주요 콘텐츠로 건너뛰기
Vicente Luque reacts after his victory over Tyron Woodley in their welterweight fight during the UFC 260 event at UFC APEX on March 27, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Vicente Luque Looks To End The Year In Style

The Brazilian Welterweight Discusses His Eventful Journey to UFC 296, Where He Faces Former Training Partner Ian Machado Garry

To say 2023 has been an eventful and emotional year for Vicente Luque and his family would be an understatement.

The 32-year-old welterweight stalwart began the year on the sidelines, dealing with the aftermath of the first knockout loss of his professional career, against Geoff Neal in August of 2022.

Order UFC 296: Edwards vs Covington

During his time off, the Brazilian standout was afforded the opportunity to really reflect on his career and, in doing so, he finally came around to the idea of moving his family to South Florida in order to train full time at Kill Cliff FC, where he’d been doing training camp and several-week stays for many years.

“When I got those losses and that year that I had off, it was the first time in my career where I stopped thinking about fighting and thought to myself, ‘What do I need in order to get better?’” explained Luque, who is slated to face Ian Machado Garry in the opening bout of Saturday’s UFC 296 pay-per-view main card at T-Mobile Arena. “Not what the next fight is going to be or how I was going to move up on the rankings.”

Vicente Luque has his hands wrapped prior to his fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Vicente Luque has his hands wrapped prior to his fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

The idea of relocating to South Florida full time had been presented to him numerous times in the past, but he’d always been reticent. His family was settled, comfortable, and thoroughly enjoyed their life in Brasilia, where he trained at Cerrado MMA, and the sporadic “business trips” throughout the year had produced largely positive results.

But the combination of consecutive losses, an extended stay on the sidelines, and a desire to make a real push to develop as a fighter prompted the Luques to make the change.

RELATED: Vicente Luque's Career Highlights

“It was uncomfortable in that I’m really attached to my family, my wife is super-attached to her family in Brazil, and we have this great environment in Brazil that we had to say goodbye to,” he said. “Now we’re living in Florida and, thank God, we have really adapted to here. We have great people supporting us — Gregory (Rodrigues) and his family, Gilbert Burns and his family, Henri (Hooft) and his family.

“It’s been a challenge, but we’re overcoming this challenge in a great way. It’s been really good.”

While his family has been getting settled and situated, Luque has been leveling up in the gym, working to add to an approach that has thus far produced a 15-5 record inside the Octagon, a tenured position in the welterweight Top 10, and a reputation as one of the most consistently entertaining fighters in the UFC.

Vicente Luque poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on August 11, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Vicente Luque poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on August 11, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“What I started to realize from looking back at my fights is that I really relied on my physical abilities and my aggressiveness, and the change was while I still have that — I’m still tough, I still have a lot of heart, I hit really hard — but why should I rely on something when I can develop so much more skill and have the talent for that,” he said with a smile, detailing the internal conversation that prompted him to put more attention on technique and skill in advance of his return bout against Rafael Dos Anjos in August, which he won by unanimous decision. “That’s the approach that got me to make all these improvements was for me to realize I have more than heavy hands, a hard chin, and a D’Arce; I have much more than those things. I can work with more than that.

“That is what I have been chasing: let’s get to the next level, let’s be the best version of myself that I can be, while, at the same time, I don’t think I lost my aggressiveness or anything like that.

Find Out How To Watch Luque From Your Country

“It’s living and learning,” he added with a smile. “I’m 32 and I have 20 fights in the UFC; I’m fighting since I was 17. I am a veteran, but I’ve been growing. I was a very young fighter, so it’s a lot to learn at a very high level of competition. Little by little, I’m improving and starting to use all my tools.”

Saturday night in Las Vegas, he’ll look to put his full complement of tools to use in arguably the most compelling matchup on the UFC 296 fight card, as he squares off with the undefeated Irish rising star.

Vicente Luque poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on August 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Vicente Luque poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on August 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Any matchup featuring Machado Garry is going to generate interest at this stage, as the 26-year-old has rocketed into the Top 10 in roughly two years on the UFC roster, posting a 6-0 record that includes a trio of victories already this year. He’s young, talented, and at times brash, which has not only made him must-see TV whenever he steps into the Octagon, but turned him into a social media fascination, as well.

But the added wrinkle to this weekend’s engagement is that he and Luque have been training partners in the past at Kill Cliff FC, and in a sport where teammates don’t often square off with one another, the announcement of this fight sent shockwaves through the MMA ecosystem, with the Irishman continually working to generate additional aftershocks since.

“I was down for this fight,” began Luque, who said the opportunity was presented to him by his manager, Ali Abdelaziz. “I think it’s a big one, it makes me excited.

