When Mario Bautista first got that call to the UFC, the opportunity was less than ideal. He would be fighting on just nine days’ notice, on the other side of the country, and at the UFC’s debut on ESPN. If that wasn’t enough obstacles and pressure, he also got to fill in for John Lineker to fight now top contender Cory Sandhagen.
Even though the fight ultimately did not go his way, Bautista is happy that he took it, and not just because it got him to the big show. Bautista looks back at that fight with Sandhagen as a major turning point in his career.
“I’m glad I took it – it got my foot in the door. You don’t say no to the UFC when they call you because they might not ever call back,” Bautista said. “But I felt good after that fight. Even though I lost, it really changed my mindset on fighting.”
Obviously seeing Sandhagen rise to the top of the division and spark legends like Frankie Edgar helped Bautista even more, but it was more about what he felt in the cage with Sandhagen.
“Just his energy in the cage. He was put in bad spots, but it seemed like he didn’t care. He just kept on going through, he was comfortable everywhere, he was attacking non-stop,” he said. “And I kind of brought that into my own game a little bit there.”
The results of that are clear – Bautista has rattled off two straight wins. Not only that, but he has also taken home two bonuses in doing so, the latter of which was a Performance of the Night winning flying knee KO. Despite that run that has propped up his bank account with an extra 100k, Bautista insists that he’s not one of those types that chases bonuses.
“I’m never looking for the bonuses. I’m always prepared for a 15-minute war, but I feel like if you look for them, same with a knockout punch, you might not ever get it,” he shared. “I think it’s just my style and my opponents have definitely helped out in getting those bonuses.”
Of course, that opponent for this Saturday is Trevin Jones, who is coming off of one of the greatest comebacks of 2020. While he’s not out there looking for any type of fight in particular, Bautista is prepared for what could be another bonus winning fight.
“I think Trevin Jones is really good. I think it’s going to be a war. I don’t know if he’s ever been finished, so I expect a war, I’m preparing for a war,” he said. “In the end, I get my hand raised.”
You can see Bautista look to make it three straight (wins and bonuses) as part of the UFC 259 prelims on ESPN+.
You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 40:14.