There are no two ways about it – Mexico is a fighting country.
Legendary boxers such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Olympic wrestling medalist Daniel Aceves — and of course, countless luchadores — all hail from this country and give it a unique identity.
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UFC has its own growing list of fighters from this nation. And just like the famed boxers, wrestlers and luchadores, they feel they have the same heart, desire and chin to keep the fighting heritage intact.
“Mexican fighters have a history of giving it their all – it’s what distinguishes them,” explains Erik Perez, who fights bantamweight Taylor Lapilus in the FS1 prelims beginning at 8 pm ET. “Mexican fighters always go to the ring or Octagon and leave it all in there. We’ve seen Mexican boxers put on tremendous fights and I consider myself one of them – a fighter that goes and leaves his heart for the public, for his people, because we have to lift the name of our country and our land. We have to give it our all for our public, our people, our families – we have to give it our all. “
So what makes Mexican fighters fight this way?
“I don’t know how to explain it, it’s something we are born with. We have the warrior spirit that makes us like to fight,” said Efrain Escudero, who will fight Brazil’s Leandro Silva to start the FS1 main card at 10 pm ET. “For Mexicans, not only in boxing but also MMA, we are warriors. We like to fight. We like to be involved in tough wars inside a ring or Octagon.”
This weekend’s UFC Fight Night Magny vs. Gastelum features nine Mexico-born competitors, with several others having a Mexican bloodline – including headliner Kelvin Gastelum.
“I love coming down to Mexico. Every time I come down to Mexico they receive me with open arms” the 24-year-old welterweight said. “It feels good to get the reception that I get from the Mexican fans. I love representing the Mexican culture, I love representing the Latinos and I’m just happy I get to compete, be the main event and put on a good show for the Mexican fans. I’m real happy I get to compete here.”
It’s that unique spirit that gets fans excited to attend fights in Mexico, and makes for a great atmosphere.
“I was fortunate enough to go to Mexico City for the UFC event there and the fans really got into it. They embraced every last person on the card, whether they were from Mexico or not,” said Neil Magny, who faces Gastelum in the main event on Saturday night. “They just enjoyed the guys who went out there and put on a great show for them. I look forward to competing this Saturday and putting on a great show for the fans down there.
“Mexican fans definitely love the combat sports and I feel fortunate to be a part of it. To be able to give them something they aren’t able to really experience from outside the country, to come down here to them and give them a great show – I feel pretty fortunate to do it and I can’t wait.”
Jorge A. Mondaca is the managing editor of UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeAMondaca