At long last, Vicente Luque will enter the Octagon to battle Bryan Barberena at Sunday night’s UFC Phoenix. The bout was almost booked for UFC Fortaleza, a couple of weeks ago in Brazil, before landing a spot on the preliminary portion of the card in Arizona. In the end, Luque approved the change.
Even though he was hoping for another chance to compete in Brazil, Luque celebrated being part of UFC’s first event on ESPN. “The Silent Assassin”, who competed in two cards headlined by UFC superstar Conor McGregor before, hopes to use this platform to boost his popularity.
”Those two cards I were part of, 205 and 229, were events that took my career to another level, especially with the way I won, two great knockouts,” Luque told MMA Fighting.
Luque’s bout won’t air on ESPN, but having more media in Phoenix might ”bring more eyeballs,” he said, “and I’m going there to get a victory, another finish.”
”My dream is to become champion and I will continue on this path until I hold the belt,” he added. “I’m not the type of guy that quits for any reason whatsoever. I don’t know if I will be the first Brazilian to ever (win the UFC welterweight title), but I will become champion, that’s for sure.”
Winner of seven of his last eight bouts in the UFC, finishing all of his opponents by either knockout or submission, Luque sees Barberena, a well-known-but-unranked prospect-killer in the welterweight division, as the final step separating him from the top 15.
”It’s a good fight,” Luque said. “I wanted someone ranked but didn’t happen — and I was prepared for that, too. Of all scenarios possible, this is a great fight. Barberena is coming off a win over Jake Ellenberger, who once was a high-ranked fighter, a big name in the division, so I think that a win over him definitely puts me closer to being ranked or fighting a ranked opponent.”
”We’re both aggressive fighters, he comes for the knockout and doesn’t shy away from trading on the feet, and that’s why I think the UFC booked this fight,” he continued. “I will be an exciting fight. We’re two strikers, so my plan is to go there and trade with him. Be smart, always. I always go for the finish, but I’m ready to go three rounds if I have to.”
Just like the Brazilian, Barberena scored most of his wins by way of stoppage. Aside from Warlley Alves, who survived three rounds to lose a decision in 2016, “Bam Bam” stopped both Jake and Joe Ellenberger brothers, Sage Northcutt and Joe Proctor in the Octagon.
”He’s really awkward on the feet,” Luque said of Barberena. “He’s a southpaw and very unorthodox, but we were able to analyze him and find some holes in his game and some tendencies he makes, so trading with him on the feet is a good way to win. I see an advantage for me on the ground as well, even more than the striking area, so taking him down is another possibility.”
Headlined by Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez, UFC Phoenix takes place at the Talking Stick Resort Arena and airs live on ESPN.