Returning to the winner’s circle in May after suffering his first loss in over two years to Sheymon Moraes in November of last year, Julio Arce is still riding high heading into his UFC 244 bout with Hakeem Dawodu, and rightfully so, considering the head kick he used to end Julian Erosa’s night earlier this year.
But there is still glory in the fights when the verdict doesn’t go your way, and that’s where Arce sits when it comes to his three-round battle with Moraes in the same Madison Square Garden Octagon he will meet Dawodu on Saturday.
“I looked at it and it could have gone either way,” said Arce, who dropped a split decision to the Brazilian, snapping a seven-fight winning streak that included two UFC victories. “It was all left in that cage and I didn’t get the win, but it helped me out a lot because people saw that I was there to give it all I got. We went in there to fight and we ended up going to a split decision.”
It was a decision that could have gone either way. The media members polled by the MMADecisions.com site saw it 11-7-1 in Moraes’ favor, but you also have to wonder if they judges were scoring the bloodied Arce’s face more than the fight at times.
“Yeah, you see one guy bleeding and that becomes the attention,” said Arce. “‘Holy crap, this guy’s bleeding a lot, the other guy must be winning.’ Whatever. If that’s what they saw, it’s what they saw. I just moved on from there.
Once his cut healed, it was back to work, and while Erosa made it into the final round, the end was emphatic and just what the doctor ordered for the New Yorker.
“I wanted to get back in the win column and remind people that I didn’t go anywhere,” Arce said. “I wanted to make a statement in my fight with Erosa, especially since he was somebody who’s fought in the UFC a bunch of times and was on The Ultimate Fighter. He was a vet in the game, so it would be a huge thing to make a statement like that. That happened and it was amazing.”
A conservative sort, Arce said he only watched the knockout “a good 15 times,” but that’s understandable since he’s now focused on the next step, which is a showdown with fellow featherweight prospect Dawodu, who brings a three-fight winning streak into Arce’s backyard, making this quite the showcase for the next generation of 145-pound standouts.
“The new generation is coming up and it’s crazy how the sport has evolved through time,” Arce said. “You see the vets who have been there for a long time and now you see the new generation who are coming up and really starting to showcase new things.”
And when the dust settles on Sunday morning, one of these fighters may find himself either in or on the verge of the top 15. With such a number, a whole new world opens up.
“It puts you on the spot for a couple more opportunities and you get to fight even better people,” he said. “Look, the featherweight division is stacked. Every opponent is dangerous, whether they’re ranked or not. But when you get that number next to you, you know you’re climbing and getting closer to the top and that’s what I want to do. I want to make it to the top.”
Even if he has to shed some blood, sweat and tears to get there.
“It’s a dangerous sport that we play, but it’s a sport that gives us a thrill and such a rush,” said the 30-year-old from Queens. “A lot of us were born to fight and we just want to showcase what we got.