Virginia Beach, VA — There’s opponent changes, and then there’s the whirlwind that ‘Violent Bob Ross’ Luis Pena went through ahead of UFC Norfolk.
Pena (7-2) was originally scheduled to face Alex Munoz on the Fight Night card this weekend. Yet as he stepped on the plane to Norfolk, Virginia, he wasn’t even sure he had a fight.
“I kind of wish my managers had just told me that my opponent was out when they got me the final one,” Pena told Cageside Press at the UFC Norfolk media day. “Because when they announced that Alex was out, I’m not going to lie, I got a little down. I didn’t know if I was going to have a fight. I had to get on the plane before I even knew I was going to have an opponent. I didn’t know I would have an opponent until I landed here in Norfolk.”
“It was kind of nerve-wracking, but at the same time, it is what it is. It’s the nature of the fight business,” he added.
More than one replacement came up, but in the end, it’s Steve Garcia that Pena will face at the Chartway Arena on Saturday. Garcia took the fight extremely short notice, so Pena hasn’t had much time to adjust. With that in mind, “for the most part, I’m going to go in there, do what I do, go out there and be Violent Bob Ross like always,” he said.
The biggest factor may be the change in stature that he’s about to encounter. “It’s been interesting, kind of retooling the game plan, going from a 5″9 wrestler, to a 6-foot brawler style of guy. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to a guy that I’m pretty sure he’s going to want to go out there and bang it out with me, looking forward to a good fight for the fans.”
In fact, it’s his opponent’s size that interests him most. Pena noted that Garcia has spent most of his career at 135 and 145lbs. Now, he’s moving up to lightweight. “Being 6-foot, he’s towered over just about every single one of his opponents,” Pena noted. “So I’m interested to see how he’s going to deal with being the smaller man. Having a three-inch reach disadvantage and three-inch height disadvantage. Not only that, I’m more than likely going to come into the cage a good ten pounds heavier than him.”
All of that should make for an interesting evening. But then, it’s been that sort of week overall for Pena, who also linked up with his birth father and sibling he’d never known during fight week. A meeting which came about through Ancestry DNA.
“It’s been an interesting week. I got in Monday and got to have dinner with my dad. Then Tuesday we went out and I met my biological little brother for the first time. That was really interesting. We’re both very similar, especially around new people.” Pena grew up as an adopted child, and the story of his re-connection with his birth father is one he calls “really random.”
“I’m driving out to California, and I just got an e-mail from Ancestry DNA,” Pena recalled. “It said ‘You have a new DNA match.’ I’m going through it, I’m looking, there’s one part where they tell you the potential relationship, and it said ‘Parent-Child.’ I dropped my phone. I didn’t know what to do.”
Pena’s birth dad reached out to him, and the two exchanged messages. Then, his father asked if his birthday was early July. “My birthday’s July 5. That’s when I knew, this guy’s my dad.”
Eventually, his father discovered his son was a UFC fighter. “One time, he was randomly calling me, the first thing that comes out of his mouth, he was like ‘hey you wouldn’t happen to be this UFC fighter with the red afro would you?'”
Pena knew right away his dad had googled him. But the good news is, his father’s co-workers and pals were fans. “They knew about me, they were like ‘dude you know Violent Bob Ross? He’s cool as hell’ or whatever.” Which at least allowed his father to know his son was legit, as Pena later put it.
Watch the full UFC Norfolk media day press scrum with Luis Pena above! The event takes place Saturday, February 29 at the Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.