Deciding to move down a weight class isn’t the easiest decision, but Maki Pitolo had a rather convincing voice in his ear.
“The man himself,” Pitolo said, referring to UFC President Dana White. “(White) said, ‘I want to see this kid at welterweight,’ so there it is. I’m fighting this weekend at welterweight, and I did it the right way. I’m healthy. My nutrition is on point, and I did it the right way.”
It’s not Pitolo’s first time fighting at 170 – in fact, most of his fights have come at welterweight – but his Contender Series victory over Justin Sumter in July came at 185 pounds.
The Hawaii-based fighter admitted that part of fighting at middleweight was in part because he was “just being lazy,” but moving back down became more enticing now that the rewards are greater.
“The money is there,” Pitolo said. “Back then, I was fighting at welterweight for 800 bucks, 400 bucks. Cutting weight and killing yourself that many times, it’s not healthy. Definitely now, it’s worth it.”
That weight cut is also slightly easier when the reward is making your UFC debut on what could be one of the most-attended events in the promotion’s history. This platform is one Pitolo has dreamed of for a while, and a perfect one to introduce fans to “Coconut Bombz.”
The nickname might have come from wanting a “cool Instagram name” initially, but it fit with his style of fighting and stuck.
“I really didn’t care what it meant,” he said. “It’s a cool name, so I’m going to stick with it. It wasn’t even a fight name or anything. It didn’t have to do with fighting at all. I just kind of stuck with it.”
But beyond a cool nickname, Pitolo is excited to show fight fans why he’s a fighter to follow. Half of his 12 wins have come by knockout, and three more have come by submission, and he said he’s ready for wherever the fight takes him.
It’s a moment he anticipated for a long time. Even his bout on the Contender Series was not a guarantee. When he had a chance to fight on the show a couple years ago, injuries prevented it from happening, so when his second opportunity to fight on the show came up this past summer, he regained a lot of hope that he’d finally make it into the UFC.
“This is what I’ve always wanted,” Pitolo said. “This is where I want to test my mixed martial arts. This is why I’m here, to be up here with the big dogs.”
Pitolo expects his opponent, Callan Potter, to have an extra sense of urgency to get back into the win column after dropping his last contest. Plus, he did some extra preparation for his walkout and found a 3-D tour of Marvel Stadium to get a better idea of what to expect.
All in all, though, it doesn’t really matter what the circumstances are around this fight. Pitolo is just excited to show everyone what he can do in a moment that has been a long time coming.
“I’m stoked,” he said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love these things.”