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The Time Is Now For Vicente Luque

Vicente Luque Believes His Fight Against Tyron Woodley Is His Chance To Launch Himself Into Welterweight's Elite Company

Vicente Luque has been one of the most consistently entertaining fighters on the UFC roster for the duration of his nearly seven-year run, amassing a dozen wins in 15 appearances, 11 by stoppage, collecting six post-fight bonuses along the way.

But this isn’t something new for the talented Brazilian welterweight, who looks to secure his third straight victory and the biggest win of his career when he faces off with former champion Tyron Woodley on this weekend’s UFC 260 pay-per-view main card — it’s who he’s always been, as evidenced by the fact that back in the rocky early days of his professional career, the always game Luque blindly jumped into a fight with Thiago “Marreta” Santos.

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“We both were starting our careers,” recalled Luque, who was 3-2-1 at the time. “He was undefeated here in Brazil and was one of the best prospects in Brazil. My career before the UFC wasn’t that good — I had ups and downs — so I was a step-up fight for him.

“I arrived a little after the weigh-ins, so I didn’t see him weigh in and we didn’t face off. I only saw him the night of the fight and when I saw him, I looked back at my coach like, ‘Who is this guy you put me in here to fight with? We’re not in the same division!’”

Vicente Luque Wants To Prove He's A True Contender | UFC 260: Miocic vs Ngannou 2
Vicente Luque Wants To Prove He's A True Contender | UFC 260: Miocic vs Ngannou 2
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Vicente Luque hopes beating a former champion in Tyron Woodley cements his status as a real player in the welterweight title picture.


The Brazilian laughs at the memory, which has only become more comical and impressive over time given Santos’ transformation into a world-class contender in the light heavyweight division.

“But I went in there trying to take him out early because I didn’t want to get punched by him, and it worked out. Nowadays, I’m proud to have that win, especially looking at the fighter and the person that he is, and I definitely never want that rematch.”

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While “Marreta” made his way to the UFC two fights later, becoming a stalwart in the middleweight division before moving up to challenge for the title in the 205-pound weight class, Luque spent another couple years on the regional circuit before getting the call to compete on Season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter as a member of the Blackzilians, with his victory over Santos standing out as one of the key performances that earned him a place on the long-running reality TV competition.

Although he split his two fights during the season and lost on the finale, the seeds of potential were there and Luque has been steadily climbing the ranks ever since, establishing himself as a must-see attraction along the way.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MAY 09: Vicente Luque (R) of the United States looks to punch Niko Price (L) of the United States in their Welterweight fight during UFC 249
JACKSONVILLE, FL - MAY 09: Vicente Luque (R) of the United States looks to punch Niko Price (L) of the United States in their Welterweight fight during UFC 249

“That makes me really excited and it makes — I don’t know how to say it, but in my mind, everything that I’m doing starts to make sense because people recognize my style, recognize what I bring to the fights,” said Luque, clearly moved by the cult hero status he’s developed while working his way into the Top 10 in the crowded welterweight division. “I’m trying to be able to go out there and stick to strategy, stick to what the game plan is, and get those wins, but I’ll never not have an exciting fight; that’s just not in me.

“I’m not going to fight boring,” he added. “I look back to guys like Wanderlei Silva, to Shogun (Rua), to guys that really put their heart into fighting and went out there to do their best and excite the crowd — that’s who I am and I believe I can keep doing that and get to a title fight and become the champion.

“Whenever I announce a fight and people show a lot of support and people show that they want to watch me fight, I’m thrilled by that because I just want to keep putting on exciting fights and thrilling the fans.”

In addition to being one of the most consistently entertaining competitors on the roster, Luque is a diligent student of the game, taking every opportunity he can to learn and improve, recognizing that the only way to reach the top of the heap in the 170-pound weight class is by turning his occasional setbacks into opportunities to learn and gleaning as much knowledge as possible from those around him.

Recently, a big positive for him has been cornering his longtime friend and training partner Gilbert Burns.

Vicente Luque takes a bow after knocking out Jalin Turner in their welterweight bout during the UFC 229 event inside T-Mobile Arena on October 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC)
Vicente Luque takes a bow after knocking out Jalin Turner in their welterweight bout during the UFC 229 event inside T-Mobile Arena on October 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC)

“I got to learn a lot of things that he lived and he learned just by being a part of that,” Luque said of being part of Burns’ camp and corner for each of his last several fights, including his breakthrough win over Woodley last spring and his recent loss to Kamaru Usman at UFC 258. “It’s really important because eventually I’m going to be the one fighting for the title, so I can take these lessons and use them for myself.

“I watched Gilbert’s fight with him — I was cornering him — so I could see Woodley fighting right in front of me, and that helps a lot. I also watched a lot of tape on him, not only for this fight, but also back when I was helping Gilbert for his fight, so I think being able to adjust my game — not change who I am, but adjust my tools to suit the kind of game Tyron Woodley brings is the key to winning this fight.”

And while things didn’t work out favorably for his long-time friend and teammate earlier this month, Luque came away from the experience with an even greater, more intimate understanding of what it takes to succeed at the highest levels in this sport.

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“At this high level, it’s not so much that the fighters are better or that we’ve got to train harder — we just cannot afford to make the mistakes we used to make in the past,” he said. “Little mistakes? We’re going to pay for that.

“It was really valuable because I’m working my way to the top, I’ve got a big fight coming up, and it’s important for me to learn as much as I can, and if I can learn without having to step in there and learn it through fighting, even better.”

Saturday night, he’ll be the one crossing the threshold into the Octagon, taking up his position across the cage from the former champion, who arrives in Las Vegas on a three-fight slide, facing questions about his future.

While some are ready to write off “The Chosen One,” Luque has no interest in underestimating the 38-year-old veteran.

Vicente Luque - Fighter Trailer | Highlights
Vicente Luque - Fighter Trailer | Highlights
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“A lot of people have been saying ‘Woodley’s not the same,’ but you never know. He’s coming off three losses, and I’m sure he wants to show something different, so I’m going to be ready for the best Woodley — the Woodley that used to be champion — and I think it’s going to be a great fight.”

And with a victory on Saturday, the welterweight division’s walking highlight reel will position himself for another marquee assignment in the second half of the year and take another step towards his ultimate goal.

“I think a big win — and it’s got to be a big win against him — will set me up with someone in the Top 5 and that’s what I’m aiming for,” said Luque. “This year, my goal is to be in that mix — Top 5, Top 3 — and eventually go for a title fight.

“I think a big win over Woodley sets me up to get somebody in that Top 5, but all my focus is on this fight.”