Charlie Valencia is eager to get back in the cage and collect another victory.
All that stands between him and a return trip to the win column are Ivan Menjivar and 55,000 screaming fans, many of whom will be on the side of his Canadian opponent.
After former bantamweight champ Miguel Torres halted his three-fight winning streak in his final WEC appearance last September, Valencia is poised to make his UFC debut in front of the largest MMA crowd ever assembled in North America. The combination of the two could put added pressure on some, but the WEC veteran doesn’t see either being much of a problem when he steps into the Octagon in Toronto.
“Just being in the UFC itself is probably going to be a little overwhelming, but I’m just happy; it’s a dream come true. I never thought I’d be in the position ever in my lifetime, especially with the weight classes and stuff.
I’m glad to be a part of it; I’m going to soak it all in while I’m there and enjoy it all, but also make the best of it, of course. Fighting in front of 55,000 people is going to be amazing, but I know that when I’m fighting, I don’t hear anybody, so I don’t think that will be too much of a distraction.”
Valencia might be underestimating the collective ability of the capacity crowd poised to pack the Rogers Centre.
The Canadian crowds assembled in Vancouver and Montreal have been some of the loudest to date. The ovations afforded to Canadian fighters in those cities have been massive, and more than twice as many fans will be in Toronto to support their the fellow Canucks.
Still, Valencia has no issue with being the bad guy this time around, and even has a plan to convert some of the Canadian fans into supporters.
“[Playing the underdog] doesn’t really bother me. I think anywhere you go, as long as you put on a good show, show a lot of heart and fight the way you should be fighting, you can get all those fans on your side.”
Fighting with a great deal of heart is a Valencia trademark. He’s been in the cage with some of the best featherweights and bantamweights in the world over his 18 fight career. While he’s come out on the wrong side of many of his highest profile fights, he’s won over fans in the process.
The proud father of two hopes to do the same in a winning effort on April 30 at UFC 129, and believes Menjivar offers the type of opponent tailor-made for accomplishing those goals.
“I think we’re pretty similar; we both like to go out there and scrap, and we’re both good wherever it lands. I feel like we match-up real well; we’re both going to go after each other, trying to get a knockout or submission and end the fight early, so it’s going to be a high-paced, exciting fight.”
As for how it ends: “I’m thinking it’s going to be a knockout or submission, one or the other, but I’m hoping for a knockout. I need a knockout, man.”
Coming through on his prediction would put Valencia back in the win column and certainly help him win over the crowd, regardless of where his opponent calls home.