UFC light heavyweight Ike Villanueva knows his back is against the wall heading into UFC Fight Island 8. The veteran fighting out of Houston, Texas dropped his first two octagon outings, and knows that he needs a win this Wednesday. And he sounds more than ready to move on from his struggles last year.
With the crowd, albeit not a full house, back, Villanueva told Cageside Press during a virtual media day to promote the event that “I’m looking to turn some things around come Wednesday night.”
His opponent, Vinicius Moreira, is in a similar spot. “He had a rough start, 0-3,” Villanueva observed. “This is a classic grappler vs. striker. I know the game plan, he probably knows the game plan. I know what he’s going to do, try to take me down. My job is to stop it, put my hands in his face.” Villanueva expects a crowd-pleasing fight, and he intends to make a statement in the bout. “I belong here, and I’m going to show the world I belong here Wednesday night.”
As for 2020, a year beloved by no one, “flush that down the toilet. Forget about that year. Flush it. It was garbage, it wasn’t me,” exclaimed Villanueva. “As a fighter, you’ve got to shake that thing off. You can’t let it hold you down, because some fighters, it will haunt them. I had to wash it away, because I know I ain’t that fighter.”
Villanueva pointed out that his first UFC bout, which he took on short notice, came against Chase Sherman, who later tested positive for performance enhancing substances and accepted a nine-month suspension. Then Ike was paired up with Jorge Gonzalez, only for the bout to be cancelled after Gonzalez tested positive for multiple banned substances, leaving him with a two-year suspension.
That left Villanueva fighting Jordan Wright on short notice, another loss. But this time out, he’s had a full training camp, and is ready to move forward. “To have a full fight camp really has been amazing. You don’t get that opportunity during the COVID era,” noted Villanueva. “You might get three weeks, four weeks, then you’ve got to fight. But I got a full camp. I’m excited to show what I can do.”
Shortly after the UFC Fight Island 8 media day, news also broke that Moreira had tested positive for banned substances — but only received a warning, after providing evidence that his failed drug test was linked to a contaminated supplement.
— Ike Villanueva (@hurricane_ufc) January 15, 2021
“Hurricane” Ike was far from impressed. Which might just be added fuel for the fire come Wednesday.
Ike Villanueva faces Vinicius Moreira at UFC Fight Island 8 this Wednesday, January 20 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The main card airs live on ESPN (TSN in Canada).