This time, I’m like, look, I’m not gonna get this opportunity again,” Menga said. “I don’t want the UFC thinking I’m playing games and I’m waiting for everything to fall into place for me. It’s a fight. If this is the only way in, I’m gonna dog fight you and I’m gonna find a way to get into that cage.”
He wasn’t able to get into the cage at UFC on FOX 26. And right now he has no guarantee he’ll be given another UFC shot. But, even after all that, Menga said he’d do it all over again.
“I’ve got no regrets,” he said. “I gave it everything. I gave it absolutely everything.”