Ike Villanueva is motivated by Jorge Masvidal's rise and defiance of the term "journeyman."
Villanueva caught up with Fightful ahead of his fight with Jorge Gonzalez at UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakic on August 29. "Hurricane" Ike (16-10) has won four of his last five fights. That is why he looks up to Masvidal as a shining example of late-career booms.
"There is no BSing. He is straight to the point. He will tell you where he comes from. He is a tough guy. He came from nothing and look where he is at now. That motivates guys like us, come-from-nothing people who have been written off," Villanueva said of Masvidal. "What gets me is when they call us "journeymen...' Don't let the record fool you, man. We took some early fights, took some early defeats. It is what you do after the defeat. You can see in my record what I do after defeats. I come back motivated, I come back hungry. That's what Jorge does. I feed off that."
Villanueva was 7-7 at one point in his pro career before taking an extended break from the sport. He rallied back from a Robert Drysdale loss to achieve a 9-2 run prior to signing with the UFC. Despite a loss to Chase Sherman in his debut, Villanueva has already proven to himself an ability to persevere.
"I took time off. I wasn't me right there at the time. I was fighting just to fight. I was going through some things. I went through a divorce. I wasn't focused. I knew I had the talent to do it," he said of the Drysdale loss. "I just wasn't getting the work in. Even when I had a good training session, I would go home and home wasn't right. If things aren't right at home, it hurts. It affected me and it showed. I took three years off the sport and came back motivated, stronger, hungry. I made a strong push and look where I'm at now. People doubted me but that motivated me to keep pushing. I knew I could make it to the UFC one day."
Villanueva also opened up about a touching tradition where he cracks open a beer at his father's grave site.
"My old man is my hero. That was my hero growing up. He was a blue-collar, hard-working guy. A lot of people doubted my dad growing up. He opened his own business. That motivates me in fighting. He doubted me and I keep pushing because that is what my dad instilled in all of us," he shared. "You always make time for your pops. No matter what you go through. There are those days where I missed time with my pops. I wasn't there to have a beer for him... Now I go and have a beer with him and talk. You may not hear him back but it feels good to be there around him. It's a tradition I carry on. My brothers and I always do it."
Villanueva fights Gonzalez at UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakic on August 29. Keep up with Fightful for all your live event coverage.