For some, pursuing fighting as a career stems from a lack of options. For others, it’s a logical development of lifelong athletic pursuits. But for bantamweight Gustavo Lopez, it was a conscious choice that took straying away from what was probably a safer path.
Lopez, 28, trains during the week and works two jobs – as security and as a busser – on the weekends to cover the bills. While his day-to-day isn’t that big of a departure from that of many up-and-comers who have yet to make it to the big stages, it’s one that would probably be a bit more comfortable had he not decided to go with his gut.
“I was starting my finance career, and I’m like, ‘My passion is in fighting,’” Lopez told MMAjunkie Radio. “I love to fight. I love to train. I was trying to do both. It was super stressful, and I just (said to myself), ‘You know what? I can always go back. I’ve got my degree. It doesn’t go away. It does’t expire. I’m still keep up on that stuff. If I ever need or would like to go back to it, the option is there.’
“Other than a bachelor’s (degree) in finance, I’ve got two associates in business accounting. (I’m) a very savvy, very smart with numbers, very intelligent kind of guy. But my passion is in competing. I want to be the best in the world. Right now, the pinnacle of fighting is being the UFC champion.”
Lopez (8-2) is currently riding a two-fight winning streak – both stemming from first-round submissions. The first of those, at Combate Americas, came over someone whose last name may sound familiar: Steve Swanson, UFC contender Cub Swanson’s older brother. It was a big one too; Swanson was coming off four straight knockout wins before getting caught in the first round by Lopez.
Considering his consecutive dominant displays, Lopez and his manager – former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, who also happens to be his close friend and training partner of seven years – think that a big leap might be in the horizon.
“We both feel like we’re one, two fights away from just getting already in the UFC,” Lopez said.
In the meantime, however, Lopez wants to stay as active as possible. While he is a five-fight Combate Americas veteran, Lopez actually has an open contract that allows him to explore his options. The weekly Dana White’s Contender Series events on UFC Fight Pass, for instance, could be one of them.
“There’s a chance,” Lopez said. “There are some bantamweights I feel I can just dominate.”
But, willing to fight at either flyweight or bantamweight, the 28-year-old fighter also sees a possibility of bypassing the weekly series and making it straight to the octagon – even if that means taking a short-notice call. If not, there’s certainly no lack of options.
“(PFL President) Ray Sefo offered me a fight already, on the biggest (PFL) show here,” Lopez said. “Combate (Americas), (I’m) still talking to them, because even though I’m not under contract with them, if they keep me active, I’d love to keep fighting with them. Because they’re a great promotion and good fanbase, all Hispanics, all Latino. They treat their fighters really well.”
Despite the momentum, fact is that Lopez is still unable to support himself exclusively with fighting. And like probably everyone in his position, he certainly would like to change it. Which is what he hopes will happen now that he’s being managed by Tate and her agency, AO8.
“The plan, hopefully, with this management is picking up these big sponsors that would (say) like, ‘Hey, what’s your rent? What’s your this? What are your necessities? We’ll pay for it. Do your thing. We’re going to support you.’” Lopez said. “That’s the dream.
“I’d love to fight four to five times (a year), maybe. Even more, if possible. If I go in there and dominate like I know I can, I’ll keep fighting every couple of months. I have no kids. I just have my girl and my dogs, and now a cat. I love to train and fight. I’d love to do as much as possible, if I could. Working, it’s a necessity right now to pay the bills.”
For more on upcoming MMA schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.