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Ike Villanueva reacts after his knockout victory over Vinicius Moreira of Brazil during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Ike Villanueva's Special Cornerman

Ike Villanueva Wants To Put On A Show For His 18-Year-Old Son Isaiah, Who Will Be In His Corner At UFC Fight Night: Andrade vs Lemos

Late last year, Ike Villanueva wasn’t thinking about his last fight, his next fight, or any fights, for that matter. “The Hurricane” from Houston, Texas, had the gridiron on his mind.

“Football in Texas is like church on Fridays,” laughs Villanueva, who was even more invested in the 2021 season considering that his two sons, Isaiah and Anthony, were both playing their senior season for the Katy Paetow Panthers. And on December 17, the Panthers became Texas State champions when they beat the previously unbeaten College Station squad in overtime, 27-24.

That’s a big deal.

Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Lemos vs Andrade

“It don't get no bigger in Texas than winning a State championship and doing that in Cowboys (AT&T) Stadium,” said Villanueva. “To see my sons winning the State championship, I go back to youth football. I've been breeding my kids since they were four, playing football. For them to get that accomplishment…I would always preach that hard work pays off. No matter how tough it gets, it's gonna pay off. And to see them do that, it was amazing.”

No one was prouder than dad, and those good vibes continue, with Isaiah getting a full-ride scholarship to play for North Texas University.  

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“He's 6-4, 285,” said dad. “He's either gonna be a first-round draft pick or he's gonna be a doctor. (Laughs) He's got a 3.85 GPA, the kid's just all-around.”

It looks like Anthony is going to be playing somewhere this fall as well.

“We've got options right now,” Villanueva said. “We might have to go the junior college route to get to D-1, but we'll see where it goes from there. It's a blessing. They both get the opportunity to play at the next level, which is awesome.”

And finally, Villanueva gets his opportunity to let the whole world know just how proud he is.

Don't Miss Any Of UFC Fight Night: Lemos vs Andrade

“I showed my sons tough love, as well,” he said. “They're like, ‘Dad, you don't get too excited.’ I said, ‘On the inside I'm jumping for joy.’ It's like fighting. If you tell somebody they're always doing great, they're gonna stop working hard. I'm raising men here.”

He learned that from Big Tom Villanueva, a father who wasn’t one for giving out participation trophies. He pushed his son to succeed, to work hard no matter what he did, and it paid off. 

Ike Villanueva poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Ike Villanueva poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

“It's the blue-collar lifestyle, always working,” said Ike. “And when he passed, based on the stories he had told his friends, they all said, ‘Man, your dad was probably bragging in heaven when you got signed to the UFC because that's just who your dad was.’ And that's me. I go to work, I'm bragging about my sons, and it's awesome. I think that's any father, because you can't show them too much, but when you get a chance to brag on them, I live the life.”

On Saturday, it’s dad’s turn to take some of that athletic spotlight from his boys for 15 minutes or less when he faces Tyson Pedro in Las Vegas. It’s a pivotal bout for the Texan after going 1-4 in his first five UFC starts, but he’ll have a secret weapon in the corner with him on fight night.

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“I've been fighting for a long time, and this fight, my son Isaiah is 18, so he'll be in my corner,” he said. “As a father, it's hard to explain. It's like tears of joy because it's usually the father in the son's corner. I've been fighting so long, my son's gonna be in my corner fight night. (Laughs) And that's all the motivation I need to go out there and perform and show what I'm about. Can you imagine the story of that?”

It would be a good one, even though the main storyline leading up to this light heavyweight matchup is the return of Pedro, who has been sidelined since December 2018. That’s a long time to be off active duty, especially considering that Villanueva has fought eight times since Pedro’s last bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. So the job here is simple: Put some doubt in the Aussie’s head immediately and keep it there for the rest of the fight.

UFC Fight Island 8: Ike Villanueva KOs Moreira In Round 1
UFC Fight Island 8: Ike Villanueva KOs Moreira In Round 1

“That's the thing to fighting,” said Villanueva. “Man, you really gotta show em, hey, I'm gonna stand my ground. I'm not gonna back up, I'm not gonna be intimidated. I'm here to fight, I'm here to bang. These young guys are getting tougher, stronger, faster. I'm that old dog on the block. You don't want to be on my alley when it gets dark. (Laughs) That's just me, real old school, and I'm gonna stand my ground. If he thinks I'm gonna shy away from a fight, you're crazy, because I'm ‘The Hurricane’ for a reason. When he fought Shogun, I think he underestimated the old dog. Age is just a number. Look at Glover Teixeira. That's one of my biggest heroes in this fight game. At his age, he's dominating. So don't ever doubt our age because we're still working and we're hungry, too. We've got a little more motivation because these younger guys think, oh, they're too old, let's go shut the door on 'em. Nah, not with us.”

At 38, Villanueva still has some time to catch up to the 42-year-old champion of the world, but they’re brothers in arms, with Teixeira giving some helpful advice to his fellow 205-pounder when the two were in Las Vegas.

“I had some doubts in my head and I talked to him about it,” said Villanueva of his chat with Teixeira. “He goes, ‘Hey, you and me are like fine wine; we get better with age.’ (Laughs) And that's it. A lot of these younger guys have too many distractions and some of them don't have a purpose to fight. So they want to fight and they want to go party all night. Me, if I win this fight, I'll probably plan a trip to Disneyland with the kids. (Laughs) That's what's awesome about it, because I did everything as a young kid growing up. And now that I'm getting older and wiser, I'm not sparring as much, I'm getting more knowledgeable, so I don't have to kill my body every day. I can just spar heavy on Saturdays and still be good about it. We're changing some things up to keep the body right, and I'm blessed to be able to do this, and to really keep my job, I gotta go out there on April 23rd and show out. I love this matchup, I think this kid's gonna be in for a rude awakening come fight night, and I look forward to it. Things ain't been going my way in the UFC, so short-term memory, wipe it away and let's go back to the drawing board and get back to work.”

It's the Way of the Hurricane.

UFC Fight Night: Lemos vs Andrade, took place on Saturday, April 23, 2022live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final ResultsOfficial Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!