Fernando Padilla has waited a long time to make his UFC debut, which will finally come this weekend at UFC Vegas 72.
Padilla (14-4) holds a win over UFC alum Darrick Minner, and had won the LFA featherweight championship when he signed with the big show back in 2021. His debut never came, however, and was held up for two years by visa issues preventing him from fighting in the U.S.
Now, the Mexican standout is set to debut in a high-profile match-up with Julian Erosa on the main card this Saturday.
“One of the best moments of my life for a fact, and I can express it to you guys, is seeing my name on those shorts,” Padilla told media outlets during Wednesday’s UFC Vegas 72 media day. “The last name of my dad, the last name of my grandpa, is something that I’ve always been trying to put on top. As a family guy, it’s everything for me to see that, to be able to show it to my family, to the world. Now it’s just time to go and show my skills.”
Keeping it together through two full years of waiting couldn’t have been easy, but Padilla noted that “I feel that I have that gift, the gift of patience. Obviously it’s been hard, I was 21 when I got signed, and then I got all these messages of like ‘oh you still cannot fight, you need to wait.’ It was a roller coaster of emotions, it was like, I win the belt, I have a contract, okay I’m signing, I have a fight, and then everything just went down hill.”
The period after his initial signing back in 2021 “was really, really hard, I’m not going to lie to you,” Padilla added. “It was horrible. But as soon as 2022 hit, something different hit in my head.”
As to what that was, “everything started making more sense,” he stated. Padilla told himself that he could lay in bed crying about not being able to fight, “or you can get ready. And that’s what I started doing. Since January, I started just getting better. I started training, I started seeing my weaknesses and what I can do better for me as a fighter. And I started implementing a lot of stuff in my training, started doing smarter trainers, the strength and conditioning, honestly I say it a lot but it put me on a different level, not just as a fighter now but as an athlete. And I feel amazing. 2022 and 2023, these past months, it’s been learning and getting better. Learning and getting better.”
There was never any chance of just moving on and fighting elsewhere, said Padilla.
“Since day one, even before I started training, I knew that here was where I wanted to be. Here is where I wanted to showcase my skills, here is where I wanted to fight— in that cage, in that octagon,” Padilla explained. “As soon as I got that contract, I just wanted to hold it. I just wanted to hold it tight and wanted to show the world, like I say, who I am. And obviously it was hard not being able to show it, but I’m already here, why am I going to give it away, throw it away and go fight somewhere else? I wanted this, and I sacrificed so much for this, and now I’m here. So it’s time to capitalize.”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 72 media day appearance by Fernando Padilla above.