Kevin Aguilar (17-2) is coming off his first professional loss since 2013, but he is handling his sophomore defeat much better.
Aguilar spoke with Bloody Elbow ahead of his fight with Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4-1) at UFC Auckland on Saturday, Feb. 22. Aguilar compared his first defeat, a knockout loss to Leonard Garcia in 2013, to his unanimous decision loss to Dan Ige in June 2019.
“Whenever I lost to Leonard, my first professional loss, I was a lot younger. Man, it hurt. Man, you never want to taste defeat. I tasted it and I didn’t like it,” Aguilar said. “I got knocked out by Leonard. Me and Dan went to a unanimous decision. Dan won it, but I stayed in. Even though I was getting beat up. I hung on and went to a decision. I still lost but I handled it a lot better. I feel like I knew what defeat tasted like. It was the same, I didn’t like it. But hey, I got in the gym and looked forward to the next fight.”
His UFC Auckland opponent, Tukhugov, is perhaps most famous for leaping into the Octagon and clocking Conor McGregor in the chaotic aftermath of UFC 229. Tukhugov started his UFC career with three consecutive wins. He lost a split decision to Renato Moicano in 2016 and did not compete for more than three years. He returned at UFC 242: Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier and went to a split draw with Lerone Murphy.
“He’s hungry. He’s hungry to come back in and get a win,” Aguilar said of Tukhugov. “That makes him very dangerous. He’s very hungry for a fight and he’s very hungry to win. I’m in his way. He needs to put me down to get a win he really needs. That he’s hungry for. I’m not going to make it easy.”
UFC Auckland is headlined by lightweight strikers Paul Felder and Dan Hooker.