Ready for war: Alberto Mina heads for the bright lights of Las Vegas for UFC clash

Hong Kong-based fighter, who fights out of the Epic MMA Club in Central, will make his US octagon debut as he lines up against Mike Pyle on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 July, 2016, 7:56pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 July, 2016, 12:33am

Alberto Mina is taking the approach of a wily veteran as he prepares for his debut on the fight game’s biggest stage, even though he’s still somewhat of a wide-eyed rookie when it comes to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The 34-year-old is on his way to Las Vegas for UFC Fight Nite 90 where he’ll take a 12-0-0 record into the octagon on Thursday against veteran welterweight Mike Pyle (27-11-1) – but Mina is just two fights (and two wins) into his career in the UFC and by his own admission still has it all in front of him.

“But I’ve been around a long time now, so I know how to take care of myself,” says Mina, speaking from his training base at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach, in southern California.

“The last few weeks here have been about avoiding injuries. I have to keep in mind I am getting older, so I have to look after myself. Two sessions a day. Make everything polished, and get ready for the war.

“Since I have come here to California the focus has been on sparring, fine-tuning things and working on my game plan.

“The gym here has some of the best trainers and fighters in the world. Even with the short time of four weeks it has been fantastic.”

The Hong Kong-based Mina, who fights out of the Epic MMA Club in Central and is the only Hong Kong fighter in the UFC books, has made the most of his opportunities in the organisation, with a first-round TKO of Shinsho Anzai on debut at UFC Fight Night 48 and a split-decision nod over Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC Fight Night 79.

The highly rated Pyle presents another challenge entirely, coming off a third-round TKO over Sean Spencer at UFC Fight Night 82.

Factor in for some added pressure also that the bout will take place during International Fight Week, which includes three nights of bouts, as well as various promotions.

But the feeling you get from Mina is that the man just doesn’t do pressure, or at least the fact that he has been active in martial arts since he was a kid roaming around Campina Grande, Brazil, means he’s able to shunt any notions of it aside when it matters.

“I was watching [Pyle] fight long before I signed on to UFC,” says Mina. “In fact, that has been the same with my past two fights as well. I had watched these guys fight long before I thought about fighting them. I was a fan before, so it is a big honour to fight them now. But it is my job and I have to deliver.

“To be in honest I wasn’t looking outside Asia [for bouts], but to fight in Vegas on such a big week is a real challenge for me.

“Everyone will be there, everyone will be watching. I am super motivated to deliver a super fight for everyone. Three wins, and people will start to look at me in a different way.”

Victory this week and Mina will move one step closer to a date with the likes of UFC champ Robbie Lawler.

That looks a long way off for now and with future programming decisions out of his control, the fighter says he will be back to Hong Kong afterwards, to train and to spread the MMA message.

“I have been going out into schools around Hong Kong,” saysMina. “We show the kids what it’s all about, let them know how good the training is for your body and your mind. More gyms are opening and people are turning to MMA for fitness.”

UFC’s plans for expansion into Asia have been a hot topic over the past few weeks, what with rumours (denied by head honcho Dana White) that China’s Wanda Group and Tencent Holdings are poised to buy into the organisation, the announcement of long-term broadcast deals with leading Chinese platforms PPTV Sports and SINA Sports, and with the promotional campaign that has swirled around the announcement of an event in Manila on October 15.

John Dodson was the man sent to Asia to help build the fanfare around that particular event, and the Filipino-American fighter – a two-time title challenger in the flyweight division – has been doing a good job banging the drum both about his own story (and hopes) and about the rapid growth of mixed martial arts.

“Asia is the fighting capital of the world,” the 31-year-old Dodson says during a call from Singapore. “Come on – martial arts was born out here. The world had to learn to punch and kick and knee from somebody. It came out of China and it came out of Asia. This tour I am on will help people remember that fighting came from them and the UFC coming back to Manila will do that too.”

Dodson says he has been encouraged by the amount of young people who come to where he trains (Jackson’s Martial Arts & Fitness Academy, in Albuquerque) looking for start in the sport. One thing is for sure, they’ll be greeted by plenty of stories.

“I tell them I’m the Manny Pacquiao of the UFC,” says Dodson. “I tell them the truth is I wanted to build video games, but a friend found me at a Chuck E. Cheese and told me I was wasting my life. He said ‘follow me to the gym’ – and I’ve never looked back.

“At the beginning, I was a performing midget in a world of giants. But look at me now. This sport teaches you to wake up each morning and ask yourself, how can I improve myself? How can I be a better human being? We want to tell people that and show them how they can do that. This is a sport never stops evolving and that’s why we are starting to rule the world.”

Mina is preaching from the same page. “I see my position as helping to support the sport in Asia,” he says. “There is another big night coming up for the region which is exciting and will help the sport grow and come Thursday, I can go out there and play my part for Asia too.”