Cain Velasquez, Dominick Cruz, Tito Ortiz, Ricco Rodriguez, Miguel
Torres, Frank Mir – the list of Hispanic champions past and present does not
lack for names, and is only poised to grow.
From September 15 to October 15, America celebrates Hispanic
Heritage Month, designed to honor the cultural contributions of Hispanics and
Latin Americans. And UFC joins in the festivities with special programming on
UFCLatino.com and UFC on Demand. Check your cable operator’s VOD offerings for
free all-Spanish programming, plus 14 remarkable fights for only 99 cents each.
Two current of the seven current UFC champions are American
born with Mexican blood -- Dominick Cruz and Cain Velasquez. Heavyweight Velasquez’
Mexican heritage is so ingrained in his identity that he walks out to a Mexican
ranchero, a song that mirrors the story of his father’s frequent journeys
across the border in search of a better life.
Cruz will next defend his title against Demetrious
Johnson in the main event of UFC Fight Night Live on October 1; Cain will face
Junior Dos Santos in the long-anticipated first UFC on Fox match on November
12th in Anaheim, California.
So what makes Hispanic fighters different? As Cain has said,
they always fight their hearts out.
Besides its heaviest and lightest titleholders, the UFC has
several notable Hispanic fighters. And with the addition of the bantamweight
(135 pound) and featherweight (145 pound) divisions, UFC president Dana White
recently told journalists that he believes Latinos will dominate those divisions
in the near future, as they have done for years in boxing.
The vast Hispanic diaspora can be seen on the
UFC’s diverse roster, featuring athletes descended from El Salvador, Mexico,
Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and more.
Here, a quien es quien of Hispanic fighters:
* The Ultimate Fighter series has boasted several
standout Hispanic fighters: the always-spectacular season 1 winner Diego
Sanchez, a long-time fan favorite for the commitment and fury he shows every
time he steps into the Octagon; season 5 winner Nate Diaz; season 8 champ Efraín
“Hecho en México” Escudero and season 14 king Tony “El Cucuy”
Ferguson, who won via vicious KO on Ramsey Nijem. Ferguson and Diaz both fought
Saturday night at UFC 135, alongside Ricardo Romero, who brandishes proud
Puerto Rican roots.
* Peruvian-American Kenny Florian also emerged
from TUF 1, and after fighting in a record four different weight classes, is
preparing to battle for the featherweight title at UFC 136 on October 8th.
TUF 12 fan favorite Alex Caceres – better known as “Bruce Leeroy” – was born to
Cuban-Dominican parents in Miami.
* UFC 136 sees two other Mexican-rooted fighters in
action: Joey “The Mexicutioner” Beltrán welcomes the heavyweight Stipe Miocic
to the UFC. Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, who retired the WEC lightweight belt, is
also on the roster (his mother has Mexican blood, and his family name was
originally Perez, but it was anglicized by his great-grandfather).
* Another third generation star is Carlos Condit,
who will fight against the dominant Georges St-Pierre in the main event of UFC
137 on October 29th in Las Vegas. In the co-main event on that same fight card
is former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, older brother of Nate.
* In the lighter weight classes, favorites include Miguel Angel Torres,
former WEC Bantamweight Champ; bantamweight contender Joseph Benavidez
and his undefeated Alpha Male teammate, featherweight Chad
Mendes; Fight of the Night specialist Leonard “Bad Boy” García;
Pablo Garza who’s had two flashy Octagon finishes – his upcoming bout
Dustin Poirier and was the first fight announced for the UFC on Fox
Ricardo Lamas is also featured on the November 12 card.
* From known names like Jorge Rivera and Tito Ortiz to
up-and-comers like Jorge Lopez, Edwin Figueroa and Robert Peralta; from big
guys like Aaron Rosa to bantamweights like Reuben Duran, Ivan Menjivar and
Joseph Sandoval, expect more Hispanic warriors on every fight card… and a ton of
heart in every one of their fights.