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With his back against the wall, Trujillo has found new life


Abel Trujillo thrives on being inspired and inspiring others.

Heading into his most recent Octagon outing in January, the hard-hitting lightweight prospect from the Blackzilians did not need to search too hard to find extra motivation. Between coming off back-to-back losses and some timely advice from a respected coach, Trujillo was set on a path that concluded with an impressive win.

“Going into the UFC 195 fight, it was more of a thing where I had to win,” Trujillo said. “I was talking to one of my coaches, Neil Melanson. He had seen the situation, that I was coming off a couple losses, and he kept it real with me. He was like, ‘You can’t let yourself get too comfortable in this life, in this game. You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.’ The way his delivery was, it hit me. It was a very uncomfortable camp for me, but it paid off though. It paid off with victory.”

The 32-year-old, who was born and raised in North Carolina and is pursuing his dream in south Florida, pushed himself both mentally and physically through those rough three-a-day training sessions to snatch a first-round guillotine choke on Tony Sims at UFC 195. The submission was his first inside the Octagon, as he is mostly known for his knockout power. The win was more of a throwback than a new addition for Trujillo, as that hold used to be a staple in his arsenal that he is simply rediscovering.


“That’s just a natural move for me, I’m a wrestler,” Trujillo said. “When he shot for the double, he gave me his neck. He was very slow in the transitions, which I was kind of surprised with, and it let me sink the choke in even deeper. I knew it was so deep that I just needed to squeeze it and he tapped. A lot of people don’t know that I have an amateur [MMA] background as well because they weren’t really recorded. I had nine amateur bouts and eight of them were first-round guillotines. I felt like that was my special move at the time. I was just guillotining everybody, so it’s always been in my roots, but I have to find it and capitalize on it when it’s there.”

If one win wasn’t enough to smile about, Trujillo’s highly-controversial loss to Gleison Tibau in November was overturned due to Tibau testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. “I went from being on a two-fight losing streak to now being on a two-fight winning streak,” he laughed. And, more than anything, Trujillo is a happy camper with excellent training partners and coaches, like Melanson for grappling and Henri Hooft for striking, that Trujillo believes are helping him evolve into the fighter he needs to be.

“I think my game is sharper now and has a purpose,” Trujillo said. “Before, I used to go in there and just be tough and brawl with people. I was just using my athleticism and power. I’m still using that, but in a controlled way. Neil Melanson has been a great asset to the team. He knows about MMA and the grappling and the sequences that actually take place in a live fight. It’s simple things that you wouldn’t think of unless you didn’t have a coach like him. And I’ve always worked with Henri. He’s got a basic style, a very effective style.”

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In addition to the training changes, Trujillo has made some life changes in 2016, with becoming a vegan high on that list.

“I’ve noticed a big difference in my energy and how clean it is when I train and I’m really looking forward to seeing how I do competing with it,” said Trujillo, whose spirits are at an all-time high between his new eating habits for the past four months and his recent role as a Kundalini yoga teacher for the past two months.

Up next, Trujillo travels to Las Vegas for a showdown with Jordan Rinaldi this Sunday. It’s been a journey for Trujillo to get to this fight, as his March bout with Ross Pearson was unfortunately scratched and Trujillo’s original opponent Diego Ferreira was pulled from this matchup as well. Months of work have led Trujillo to a bout with a fellow Carolinian in Rinaldi.

“I know by looking at his film that he’s a grappler, a jiu-jitsu guy,” Trujillo said. “Which is very similar to the guy that I was supposed to fight, Diego Ferreira. It’s not going to be a huge adjustment, as their strengths are similar. When somebody gets injured or gets popped for a banned substance, it sucks for the other guy as well. I’m just thankful this guy took the fight on short notice. This has been a real hard camp. This is like our first full camp with all of my coaches, and they pushed me and I pushed myself. I put a lot of overtime work in. That’s why I’m so thankful Jordan took the fight because I’ve been working so hard. I definitely plan on shining. All I’ve been manifesting right now is victory and winning this fight in phenomenal fashion.”