It’s Wednesday afternoon in Utica, and Julio Arce, like the rest of his peers on tonight’s UFC Fight Night card, has a weigh-in to go to in less than 24 hours. It’s normally not the best time for an interview, but the featherweight prospect has agreed to talk.
I expect the worst, but Arce sounds pleasant enough when he picks up the phone. And why wouldn’t he, because he’s at the Utica Zoo.
“Everyone’s cutting weight and we’re at a zoo,” he laughs. “We’re just trying to kill some time and have some fun.”
Dan Ige in their featherweight bout during the UFC 220 event at TD Garden on January 20, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)" align="center" />
Julio Arce is all right. And on Thursday, he hit his mark, weighing in at 145.4 for his bout against Daniel Teymur. It’s a product of the old adage, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready, and the Queens product is always ready.
“Even when I’m not getting ready for a fight, I just like staying in shape because you don’t know when they’re gonna call,” said Arce, who made his UFC debut on short notice in January, winning a three-round decision over Dan Ige. “And when it’s an opportunity like this in this highest league ever, I want to be ready to go at all times, and I don’t want to have to start over from zero. I want to stay ready, no matter what. With my teammates, from the amateurs to the pros, there’s always something going on, so I’m on the mat training with them and keeping myself in shape. Even though it’s not as hardcore as through training camp, I’m still training with them because I just want to be ready.”
Arce was ready when he got the call for Ige, and he delivered. This time he’s got a full camp for Teymur, but in his eyes, nothing has changed.
“The only difference is it’s in a much quieter place in Utica,” he said. “Other than that, everything pretty much feels the same.”
That doesn’t mean he’s jaded about the whole UFC experience already. Far from it.
“It’s been unreal,” he said. “If you take a person who’s trying to get into the NFL, when they make it, it’s a huge moment because they’re in the biggest league of all. And I’m with the best of the best in the world, and I made it here after a ten-year journey of me just busting my butt and working hard. I’m finally here. It’s unreal, and it’s been great. And now that I’m in the big leagues, I want to show everyone what I’ve got.”
He already got off to a good start, showing the potential that fans have seen both on the local east coast circuit and on the first season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, where he halted Peter Petties in the second round. The 28-year-old didn’t get a UFC contract that night, but he stayed in the gym and kept making the miserable commute from Queens to New Jersey to work with his Tiger Schulmann MMA teammates.
“It’s all worth it in the end,” he said of his daily road trips, which are often more grueling than fight practice. “Sometimes I just want to stay in bed, but I say, ‘No, get your ass up and go.’”
So he goes. And now he’s here.
“I had to take a different road to get into the UFC,” Arce said. “I felt more than ready to be here, and it took a bit longer, but when the time came, it was my time to do it. This is what I’ve been training for.”