A Star On The Rise: Luis “Young Metro” Pena
Luis “Young Metro” Pena
Interview By: Dustin Hill
Photo Credit: Sarah Levin
St. Louis, MO (April 10, 2017)– St. Louis has become a hot bed of talent over the past five years under numerous banners. One of the hottest is Luis Pena who had a very successful amateur run and has moved to the pro level and is gaining momentum after winning his first three affairs. FightBookMMA caught up with “Young Metro” earlier today.
Dustin– You came to St. Louis a few years ago from Arkansas and it was supposed to be just for a couple of weeks. What changed and how did you end up making a home in St. Louis?
Luis– Well I was at a point in my career where me and my coach at the time, Nathan Kirby, sat down and he was actually the one that told me I needed to find a bigger place where I could grow as a fighter so I talked with my wrestling coach from back in high school and he had been telling me about mike and his gym for a little while so when I told him what Kirby had said he immediately jumped on the phone with Mike and like that next week I was on my way to STL to try out the gym see how liked it and how everyone liked me the plan was to go in for 2 weeks leave and get my life together then move back and become a part of the team, but everybody involved liked me being a part of the team and I think mike saw that not only was I talented but I had the work ethic and drive to help uplift the team as well. So I ended up going back to Arkansas after the initial 2 weeks bought a car packed everything I owned in that car and the rest is history
Dustin– What has your transformation been like as a martial artist has been like since packing up your car and coming back to St. Louis?
Luis– It’s been quite amazing to be honest, as most people know they really pride their jiujitsu at Scmma and before joining I was a wrestler till the day I die I thought it was dumb to fight off your back and all that but becoming a part of a gym where jiujitsu was such a part of the identity of the gym I had to swallow my pride and accept it and that helped me transition from an athlete/fighter to a martial artist with an athletes body and a fighters mindset
Dustin– You had a very successful Ammy career. When did you know it was time to make the jump to the pro ranks?
Luis– That’s a hard question, someone once compared my approach to my Ammy career to that of a seasoned college star that decided to stay for his senior year and get his degree than go pro after the junior year. I would say the last 6 months of my Ammy career pretty much after I won golden gloves I knew I was on the pro level I knew I could compete and even be successful, but there were questions I still had about myself you know and so we (Mike and I) decided that we were gonna go seek out the absolute toughest fights we could for the last couple Ammy fights, and after I won the Shamrock belt beating Evan Elder I answered those questions I took the fight on 4 days notice 20 lbs overweight after essentially taking 2 weeks off I cut the weight while working a construction job, lost the first round and came back not only to win the next 2 but dominate them and get the W through adversity in my mind that told me I had everything I needed to make it as a pro.
Dustin– You’ve ripped off three straight wins at the pro level. In your mind has that solidified your decision to go pro?
Luis-Yeah the success always makes you feel good and it’s definitely reassured me that I made the right move but I also haven’t gotten out of that beginning stage of my career where you still fight guys with the same amount of pro experience as you I don’t think much will change but there’s a difference between fighting a guy that’s barely been able to throw elbows and knees to the head vs 7+ fight veteran
Dustin– Back in January you have a Kickboxing match up at Gateway Fight Series and FightBookMMA was ringside.The fight ended with you landing a highlight reel flying knee. Take the fans through exactly how that went down.
