Ruben Esparza fights Ray Lopez in heavyweight action in the first-ever headlining bout for Lights Out on Saturday at Lights Out 1 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Before that, the heavy-handed heavyweight spoke with FightBookMMA.
How did you find MMA to begin with?
I played Arena Football for a little while. When I was done with football, my cousin had opened up a gym. He asked me to come down, I did. I trained for a month for my first amateur fight, knocked out the current super-heavyweight champ in the second round, and it just took off from there (laughs).
How long have you and BLANK been wanting to fight?
Honestly, I never thought it would happen. I would always get the questions — how would it end, who would do what. But Ray went pro before I did, so we never got a chance to fight as amateurs. Ray had a lot of talent and potential; he was just mismanaged. We used to train together a little bit and, I’ll be real honest with you, Ray was always just really lazy — and it carried over into his career. Fighting him really hasn’t been on my mind for a long time.
How big is work ethic for your success in MMA?
I’m dedicated to it 100 percent. My trainers and friends would tell you I become a hermit when I’m in camp (laughs). All I do is train and focus on my diet. Work ethic has been instilled in me since childhood.
What’s the most likely outcome for your fight next weekend?
I know he’s going to go in there looking for a knockout, so I’m expecting that. I’m expecting him to throw heavy blows early. He’s a smart fighter, so he’ll be cautious. I just don’t think a whole lot of him anymore as a fighter — or a a person, for all the shit he’s been talking. I feel like I’ve gifted him this fight. He doesn’t have anything to lose; I’m the one with all the momentum.
Have you thought about how much longer you’d like to compete?
(Laughs) I get asked that all the time. Competition is in me. If I didn’t compete, I don’t know what I’d be doing with myself (laughs). I’d have to find a new outlet for my competitiveness before I give up MMA.