View Luque's Athlete Profile

“I know Ian, I know he’s gonna be cool with it just like I am, and we’re gonna go there and compete, but there was the whole thing of the team. I did sit with Henri, talked to him because I wanted to know his opinion. I had just got into the team full-time, and I don’t want to (cause problems).”

Hooft had no issue with the two men squaring off, but bowed out of helping either prepare for the contest, something we’ve seen in the past when situations like this have arisen.

“For me, it’s business,” added Luque. “I have fun doing this, it’s what I love, and when we step in there, no matter who it is, we’re gonna go out there and go to war. Outside, I’ve got respect for everybody.

Vicente Luque warms up prior to his fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Vicente Luque warms up prior to his fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

“We’re not enemies — we’re here for another day of work, so let’s go do what we do. At the end of the day, we’re gonna put on a show for everyone.”

While the matchup generated a great deal of buzz when it was announced and the anticipation for the pay-per-view opener has only continued to grow as we head towards Saturday night, the reality of the situation is that something like this was almost bound to happen, as the South Florida outpost has been home to a quartet of fighters currently stationed in the Top 10 of the UFC welterweight divisional rankings.

In addition to Luque and Machado Garry, Kill Cliff is also home to former title challenger Gilbert Burns and fellow UFC 296 combatant Shavkat Rakhmonov, who puts his unbeaten record on the line against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson two fights after Luque and Machado Garry do battle.

MORE UFC 296: Fight Card Preview | Main Event Breakdown | Covington In His Own Words | Colby Rates Fellow Welterweights | MMA Coaches Break Down Main Event

“Gilbert is off limits and he will always be — it’s not just about being teammates (with him),” Luque said with a laugh when asked about this situation potentially presenting itself again in the future. “But all the other guys, it’s a thing we can’t avoid.

“Shavkat is a great guy and I’m training a lot with him now, and down the line, it might happen. As a team, we believe it might be for a title eliminator or for the title itself, so it’s something that we’re not going to be pushing for right away, but down the line, if there is no one else?

Vicente Luque of Brazil faces Michael Chiesa in their welterweight bout during the UFC 265 event at Toyota Center on August 07, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Vicente Luque of Brazil faces Michael Chiesa in their welterweight bout during the UFC 265 event at Toyota Center on August 07, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

“Like I said, it’s business,” he added. “We cannot have four welterweight champions in the gym, so one of us is gonna have to be that champion.”

After getting back in the win column in August with a strong, more patient effort against the former lightweight champion Dos Anjos, the Brazilian veteran will look to take another step towards the top of the division by handing Machado Garry his first professional defeat this weekend.

Perfect through 13 bouts and coming off a unanimous decision win over Neil Magny in August, it has been relatively smooth sailing inside the Octagon for the talented Irish fighter. But having himself grown up on the biggest stage in the sport, Luque understands there are situations and challenges that Machado Garry has yet to encounter inside the cage, and he fully intends to put “The Future” in some new positions and lean on his experience edge when they face off on Saturday evening.

What Rankings Are At Stake At UFC 296

“I’ve been in his position,” said Luque. “I got in the UFC when I was 23 — I know how hungry he is, I know how much he wants this win over a guy that has history now in the division, that is a consolidated fighter; a ranked guy. I understand that hunger and I feel like I have to use that experience in my favor, but also not forget my skills.

“I’m gonna try to put him in situations that he hasn’t been put in before, but also remember that I have skills to really bring danger to him, be it on the ground or in the striking. I think it’s a mix of using my skill and using my experience to really set him up in uncomfortable situations.”

Vicente Luque of Brazil walks out prior to his welterweight bout during the UFC 265 event at Toyota Center on August 07, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Vicente Luque of Brazil walks out prior to his welterweight bout during the UFC 265 event at Toyota Center on August 07, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

Although he’s fully aware of the difficult task at hand and anticipates having to work hard to secure a victory at UFC 296, Luque has spent the last year and change dealing with major challenges, and came away better as a result.

As such, he sees Saturday night as an opportunity to close out a difficult year in style and position himself for even bigger things once the calendar changes.

RELATED: Fighters On The Rise At UFC 296

“For me, it’s perfect to get two fights in this year,” Luque said, reflecting on his personal journey to UFC 296. “I get to close out the year on the last big show of the year, which is amazing, and it sets up my 2024.

“I believe 2024 is a big year for me, but I’ve got to close out this year the way I want to — I’ve got to go out there and get a big win over an up-and-coming prospect like Ian, show the world that I have what it takes, and that I never left.”

Order UFC 296: Edwards vs Covington

UFC 296: Edwards vs Covington took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 16, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass