LAS VEGAS — Vicente Luque didn’t have the most impressive record back in 2014. He was 7-4-1 on the regional MMA scene in Brazil and not thought of as a prospect.
Despite that, the Blackzilians picked Luque up and had him compete for the South Florida-based team on The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians. For that, Luque will be forever grateful to the team and its founder Glenn Robinson, who died last month reportedly from a suspected heart attack.
“He saw what I had and the coaches saw what I had at the Blackzilians,” Luque said. “They knew that I could be a guy that would get consistent wins with the right mindset, with the right work and starting at the right point. He believed in me and I think that was really important for my career.”
Luque told MMA Fighting on Thursday at UFC 229 media day that he will have Robinson in his thoughts this week as he goes into a fight with Jalin Turner on Saturday’s card at T-Mobile Arena.
“I will be honoring him for this fight and every fight,” Luque said. “I honor everybody that helped me out through this way. I think nobody gets anywhere by themselves. It’s an individual sport, but it’s far from that backstage. You’ve got so many people working so that I can go out there and perform. And he was one of those guys that helped me out so much.”
Luque, 26, credits Robinson, who managed him for a few years as well, for helping him get into the UFC four years ago. The New Jersey native, who grew up and still trains now in Brazil, said he isn’t sure if he would be where he is now without the intervention of Robinson, who believed him back when he had that mediocre record and no name.
“They really gave me the opportunity to be in The Ultimate Fighter, to get to the UFC after that,” Luque said. “So, Glenn Robinson really had a big play in that and he also was the guy that gave me my nickname, ‘The Silent Assassin.’ That was Glenn Robinson. So it was a tough loss for everybody, especially the guys that were close with him. He left a legacy, so I know we’re gonna carry that on, for sure.”
Robinson’s death came as a surprise to the MMA community that he was a part of. The Blackzilians were founded in 2011 and quickly emerged as one of the powerhouse mixed martial arts teams in the world, housing fighters like Rashad Evans, Alistair Overeem, Anthony Johnson and Kamaru Usman. The squad had dissipated in decent years, but at one time was at the top of the industry.
Robinson, the founder of the tool company Iron Bridge Tools, managed fighters under the Authentic Sports Management banner and sponsored them via the clothing and equipment company he founded, Jaco. He had his hands in multiple parts of the MMA business and many fighters were thankful for the revenue streams he created, Luque included.
“What he gave, if you really take it, you were gonna get to the top,” Luque said. “You’ve gotta take that opportunity and go and he gave it. He gave it to everybody. Everybody that got in there and showed that they wanted to to work, he was willing to help. So, he was a special guy. Not many people would do that. The love he had for MMA, it wasn’t just a business for him. It was far from that. It was love. He loved this sport and he wanted to make his mark on it. And I’m sure he did. In four years, he had the biggest team in the world.
“His life here wasn’t as long as it should have been, but while he was here, he did a lot. He did a lot — much more than people would do in maybe 100 years. Now it all fits in and makes sense. OK, he did all of this for a reason. So many people that are here in the UFC today and are successful in and out of the UFC owe a lot to him.”