Sometimes you don’t need context or a set-up to a story. Sometimes you just hand the story over to the man who lived it.
Meet Anthony Ivy, and he has a crazy week to describe to you.
“‘You have a fight coming up and you're fighting this guy that's ranked in the top 20,’” said Ivy. “Okay, cool, let's get it. Of course, it's a weight class up, but I'm willing to take it because we're fighters. ‘You're gonna fight at 185.’ Cool, I gotta cut 10 pounds, I'll cut the weight. I'm running in a sauna suit, trying to cut this water weight and then I get back in for my last little run, and then my wife is on the phone with my manager (Jason House) saying that Ian (Heinisch) is fighting. So we're not fighting? ‘No, we're not fighting.’ At that point, I'm thinking I'm never gonna fight for the UFC; I'm just never gonna get there. ‘But we got good news. You're fighting next weekend, at 170 against Christian Aguilera.’ All right, cool. We're good.”
Ivy laughs, knowing that as wild as the world of mixed martial arts can be, it didn’t get much wilder than the last eight days, when San Antonio’s Ivy went from prospect on the regional scene to UFC fighter to prospect on the regional scene again and back to UFC fighter.
Here’s the context: As UFC 250 approached, Ian Heinisch was expected to pull out of his fight with Gerald Meerschaert on June 4, two days before the bout. Ivy got the call and accepted the fight. Heinisch remained in the fight, but Ivy still had a UFC contract that he will now break in on Saturday against fellow debutant Aguilera. It’s enough to send anyone’s head into a spin, but for the 30-year-old welterweight, June 4 was just Thursday.
“I work in a homeless shelter called Haven for Hope and the stories I could tell you, I deal with crazy stuff over there,” he said. So this is normal for me. My mind is used to it and I can deal with it. And, of course, I have my wife supporting me, so it's okay.”
Maybe getting into a fistfight on Saturday night is an escape from everything else.
“Yes, most definitely,” he laughs. “All this is. I get to go to Vegas and just chill. I train and sleep, train and sleep, and then go fight. Yes, we're good.”
It is a dream scenario for Ivy, a jiu-jitsu black belt whose 8-2 pro record includes eight finishes and a five-fight winning streak. In other words, “Aquaman” can fight. But he still didn’t expect the UFC to be calling him this soon.
“I honestly believed I had to get a few more in and I had to fight more regional guys,” Ivy said. “Maybe get my record a little bit bigger and fight more tough guys and we'll see from there. I never expected to get a call right now. I didn't think I was gonna be in the UFC until 2021.”
It’s not like he was sitting around waiting for a call, either. Ivy is an essential worker as a Life Safety Officer at Haven for Hope, and while that’s a stressful gig on a normal day, that stress got elevated with the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with his wife and twin brother working there as well. But on the positive side, no one on site caught the coronavirus, and when it comes to dealing with everyday issues in the course of his duties, Ivy has good friends and co-workers to get him to where he needs to be.
“That takes time because there are things that people tell you that really do upset you,” Ivy said. “My lieutenant, Marty Cleveland, he taught me a lot about how to be patient. He really did. I can't tell you how much he has spoken to me about this. It takes a special type of person to deal with people who are going through drug addiction, alcohol, family members getting beat up, and it's lot of stuff.”
That’s in addition to having Christian Aguilera looking to punch him in the face on Saturday. But Ivy’s not worried about that. All he wants to do is to show why the UFC brought him here.
“The goal is to go out and finish the opponent,” Ivy said. “But the thing in the back of my mind is to make sure you always go out there and you perform. Anything can happen, but you've got to go out there and perform, and as long as you do that and give it your all, people will always enjoy you, no matter what.”
So Anthony Ivy is ready for his life to change, shortly?
“Yeah, man,” he said. “This is the thing everybody dreams about. It will be life-changing for myself, my family and everybody that's around me. I'm ready for it.”