Matthew Lopez: Be Yourself
Away from the many controversies at the top of the UFC, there are a plethora of fighters who quietly get on with their business, with stories waiting to be told, as and when the opportunities are presented to them. Recently SpitballingPod caught up with Matthew Lopez as he prepares to face Alejandro Perez at UFC Glendale this weekend.
On Saturday night, Lopez will enter the octagon in his home state for the first time since 2013 and the night will be even more special for the 31 year old as he will be joined on the card by teammate and now headliner Justin Gaethje; ‘I’ve had a very short career so far, but I think of all the sporting events I’ve been involved in, this is the most excited I’ve been. Not even really excited just to fight, but for the whole spectacle, my family and friends are gonna be there, it’s my home state, it’s just gonna be a fun night’ he said.
During the build-up to this fight, Lopez has discovered family members that he never knew existed – when asked if he’d been pestered for tickets in the run-up to this fight, he joked ‘Oh man, it’s unbelievable, people you don’t even know are now somehow your cousins asking for tickets. It’s a little bit annoying, but also flattering to know they’re gonna show up and support you. It comes with the territory’.
Unfortunately Lopez lost his last bout, as he stepped up to face then #3 challenger in the world, Raphael Assunção – the bout was competitive throughout but ultimately he lost by stoppage in the final round. When reflecting on the bout now though, he isn’t quite as down as he was at the time – ‘If I fought him a week later then I could win that fight, I truly believe that. I don’t think he’s better than me, I don’t think he’s unbeatable and I just think I need to make some changes. Other than that, I hold my head up high, I’m not happy with a loss but it was a good loss. Going forward I believe I’m the cream of the crop in the division, and I’m ready to prove that’ he said.
Matthew has the chance to begin proving himself once again as he faces Perez in Glendale and he feels this is the perfect opponent to do just that; ‘‘It’s a great match up, I think he’s got that warrior spirit, and he’s gonna bring the fight, he won’t quit and he won’t make it easy, so I’ve gotta go out and take it from him. I have the tools to end it early but I have to put in the work’ he explained.
Matthew is by no means shy or hard to talk to, but he also means everything he says – there is no aimless trash talk to try and further sell his fight this weekend, or an attempt to drive himself higher up the card for the wrong reasons. Instead he stated throughout our interview that he wants to deserve everything he is given in this sport and he knows that only hard work and performing in the octagon will get him there.
I asked whether it was frustrating to see the direction that things were seemingly heading in , to which he responded ‘That’s what bugs me lately, people wanna know what goes on in your life outside the ring, if you’re truly that way 24/7 then that’s cool, but a lot are doing it just for attention, but sooner or later these guys are gonna have to fight someone that knows their shit and then they’re gonna get their asses kicked, and I can’t wait until I’m in a position where I’m able to humble some of these guys that are there to just show and run their mouths’.
When I asked how he approaches things, he explained that he has a desire to go about things a different way – ‘I never want my grandmother, or my aunts and uncles to see someone on TV that’s not me – my grandmother told me ‘I don’t want you to become one of these people that acts a certain way just to get more attention’ and I’ve always lived by that, so I’ll just stay being me’ he explained.
Summing up his thoughts on the matter, he said ‘‘Don’t get me wrong, there are some people that are genuinely flamboyant and open and cocky and they’re like that outside of the cage which is all well and good because you’re being true to yourself, but if you’re doing it for the likes on Instagram then this is definitely not for you, you can get hurt in this sport’.
Matthew began his martial arts career as a wrestler and began coaching at Mark Munoz’s gym once he had finished his collegiate career; as for what drew him into competing in MMA professionally, he simply explained ‘I noticed that these were high level guys and I was kicking their butts’.
Now at 31 years old and 12 fights into his career, Lopez says he is extremely motivated for success and that boils down to two things in particular – ‘I want to be a world champion and I love being a competitor. I love that it’s hard to do and there is commitment, sacrifice and you don’t go through this in a desk job, you don’t put 100% of your effort into like a 15 minute show and so much of your life is focused on one night’ he explained.
Providing he prevails on Saturday night, Lopez says he hopes to fight twice more this year, but is in no rush for the title. Closing out our interview he said ‘I’ve put away with the mindset of rankings, so my goal for 2018 is to be fan friendly, be spectacular and keep improving as a martial artist’. It all starts this weekend and we’d like to wish him the best of luck.