James Vick can’t remember if it was three or four years ago, but suffice to say it was a while back when he wrote down on his list of goals that he was going to be a world champion by 2018.
It’s 2018. And Vick, 8-1 in the UFC and with a three-fight winning streak heading into his Sunday bout with Francisco Trinaldo, believes he is right on schedule.
“I truly think this year I’m going to be a world champion,” he said. “No matter what happens, and it may be seem unlikely to the average person, but destiny will make a way for me to get my world title shot and become a world champion. I really believe that with all my heart.”
The 30-year-old from Fort Worth has every reason to be confident. A win over Trinaldo makes it four straight, and with the 155-pound division starting to get some clarity at the top in April with the Tony Ferguson-Khabib Nurmagomedov fight, the No. 12-ranked Vick is starting to make the moves he needs to get in the title conversation. Of course, that’s not enough for “The Texecutioner.”
“The main thing is to be a world champion,” he said. “That’s always been my goal and that’s what keeps me driven. I feel like a lot of these other guys don’t believe in themselves the way I believe in myself. I think their goal, and I hear it all the time on the regional circuit, is to get to the UFC. In my mind, I always knew I was going to be in the UFC. My goal was never to be in the UFC. My goal was to be a UFC world champion. And there is a difference.”
It’s why he leaves home for weeks at a time to train in Maryland with the Team Lloyd Irvin squad that has been by his side since The Ultimate Fighter finished filming in 2012.
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“It’s a perfect fit for me,” Vick said. “I met Lloyd Irvin on The Ultimate Fighter and we had a good relationship. Then I came out here and I loved it, and I’ve been coming here ever since.
I started this game late in life and I get so much one-on-one attention here and so much one-on-one help, and the system he has here has really progressed. I also have good quality training partners here. They’re not big-name guys, but I feel like it’s more important for me to build my skill set and to continue to do that and get the one-on-one help and keep progressing. I could go to a big camp and have tons of sparring partners, but I wouldn’t get much one-on-one attention.”
That’s a lot of miles and a lot of years to be traveling east from Texas, a voyage that likely seems a lot longer when dealing with Maryland winters, but while some athletes might complain about this aspect of the fighter’s life, Vick is not one of them.
“I’m doing what I love,” he said. “Even if the money wasn’t there, I would still be doing what I love, and now I’m fortunate enough to be able to do this full time and make a living from it. I just love being a fighter.”
That was never more evident than in November, when he stopped Joe Duffy in New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was a big win wherever it took place, but in “The Mecca,” Vick soon found out that it was a lot bigger.
“When it first got signed, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal, but once I was there and I got to fight and I got the big win in front of all those people, and being in the city for a few days afterwards, I could tell how big of a deal it really was,” said Vick, who now gets to experience the comforts of home in Texas this weekend.
“Every time I go back now, the stakes are higher and the fights are bigger and I’m moving my way up the rankings. But it’s always good to be home.”