"I’m going to move, I’m going to hit him a lot, and I’m trying to get knockouts. I’m trying to get bonuses." - James Vick
Two years, two months and 29 days.
That is how long it had been since UFC lightweight James Vick had thrown a punch or been hit by a punch in a professional mixed martial arts bout.
During the opening moments of his August clash earlier this year, Vick landed a strike and had his own chin tested by Brazil’s Valmir Lazaro for the first time in what must have felt like a lifetime.
Due to a series of injuries combined with, arguably, the cleanest victory in Octagon history, the last time Vick had exchanged fists or feet with someone outside of a gym sparring session was against Michael Chiesa in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter 15 on May 12, 2012.
“Even in the Ramsey Nijem fight, it was 58 seconds and I didn’t take a punch,” Vick remembers of his UFC debut. “I didn’t even throw a punch. He took me down, I got up and I caught the neck. So, I hadn’t been hit in the cage or even thrown a punch in the cage in almost two and a half years before this fight (against Lazaro) happened. I knew I would be ready and I was ready, but I was a little worried about ring rust. I have experienced ring rust before. It did happen, but I trained myself so hard that I did push through it and I got the win.”
At UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. dos Anjos, a blast from the recent past reintroduced himself really for the second time as Vick went toe-to-toe with Lazaro in an exciting strikers’ duel en route to a unanimous decision win.
Originally, the Octagon faithful met Vick on TUF 15, where the young upstart was a 4-0 pro who took his extraordinary 6’3” and 155-pound frame and fought his way to the semis. After a year on the sidelines from injuries, “The Texecutioner” made his UFC debut in August 2013 at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen, where he secured a fight-ending guillotine choke on Nijem less than a minute into the first round without either fighter attempting a strike.
After another year on the bench following some injuries due to overtraining, Vick stepped inside the Octagon to tangle with Nova Uniao’s Lazaro, who was enjoying an 11-fight win streak heading into his UFC debut. And the two of them went after it. For three rounds, Vick and Lazaro pushed a high pace, with both throwing 200+ significant strikes each, the latter shooting for 10 takedowns and Vick rattling off head kicks and flying knees. It was like Vick hadn’t ridden a horse in two years and decided to try to saddle the angriest bronco in the stable.
“The last time I experienced ring rust was before I turned pro in MMA,” Vick said. “I had a Muay Thai fight and it had been 11 months since I had fought before that because of a hand injury. I was in phenomenal shape, but I just gassed. I still won that fight too. I could tell that I was gassed after the first round in this fight. I could tell that Lazaro was too though. I don’t know if it was the pace was so fast or he had Octagon jitters or what. After the first round, I was gassed and I’m known for having phenomenal cardio. I’m experienced enough to know that ring rust can and will happen. I just push myself so hard in practice that I know I have enough left in the tank in the fight to still get the win.”
The 27-year-old from Mineral Wells, Texas talks a lot about practice. Vick prides himself on how hard he pushes himself in practice and with an unblemished 6-0 pro record it’s hard to argue. With his injuries keeping him from competing, Vick’s motivation to prove himself in practice with Team Lloyd Irvin had to be paramount. Just a quick glance at his young career, and Vick’s first four pro bouts are within four months, so he is amassing experience through these hardcore workout sessions in the gym and it’s breeding a swagger for him to be bold inside the Octagon.
“I practice a lot,” Vick affirms. “I really believe I outwork everyone. With my year-round schedule, I believe I work more than anyone. I know a lot of these injuries have been from overtraining, but all this training has helped me progress fast as well. I’m confident, and a lot of my confidence comes from me believing I train harder than most people. Preparation breeds confidence, for sure. I practice it over and over again. And I want to be exciting. I have never been in a boring fight. I have never had one yet. And I want to get bonuses. I want to change my life for the better, financially, and the best way to do that in the UFC is with a bonus.”
Up next, The Texecutioner will take aim at a bonus at UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson as he clashes with Germany’s Nick Hein. With an 11-1, 1 NC pro record, “Sergeant” Hein is enjoying a seven-fight unbeaten streak that includes his unanimous decision win over Drew Dober in his UFC debut in May. Hein is a highly-decorated judo player in Germany and has proven himself as an action-packed fighter in MMA.
For Vick, the scrap is not only a much appreciated quick turnaround, but, with the November 22nd event taking place in his home state, it’s a great chance to show his fans how dangerous he has become with all his practice.
“[UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva emailed me an opponent a week after my last fight and I immediately accepted it,” Vick said. “It’s a great feeling. It’s about three hours from where I stay because Texas is so big, but that’s not too far away and I’m going to have a bunch of people coming to support me and it should be a great night. I watched several of Hein’s fights. He’s very strong, he’s a judo guy, and he’s a southpaw. I think he’s a good matchup for me and I think he’s going to have a big problem getting me down. I like staying standing and I like hearing the crowd scream. I’m going to move, I’m going to hit him a lot, and I’m trying to get knockouts. I’m trying to get bonuses.”