After staying in various host hotels with UFC athletes around the world over the years, there are certain sounds that become familiar. You can hear the fighters hitting pads in their makeshift training rooms. You hear the feedback from the gaggle of microphones that reporters bring to media day. In the lobby you can hear fans ask their favorite warriors for a selfie.
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But in San Antonio this week, in the build-up to the UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen card happening Saturday, this reporter heard a new one: live classical music, courtesy of UFC flyweight Victor Altamirano.
“We got to drive here so brought my cello, which is great,” smiles Altamirano, who regaled a small audience of UFC staff for over an hour on the stringed instrument. Just a four-hour drive from his Texas home, he was able to bring a small entourage of family and friends, including one making a mini-documentary of the trip for a school project. He’s played the cello for about four years, roughly the same amount of time since he last was able to fight in Texas for the same friends and family.
That was back when Altamirano fought under the LFA banner, a promotion he had called home since turning pro in 2017 until his UFC contract-winning performance on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021. It was something of a history-making performance. Dana White himself described the bout as “an absolute dogfight” and awarded both Altamirano and the man he defeated by split decision (Carlos Candelario) contracts for their epic battle.
His UFC debut would also end in a split decision, but this time on the wrong side when he met Carlos Hernandez in the Octagon six months later.
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“I felt like I won that one,” he says evenly, but insists there are no hard feelings.
“It's not really disappointment, it's more like an encouragement and inspiration. It's like, ‘Hey, you could have done better. Let's go do better. You know, let's put this behind us and let's use it as a lesson. We need to not fight. We need to finish.’”
He took that mantra into his next UFC outing and executed brilliantly, stopping Daniel da Silva in the second round at UFC 278. The effort won him Performance of the Night honors.
“Coming back from that loss, we said, ‘Whatever happens, the goal has to be to finish.’ Win or lose, it doesn't matter. But the goal has to remain the same at the beginning, the middle and the end of the fight. The goal to finish should not escape our mind. It should not escape the inspiration of this fight camp for it to accomplish the goal. And it played out well. I got dropped in the first round for a few seconds. It didn't stop me. We just kept going because our goal did not escape my mind. The goal is to finish the fight.”
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To the surprise of no one, “El Magnifico” will focus on that exact same goal this Saturday when he meets Vinicius Salvador on the second fight of the prelim card.
Although they’ve never fought, Salvador is a familiar foe dating back years. They were initially matched to meet on Dana White’s Contender Series (Salvador was forced to withdraw and would secure his own contract the following season). But their history stretches even farther back.
“We were actually supposed to meet in LFA a few years back. I don't know what happened. I doubt that it was him declining the fight. You know, (the fight game is) very volatile and it didn't happen.
“So yeah, we were already preparing. He's always been on the list of the potential fighters that we may encounter. So we would build a fight camp around our all of our potentials. And once we were given one, we would focus on exactly that person.”
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His studies have led him to envision a pretty clear picture of what to expect come Saturday.
“I'm expecting lots of volume. I'm expecting counters; he's really good at counters. So it's really good to have this expectation. But, at the same time, I have to make sure that I don't expect anything, just to keep my keep my mind volatile enough for any adaptation of any sort of change.”
A smart plan from a smart guy. Pragmatic, philosophical and soft spoken, he’s the true thinking man’s fighter. At age 32, he’s paid his dues in this sport and seems to be carefully plotting his rise to the pinnacle. And he has a message for those that want to come on the journey with him:
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“I'd like them to know that I got here by perseverance. I perhaps have never been the most talented of any sport or the most gifted of any athlete, but the mere fact of just continuing, the mere fact of just persevering, just the simple act of showing up the days in which others don't, that gets you far. So I'd like them to know that that whatever it is that they're doing, just keep doing it. Perseverance alone gets you a long way.”
UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen took place live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on March 25, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!