Luis– Oh man that was one of the most exciting times in my life! It’s funny a week before Christmas I’m telling my girlfriend man I want to get on that card (in reference to the GFS card in question) and due to the unfortunate circumstances of one of my teammates getting injured I got my shot. I’d known who Rome was through his fights in Bellator and respected the guy, still do, but he pissed me off talking trash about my teammate jimmy pulling out and me stepping up and proceeded with the trash talk at weigh ins so I was a little more motivated this time so we make to the ring after staring each other down from the moment I walked out to the moment of the bell and he came at me just like I had planned for hard trying to chop me down with hard leg kicks and take away my movement, but I stayed calm weathered the storm until I found my own rhythm and started connecting with punches and kicks until he backed me to the ropes and it was then that a realized how wide he held his hands and I saw my opening for my first flying knee, it’s really weird looking back because that sequence is something I practice everyday it seems like the most unlikely combo you could ever hit someone with but it’s something I literally do every time I even shadow box, but I digress I threw a lead hand hook to load my up for the initial back knee while also using the hook to bring his head closer to my knee I landed it right on his chest and stunned him at that point he was worried about that back knee no matter how it was coming so I feinted the back jump switched to my lead and watched him crumble not gonna lie I didn’t expect it to land on his chin I was expecting to hit him in the solar plexus and what would have been a following barrage of punches to finish him or at least get a standing count.
Dustin– Your last fight came at Valor Fights down in Nashville, Tennessee. This was your first true “road game” at the pro level. What was that like going into hostile territory and picking up the W?
Luis– Man that was the absolute most fun I’ve ever had fighting. I got to go on a 3 day trip with 2 guys I’d call to have my back through anything in Lucas Clay and Cortavious Romious. I was definitely in hostile territory everywhere we went people were telling me how they picked Damir over and all over Facebook I was seeing write ups of how I was the underdog coming in so that built a nice little chip on my shoulder then at weigh ins we both got a little chippy with each other and I think that really got everybody excited you’ve got 2 guys both undefeated both not gonna back down both can finish it on the ground and the feet and to top it off we don’t like each other it was just the perfect storm for whoever got the win to get some real publicity and really make a name for themselves. That being said I’d never been more motivated to win and after a hard-fought first frame that I’d say I lost I stared across the cage and knew I had the win I could see how tires he was and I had only just begun so just like always the bell rang and I was on him I knew if I pushed the pace and pushed a pace he couldn’t handle eventually he was gonna look for a way out he did and I gave it to him
Dustin– Fast forward to last week. You signed with one of the most elite management teams in the country. What does that mean to you inside and outside of the cage?
Luis– For me this means I can relax a little and finally just enjoy being a professional athlete and focus on my growth as a fighter, while also reaping the benefits of having someone with the connections not only to get me great fights but to help with my publicity, and sponsorships while also helping on so many levels that the average fan just doesn’t see. And to have this opportunity so early on in my career is truly amazing before signing I knew it was only matter of time before I got in the UFC or Bellator I didn’t know how much time and I really didn’t even have a game plan I was just looking for fights taking the best money I could get and just going from one to the next but now that I have Matt by my side and have sat down and talked with him about moving forward past just the next fight and have a game plan and almost a clear route to the big leagues.
Dustin– My daughter happens to be a big fan of “Young Metro”. What does it mean to you to be a role model to the younger generation?
Luis– That’s what drives me most not just in fighting but in life in general. One question you hear a lot in this sport is why? Why fight? Why put your body through this? Hell I asked myself the same thing a lot coming up and I was finally able to answer that when my little brother and sister told me they wanted to be like me one day. That was when I realized that fighting was my outlet to be able to change the world for the better. At the end of the day yes I want a world title and yes I want the money but most of all I want to inspire somebody even if it’s just one kid to get up and pursue their dreams the same way Kobe Bryant did for me. No matter what happens in life no matter who you are you can do anything if you’re willing to work hard enough, sacrifice it all, and strive to do good in the world. That’s one thing that doesn’t get spoken about a lot you know when I moved to St. Louis I gave up the life I’d known for 22 years for this all the friends, family, familiarity everything I was and still am to this day willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to reach the top and accomplish my goals and that’s all it takes is that determination.
Dustin– You have given the FightBookMMA and Young Metro fans great insight. In closing what can the fans expect in the not so distant future?
Luis– Thanks Dustin I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to do this and give people a look into what I’m like. Now I can’t say a lot, but you will definitely be seeing Young Metro in the Valor Fights cage again soon and the stakes are gonna be huge.
Keep your eye on this young man moving forward because his future is bright enough that you will have to wear sunglasses.
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