UFC San Antonio’s James Vick Breaks Down Gaethje and Felder Fights, Looks Ahead to Dan Hooker

James Vick UFC
James Vick Credit: Mike Straus/Cageside Press

Returning to action at UFC San Antonio in July, James Vick addresses past losses, fighting Dan Hooker, and never being concussed in MMA — plus, some UFC 238 picks!

Last time James Vick was in the octagon, he was on the wrong end of a decision against Paul Felder. A fantastic fight, one in which Felder persevered but broke his rib in the process. The loss put Vick on the first losing streak of his career, something he’ll look to change at UFC San Antonio next month.

It’s a big card, serving as UFC on ESPN 4, and for Vick, it’s a fight in his own back yard. The Texas native has competed four times for the promotion in his home state, and ‘The Texecutioner’ is four for four on home turf.

Ahead of the bout, Vick took time out for an interview with Cageside Press, telling us that he’s been wanting to get back in the octagon for a while now.

“I’ve been wanting to fight for a couple months now. Actually wanted to fight in June, I wanted to fight this month but they didn’t get anything sent for me,” Vick revealed. “Apparently Hooker’s been wanting to fight also.” The good news, with both men wanting to fight, is that the promotion has put together an exciting match-up. Although initially, “they asked me to fight on the Canada card [UFC 240], the weekend after [UFC San Antonio].”

That didn’t make sense to Vick. “I was like ‘dude, how are you going to come to Texas and not let me fight?’ I was like ‘just let me fight a week before that, please.'”

Eventually, a fight fell off the San Antonio card, and that opened up space for Vick vs. Hooker.

Speaking of ‘The Hangman,’ Vick summed his opponent up as “a tough match-up. He’s good, he’s very well-rounded. He’s good everywhere. He’s a good striker, technique is good, can fight in both stances. Brings a lot to the table, and is tough.”

Tough is what James Vick is used to seeing across from him in the octagon. In his last four fights, he’s faced Paul Felder, Justin Gaethje, Francisco Trinaldo, and Joe Duffy. He’s 2-2 in that span, dropping the bouts to Felder and Gaethje.

The Gaethje fight, of course, stands out. It was just the second time Vick had been knocked out in his career, and there’d been a lot of bad blood heading in. What made the difference? “Little gloves,” suggested Vick. “People get offended when I say this, and they’re like ‘oh people talk sh*t.'” While he admitted that he did engage in some banter ahead of the Gaethje fight at UFC Lincoln, “you know me talking trash against Gaethje, it really backfired on me. The reason why it backfired on me was he’s so beloved in MMA, that’s why. If he was just an average guy — we were at the press conference, he initiated that sh*t talk. Not me. He initiated it. And mine just happened to be better.”

“If I win that fight the way he won that fight, I’m an overnight superstar. So I wouldn’t take it back,” he continued. Only, he didn’t win, and the talk backfired as a result. But, said Vick, “it’s not like I’m a big disrespectful person, I don’t have problems with any of the other people I’ve ever fought.”

Still, lesson learned. “Back to what I was saying, little gloves, the best fighter don’t always win. That’s just what it is, people can get offended by that, but the best fighter don’t always win.”

“When you’ve got four ounce gloves and you can punch,” he reiterated, “the best fighter don’t always win.”

Vick knew something was up from the get-go that night. “When I got in there with him I felt it. I knew that someone was about to get knocked out, obviously I thought it was going to be him. But I could tell he’s not going to be a guy who’s going to stand on the outside and wait, and lose a decision. He’d rather get knocked out.”

Vick recalls going out and lighting Gaethje up with his first seven, eight strikes or so, landing nearly everything he threw. “The first thirty seconds, a minute of the fight, I was like ‘man I’m going to literally hit this guy with anything I want to hit him with.’ And I knew I could.” Vick also knew Gaethje would take chances to avoid a decision loss. But then, he found himself too close to the cage, and got caught. Gaethje got the win that night.

Vick, for his part, is always looking for a finish, but “if I’m winning a decision, I’m not going to take any stupid risks.” Which leads us to the Felder fight, which Vick called “the first time I’ve ever lost a decision in my life, ever, in anything.” It’s a fight Vick felt he won, although he recognizes it was close. But it stings a little more, because of the nature of the result.

Asked whether knockouts are difficult to come back from as a fighter, given the nature of concussions (not to mention Vick being a new dad), the fighter downplayed the impact. “Not really, I’ve never had a concussion in MMA. In training, ever. After the Gaethje fight, you know that was a bad one. I went and had a CT scan, I got everything, I’ve never had any problems whatsoever. I’ve never been concussed, ever.” If he was, at least, he’s not aware of it, and it’s not as if he wasn’t getting checked out by professionals.

Vick was also careful not to get back into sparring too soon after the knockout loss. A smart approach, and more common with modern fighters.

So it’s not the knockout, but his recent decision loss that nags at him. “The Felder fight bothers me more than anything, because I did lose a decision. That calf kick is not something you can fight through. It’s not like getting beat up and you just bite down on the mouth piece. It’s different, it’s a game-changing move in the sport.”

“I left the arena on crutches that night,” he said later. “That move is just literally, it’s a game changer. There’s never been a move in MMA — I’m not criticizing Paul Felder, and I’m not disrespecting him, and I’m not saying he’s a B-level guy, because we’re very similar on skill-set, you saw that in the fight. But there’s never been a move in MMA where you can take a B-level fighter, and they can land 3 or 4 of those calf kicks, and it puts them on a level playing field. There’s never been a move like that.”

He believes he’s better prepared coming into the Hooker fight, mind you. “I’m not giving my secrets away,” Vick noted, “but I’m prepared for a calf kick, I have depth in my game. Honestly what I should have done with the Felder fight, to be honest with you, but I didn’t do, it’s just not my instinct, but I’m trying to make it, is I should have wrestled him. I should have wrestled more, because I do have the offensive wrestling skill set to be able to take him down. And I have a world class jiu-jitsu game. I’m not a world class jiu-jitsu competitor, but for MMA, for mixed martial arts, I have a word class ground [game].”

“I train with one of the best jiu-jitsu schools in the world, and I have three submission wins in the UFC,” he added. “People literally don’t even want to take me down, because they know if I grab their neck, it’s over.”

Watch the full interview with James Vick above, covering his past fights and upcoming bout with Dan Hooker at UFC San Antonio. Below, check out some bets to make with Vick and Rodney James Edgar ahead of UFC 238!

UFC San Antonio (UFC on ESPN 4) takes place July 20 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. The card is the promotion’s first stop in San Antonio since 2014.